Cruise off the beaten path. Cruise the rivers of Europe, Russia, China, and the Amazon on luxurious and intimate ships that let you explore the intriguing destinations up close and personal. The size of these ships makes them flexible and allows you to see everything from the bustling metropolitan cities to quaint riverside villages!
What's the difference between barging and river cruising?
When you are considering European waterway trips, barging and river cruising are two very different experiences. Barges float on human-constructed canals that have no current, covering just 30 to 50 miles in a week. They move so slowly that passengers can literally step off the barge, walk or bike into town, and catch up again with the barge. Generally, barges accommodate 4 to 24 passengers, which makes them ideal for families or friends who want to occupy the entire vessel. The cuisine and local wines are usually of high quality, but entertainment is minimal.
River cruises, on the other hand, sail at a faster speed and can traverse one or several
countries in a week, stopping in the heart of cities like Cologne or Budapest. A river cruise ship really is a cruise ship, just smaller than the big ships that cruise to Alaska and the Caribbean. They have all the amenities a
restaurant, lounge, perhaps a library, and entertainment in the evening. They have a big deck and some may have a swimming pool. They generally accommodate 100 to 180 passengers.
A barge or river cruise allows you to experience Europe in a totally different way. It will take you beyond the cities of Europe and introduce you to a country's regions in charming and intimate ways. Along the waterways, you'll enjoy the beauty of the countryside. Plus, during shore excursions, you can visit small villages and mingle with the locals.
Don't let the word "barge" fool you. These are first-class floating hotels typically equipped with a sun-deck, lounge and dining room. Accommodations include staterooms and suites, many with full-sized beds and private baths. Since passenger capacity is low and the pace is slow, barge cruises exude intimacy and relaxation.
There are plenty of activities from which to choose. Onboard, you will have access to books, magazines, games and playing cards. Onshore, you can hike or bike on canal towpaths. Also, the crew can arrange special outings, such as wine tastings and antique hunting. Plus, hot-air ballooning is almost always an option.
This type of vacations appeals to travellers seeking a deluxe, unique, relaxing and interesting way to enjoy the European countryside. It is highly likely that you not only will enjoy the company of the other passengers but also make new friends. If you're still concerned, however, one option is to invite another couple to go along with you. This type of vacation is perfect for friends who enjoy vacationing together in uncrowded venues.
There are several different kinds of barges/river vessels:
On deluxe boats, the cabins are a lot bigger (roughly 120 to 150 square feet in size) with nicer bathrooms, a roomier lounge, maybe a swimming pool, and American style air-conditioning.
First class is a very eclectic group. They tend to be older boats that tend to have smaller cabins, maybe 80 to 100 square feet. They're generally twin-bedded. They're less spacious with fewer crew members, perhaps eight crew members to 20 to 24 passengers. But that's not to say that these trips are not fantastic. They all serve great food and have great guides.
Bed & Breakfast
A newer category is the bed-and-breakfast boat, which as the name suggests only supplies barge accommodations and breakfast. Passengers eat luch and dinner in town. This is less expensive, more flexible and more authentic because the passengers get out and meet the population and see more of the countryside.
The barging season is April 1 through November 1, but the high season in barging is in May, June, September, and October. The lower season is April, July, August, and the beginning of November. As barges and river cruises often book up far in advance, do book early to avoid disappointment.