SOURCE: AllThingsCruise

AllThingsCruise

March 27, 2014 13:00 ET

Luxury Hotel Barges of Europe Visit Castles, Canals and Lochs -- a Unique Way to Travel in 2014

AllThingsCruise Discusses Luxury Hotel Barges

DETROIT, MI--(Marketwired - Mar 27, 2014) - If you're a fan of river cruises, you might consider traveling on a subset of this category for your next cruise -- luxury hotel barges -- say the experts at travel website AllThingsCruise.

Originally designed to carry wine, grain and other products from farms to market, hotel barges now carry affluent passengers on the rivers and canals of France, Belgium, Germany, Scotland, the Netherlands, the U.K. and Southeast Asia. They vary in size, configuration and the quality of their accommodation, hosting anywhere from four to 100 guests.

Though the term "luxury" is used to describe the hotel barges, travelers should know that the cabins may be small, with basic furnishings, tiny bathrooms and few amenities. Regardless, the overall experience remains similar throughout the barges. Service is attentive and personal, with a high staff-to-guest ratio, and the food, sourced locally whenever possible, is prepared à la minute by a skilled chef who is attentive to guests' dietary needs and wishes. The meals consist of several courses, all accompanied by good quality regional wines and cheeses.

Pricing on these cruises skews toward the high end, with an average cruise running around $5,000 per person in a twin/double cabin for seven days. Fares generally include all meals, wines, an open bar, excursions and local transfers, but not gratuities.

Typically, the barges sail on narrow canals, often passing through several sets of locks. They usually stop during meals and tie up overnight. The pace is slow ... so slow you can opt to walk or bicycle to a future stop and be picked up again.

"We were on a barge cruise in France and one evening after dinner they ran out of my husband's favorite scotch whisky -- Glenlivet -- and one of the crew members jumped on a bike and was back with a bottle in about 20 minutes," recalls Cynthia Boal Janssens, editor of AllThingsCruise. "I have no idea where they obtained it in that tiny village at that hour but we were certainly impressed!"

For first-hand reviews of visiting Loch Ness, island castles and taking a hike through the highlands while on a Scottish Highlands luxury barge trip, see Will Garrett's blog travel diary here.

Hotel barges are a popular choice for group sailings -- they can be chartered for family or business gatherings, and the voyage can be customized to special interests, like golf, tennis or wine. When considering a hotel barge cruise, your most basic determination is deciding what size ship will work best for your needs, because although they are relatively small in comparison to other ships, there are still several distinct ship size categories.

Be aware that many of these barge companies charter the same vessels, so you may find the barge you want offered by several different companies.

Here are the companies and ships they offer, according to size (to read more about the lines themselves, please click here):

Luxury Hotel Barges of an Intimate Size (4-14 passengers)

Abercrombie and Kent: Alouette, Fleur de Lys, Meanderer, Roi Soleil, Saroche, Amaryllis, Anjodi, C'est La Vie, Elisabeth, Hirondelle, L'Art De Vivre, Magna Carta, Prosperite, Scottish Highlander, La Belle Epoque, Napolean, Panache, L'Impressionniste, La Nouvelle Etoile, Shannon Princess 

Afloat in France: Alouette, Fleur De Lys, Amaryllis, Hirondelle, Napoleon 

European Waterways: Clair de Lune, Nymphea, Absoluut2, Anjodi, Enchanté, La Nouvelle Etoile, La Renaissance, Magna Carta, Rosa, Scottish Highlander, Athos, Shannon Princess II, La Belle Epoque, Panache, Savoir Faire, L'Impressionniste 

French Country Waterways: Horizon II, Princess, Adrienne, Nenuphar

France Cruises: Alegria, Alouette, Bonheur, Colibri, Libje, Randle. Apres Tout, Caroline, Codecasa 28, Emma, Esperance, Fleur de Lys, Golden Odyssey, Claire De Lune, Meanderer, Niagara, Nymphea, Papillion, Randle, Roi Soleil, St. Louis, Saroche, Who Knows, Wine and Water, Absoluut2, Amaryllis, Anjodi, C'est La Vie, Elisabeth, Enchanté, Hirondelle, L'Art De Vivre, Magna Carta, Prosperite, Renaissance, Rosa, Scottish Highlander, Athos, La Belle Epoque, Napolean, Panache, Savoir Faire, L'Impressionniste, Luciole, La Reine Pedauque, Savoir Vivre, Shannon Princess 

The Barge Company: Alegria, Alouette, Caroline, Emma, Esperance, Fleur de Lys, Golden Odyssey, Claire De Lune, Meanderer, Niagara, Nymphea, Papillion, Roi Soleil, St. Louis, Saroche, Who Knows, Absoluut2, Amaryllis, Anjodi, C'est La Vie, Elisabeth, Enchanté, Hirondelle, L'Art De Vivre, Magna Carta, Renaissance, Rosa, Scottish Highlander, Athos, La Belle Epoque, Napolean, Panache, Savoir Faire, L'Impressionniste, Luciole, La Nouvelle Etoile, La Reine Pedauque, Shannon Princess II 

Luxury Hotel Barges of a Small Size (15-49 passengers)

Abercrombie and Kent: Le Phenicien, Caprice 

CroisiEurope: MS Anne-Marie, MS Jeanine, MS Madeleine, MS Raymonde, RV Indochine

European Waterways: La Bella Vita 

France Cruises: Le Phenicien, La Bella Vita, Caprice, Anne Marie, MS Jeanine, MS Madeleine, MS Mirabelle, MS Raymonde 

Grand Circle Cruise Line: M/S Chardonnay, M/S Provence 

The Barge Company: Le Phenicien, Estello, La Bella Vita, Caprice, Soleo, MS Mirabelle

Luxury Hotel Barges of a Medium Size (50-99) passengers)

Abercrombie and Kent: River Cloud II 

CroisiEurope: MS Lafayette (April 2014 debut) 

Grand Circle Cruise Line: M/V Arethusa, M/V Artemis, M/V Athena, M/S River Allegro 

Lueftner Cruises (Amadeus cruises): RV Irrawaddy Explorer, RV Mekong Navigator 

For more information about these lines and ships and to inquire about booking a luxury hotel barge cruise, please visit AllThingsCruise and browse cruise lines.

About AllThingsCruise:

AllThingsCruise is a website for cruise enthusiasts, dedicated to the joy of cruise travel and planning the best cruise vacations ever. Its wealth of information includes valuable cruise travel tools -- from cruise reviews and feedback, to helpful videos and information for choosing the right ship, to preparing for and enjoying a memorable cruise vacation. A valuable unique feature of AllThingsCruise is a complimentary e-card with vital cruise line and cruise ship contact information travelers can send to family members and others prior to departure. For more information, please visit http://allthingscruise.com/.

AllThingsCruise is not owned by or affiliated with any travel agency.

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