5 reasons to book a houseboat holiday in France



Sailing a canal or a river in France can be one of the most personalized, intimate, convenient and memorable vacation experiences. Even travelers reluctant to the pandemic choose to explore France’s waterways on a hotel barge.

Barging is pretty much hassle-free. As with ocean and river cruises, customers only need to pack and unpack once and do not have to deal with the logistics of getting from place to place, book accommodation or book meals and activities.

And because barges move very slowly (usually less than four miles per hour) and only travel short distances (often 30 to 50 miles) along a waterway, usually in one region, they offer a way slower, deeper and more immersive to travel.

Here are some reasons to consider a barge cruise in France now:

1- Stay away from crazy crowds

In the age of COVID, many travelers are avoiding crowds. Much smaller than riverboats, hotel barges typically only hold 2 to 20 passengers and 4 to 6 crew members, reducing the number of people they come into direct contact with.

“Our houseboats provide guests with an exclusive home that moves with them,” says Gary Franklin, vice president of trains and cruises at Belmond.

“Tours are mostly private and can be tailored to suit individual needs,” says Derek Banks, Managing Director of European waterways. “Many of our customers charter the entire houseboat to create their own secure private space or ‘travel bubble’ for friends and family,” he adds.

The itineraries emphasize visits to small towns and villages as opposed to excursions to dense towns filled with tourists. “Customers can also design their own cruises, including deciding when to relax on board or when to explore a perfect little French village or an incredible vineyard or chateau,” Franklin explains.

An added benefit of the barge: the small-group setting makes it easy for travelers to socialize after lockdown.

2- Savor regional dishes and wines

A recent article in The Washington Post called the “summer of reservations” because restaurant capacity restrictions and the preference for outdoor seating made it difficult to secure reservations in many destinations.

But the menus of the barges are adapted to the tastes of gourmets and the gastronomy is an integral part of the experience of the barges. Plus, meals are simple and informal – most meals are taken in the dining room with other passengers or on deck, although some houseboat cruises include multiple meals at good restaurants.

While ship kitchens may be small, dishes tend to be rich in flavor as the recipes are regional and the ingredients are local and seasonal. In fact, a crew member is likely to get up early each morning to pick up freshly baked bread and pastries from a nearby store. bakery or pastry.

With a limited number of guests, the chefs on board are able to cater for food allergies, dislikes and preferences. If a guest has a passion for foie gras or some type of Cremant, they can just tell the cook or the captain. Especially in France, barge customers can count on spectacular food and wine pairings and a flight of tasty cheeses after dinner.

The excursions include cellar visits, meetings with producers and tastings. For customers who prefer bubbles, Belmond has a new Vintage Champagne Cruise in partnership with LVMH and European Waterways offers Champagne cruises, with a stopover in Reims, considered one of the capitals of champagne.

3 – Seize the opportunities to enjoy the active outdoors

It is not because navigation is slow that it is sedentary. The canals are so close to the shores that guests have plenty of opportunities to cycle, walk or jog along the scenic towpaths and make an appointment with the barge at one of the upcoming locks. . A Belmond route even offers an ATV riding experience. European Waterways has changed its tours to focus on outdoor sites.

4 – Participate in a shared responsibility for health and safety

The relatively small scale of hotel barges allows businesses to be mindful of health and safety concerns related to COVID. However, keeping infection rates low is still a shared responsibility. On Belmond barge cruises, passengers are required to complete a short wellness questionnaire and provide a negative PCR test, performed no more than 48 hours before departure.

“In addition to our already strong health and safety guidelines, we have improved protocols in place,” says Franklin de Belmond. “The crew wear masks on board, while guests are encouraged to roam freely in the unrestricted guest areas. “

“While wishing to maintain the ambiance of a barge cruise that makes it unique, we are aware that hygiene and health safety standards must be maintained at the highest level,” says Banks. “As a result, our health protocols include temperature checks of crew and passengers as well as thorough cleaning and disinfection of all cabins and public areas of boats. Our main objective is to avoid any positive test during the cruise by screening and testing before departure, ”he adds.

Additionally, Banks points out that houseboat travelers don’t have to worry about different border entry requirements or restrictions along the way, as might be the case on an ocean cruise. “Our cruises generally stay in the same region, where they are subject to the same requirements for the duration of the cruise,” he says.

5 – Benefit from all-inclusive pricing

The barge is one of the most economical ways to travel. In an age of dynamic pricing, there is no need to put your hand in your pocket all the time, as houseboats offer open bars, cover all costs for meals and other drinks, and organize tours and / or excursions. daily in small groups. Customers only need to pay for airfare, tips and personal purchases. They know the approximate cost of their vacation in advance.

Due to these uncertain times, many companies have changed their reservation, cancellation and refund policies to make them more flexible. See details of European waterways Book with confidence politics and Belmond’s Flexible booking policy published on their respective websites.)

More than ever, deciding where, when and how to travel has become more complicated. But it is not surprising that the publication on the industry trade Weekly trip reported that luxury tour operators are seeing increasing demand for small craft products, such as houseboats.

For barge routes in France, see:


On Forbes

On MoreTimeToTravel.com

In the Washington Post

On the official tourism website Explore France

Note: the United States is on the French list of “green countries»Allowing vaccinated travelers to enter without a PCR test result and unvaccinated travelers to enter with a negative PCR or antigen test.


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