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River Cruises in Europe

Click here for Frequently Asked Questions

Read More before you enjoy your River Cruise holiday in Europe

Looking for relaxation and a touch of luxury?
Consider 'hotel barging'.


Hotel barges come with skippers and an attentive crew to pamper and spoil you. Not to mention exquisitely fresh gourmet cuisine and exceptional cheese and wines.
Your most difficult decision will be whether or not to have a second helping of dessert!

Each day when the ship or barge moors, you are free to go off on the escorted, included sightseeing and tours or if you prefer you can relax on the deck, soaking up the sun or catch up on your reading in the lounge.

For the more independent and energetic, bikes are often available so you can explore on your own if you wish. Imagine discovering the castles, cathedrals and picturesque villages of Europe...

For wine lovers - the areas of Burgundy, Champagne or the Loire. Perhaps the tulips in Amsterdam or the "the city of a hundred Spires"- Prague - catches your fancy....

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Our forthcoming newsletters will be covering River Cruising in Europe in more detail with lots of hints, tips and things to watch out for!


River Cruising Frequently Asked Questions

Here you will find questions and answers about River Cruising in the UK and Europe. Information on River Cruises in Europe and the UK is available below to guide travellers for safe journey.

Q: What is a Hotel Barge?
A: Luxury hotel barges are smaller vessels, accommodating a minimum of 6 passengers, maximum 50 passengers. They include all gourmet meals with wine, all shore excursions, and most also include an "open bar" and bicycles for the use of the guests.

These vessels cruise on small waterways - mostly on canals, such as the Nivernais in Burgundy, France's most famous wine country, the Canal du Midi in the south of France, or through the tulip fields of Holland or along the Caledonian Canal in Scotland; but sometimes they cruise on rivers, such as the Shannon in Ireland, the Rhone in France and the Thames in England.

The purpose of a barge cruise is not to rush from Point A to Point B, but to relax in a stress free environment with fine food and wine, enjoy the delights of the countryside you are passing through, and get to know the "soul of the country." The barges travel neither far or fast.


Q: Is Barging only for the sedentary, older traveller?
A: Not at all! Canal cruising is for those who want a "close-up, personal" experience in Europe. Mature and younger travellers find the pace and comfort of a barge the ideal way to explore the real heart and soul of a country. More active types like to take off on village walks, hill climbs or bicycles...meeting up at the next lock. The unique advantages of a barge is that we can tailor an itinerary and celebrate a special event to suit the guests.

Q: What is there to do except eat well and drink wine?
A: Lots! Each morning and again after lunch, guided tours to historic and cultural sites of the region provide guests many interesting choices from visiting chateaux, famous vineyards, country market towns, private gardens to museums celebrating art, weapons, textiles or bread!

Other interests, like golf, ballooning, riding and tennis are also accommodated. If it's Burgundy, there's a visit to Beaune or Macon...along the Thames in England the route might be Windsor Castle to Oxford. (In between, there is fine food and drink).

Q: How will we do the sightseeing?
A: Each barge has a designated crew member guide and an air-conditioned van or bus that travels with it, for daily excursions to points of interest such as nearby chateaux, colourful local markets, ancient monasteries, or fascinating speciality museums.

Q: Will I get bored and feel confined?
A: Not if you enjoy meeting the locals, viewing passing vineyards and chateaux from a hot tub on deck, or sharing experiences with a congenial group of travellers on journeys more like "moving house parties. You will be able to get on and off your barge practically at will, to take a walk along the tow path or a bicycle ride to town. (Almost all the barges have bicycles on board for passenger use).

Meet and talk to the locals, view the vineyards, or accompany the crew as they shop in the early morning for delicious, freshly baked bread and croissants. Learn the secrets of fine French cuisine from your gourmet chef. Savour an amazing variety of local cheese and other delicacies. All of this in addition to the included sightseeing tours en route.

