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Barging offers a one of a kind cruise experience

Barging offers a one of a kind cruise experience ( It’s dinnertime aboard Renaissance, one of the fleet of luxury barges operated by that cruise the scenic waterways of Europe. In our case, it was on canals in the Burgundy region of France. Just prior to our meal, one of our crew members, Helen, shared a bit of history about the regional red and white wines that were accompanying our supper. Our French chef, Philippe, popped out of the kitchen, and with all the flamboyance of a rock star on tour, introduced us to something he just whipped up using fresh local ingredients that included a full-bodied beef Bourguignonne, creamy au gratin potatoes, savory turnips, and, for dessert, blueberry crème brûlée. “Bon Appétit!” he exclaimed, as he disappeared into the galley, allowing us to enjoy his creations. This was one of three meals that are served aboard every day, and each one is prepared with all the attention of a five-star restaurant.

While the term barging may invoke images of a sort of rusty old bucket delivering supplies to some port, nothing could be farther from reality. Picture instead a boat that has been retrofitted to carry 8-12 passengers in style. Our boat was lavishly adorned with comfy couches, period paintings, a fully-stocked bar, and spacious cabins. Add to this gourmet food, fine regional wines, assorted cheeses, soft music, crew members anxious to serve your every need, and a leisurely trip floating past idyllic fields laden with flowers, medieval villages, and the beautiful French Loire Valley, and you will have a better idea what this sort of all-inclusive experience is like.

Our pre-trip started with flying business class via American Airlines from Chicago. While business class does add to the cost, the amenities, including fully-reclining seats, meals designed by some of the country’s top chefs, and an on-demand entertainment system, were definitely worth the price and allowed us to arrive rested and ready to go.

We were met by Donald, our captain with a lively Scottish brogue, at a pre-arranged spot in Paris. He took us by minivan to our floating hotel for the week. After a Champagne welcome, we started our journey with stops along the way in the southern French towns of Montargis, Rogny, and Briare. Because the vessel moves slowly (about four mph), you can choose to walk or bike ride alongside the canal and hop on and off at one of the many locks along the route. Elie, our pilot, is from the island of Guadalupe and was expert at navigating our large red, white, and blue barge into the relatively narrow locks that closed behind us, filled up with water and elevated our boat to the next level. Locals and tourists congregated on the sides of the canals and the flower-laden bridges to watch us come through the locks.

Unlike conventional cruise ships that sail at night and dock during the day, these boats do the opposite. Barging, as I discovered, is a tranquil experience allowing you to de-stress and engage all your senses as you take in the visuals along the way. And unlike a large cruise ship, you hardly feel any movement, making seasickness an extremely rare occurrence. Another advantage that barges have is that instead of paying for additional excursions when you reach a port, you have a private car or van included in the cost of the cruise and waiting to whisk you to any number of exciting area highlights.

After our trip was over, my wife and I made sure to extend our time to explore Paris. We stayed at the delightful Hotel Napoleon, located on a quiet street, steps away from the Arc de Triomphe and one of the most famous streets in Paris, the Champs-Élysées. This art deco-style hotel is wonderfully adorned with Napoleonic artwork and has large, comfortable rooms and great service.

While luxury barging may not be for everyone, it is perfectly suited for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, and any special occasion where you want to be pampered and have a truly memorable cruise experience.

For more information on Renaissance and hotel barging on the various canals of France, as well as England, contact European Waterways, Tel: (Toll-free US) 800-394-8630 or 011 44 1784 482439; Fax: 011 44 1784 483072; Email: href=""> ; Website: .

PHOTO: Renaissance / Photo by Ron Stern

Chris Gant Marketing & PR Manager European Waterways Ltd. 35 Wharf Road, Wraysbury Middlesex TW19 5JQ, England UK Tel: 44 (0)1784 482 439 UK Fax: 44 (0)1784 483 072 USA Toll Free Tel: 1-800-394-8630 CANADA Toll Free Tel: 1-888-342-1917 AUSTRALIA Toll Free Tel: 1-800-771278

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