The gentle movement of the barge, anchored at night, has caused dedicated insomniacs to report wonderful, restful sleep. It is the relaxed atmosphere aboard, the friendly and helpful crew, the peace and tranquillity of the countryside, together with the wonderful cuisine, lively conversation and interesting sightseeing that make it magical.


Q: Are Barge Cruises expensive?
A: Barges come in many styles and levels of luxury from rustic and comfortable like a good Country Inn to elegant, like a fashionable Hotel. But the essence of barging is not decor...but the taste and texture of the region that is revealed in the welcome greeting of the villagers, the smiles and hearty charm of the lock keepers, and the personal and friendly attention of local artisans and guides.

Barge rates do reflect the level of luxury and the season...but since they are inclusive, they are great value. Meals, wines, open bar, guided excursions and admissions...all included!
Generally speaking, the smaller the vessel, the more personal the service, and the more exclusive the experience. This is reflected in the pricing. Small vessels are ideal for families, groups of friends, or individuals who who are attracted to the luxury of a barge cruise.


Q: What is not Included?
A: Airfare.

Q: Do cabins have private bathrooms?
A: All cabins have private, nicely appointed bathrooms with showers. Some suites include bathtubs. Several barges have saunas and on deck hot tubs or jacuzzis as well.

Q: Are there telephones and TV?
A: Usually there are no telephones, TVs or computers. For emergency communications, barges do carry a cellular phone. However...anyone who chooses to break the tranquillity of the voyage for urgent business like baseball scores, elections or market closings...public phones are handily spaced along the canals. As for TV, a few barges have satellite TV for those who can't miss CNN.

Q: Will I get seasick?
A: Never...canals are not tidal and are controlled waterways. The gentle movement of the barges anchored for the night have caused dedicated insomniacs to report wonderful, restful sleep.

Q: What clothes should I pack? What's the attire on board?
A: Most passengers enjoy the relaxed atmosphere on board barges and fancy dressing is not the custom. Comfortable, casual attire, sneakers or docksiders on board. Sweaters, a windbreaker and shorts or cotton pants are recommended. At the Captain's final dinner, a little "dress-up" is O.K. Ties are rare, and there is no need for anything formal.

Q: Are kids welcome on barges?
A: Most adult passengers appreciate the atmosphere and company of grownups, so kids under 17 are accepted only on full charters. Family charters, reunions of generations, (from grandparents & parents, teens and even babies), grow more popular each year, seem to appeal to all ages, and are welcome on barges.

Q: When's the best season for barging?
A: All seasons are lovely on the Canals, but seasonal rates do vary barge to barge and region to region, and do reflect special activities (grape harvest in Fall, tulip time in Spring). Some barges have a quiet time in July or August, and most offer Value rates in early Spring and late Fall when weather can be beautiful or unpredictable.

Q: What about tipping?
A: Always appreciated. Never required. Gratuities are not included in the price of your trip - tipping is at your own discretion. We include suggested tipping guidelines with your pre-cruise documents. On the barges, we suggest a guideline of 5% of the cost of your cruise to be given to the captain at the end of the cruise. The captain will distribute it to the crew. On the river ships, we suggest $10-$15 per person per day - the gratuity will be divided among the crew at the end of the cruise.

Q: Will I be able to make special requests?
A: If there is a birthday or other special event to celebrate during your cruise, or a special request for your diet, please let us know - the crew on board is eager to tailor the barging experience especially for you!

Q: What is the difference between a river boat and a barge?
A: River boats accommodate from 60 to 250 passengers, and navigate the major waterways of Europe, such as the Rhine, Danube, Rhone, Po, Elbe, Douro and Volga. The recent completion of the Main-Danube canal, makes it possible to travel all the way from the North Sea (Amsterdam) to the Black Sea (Bucharest or Constanta) on a "Grand European River Cruise" that spans eight countries.

On a river cruise, you will sail from one fascinating city to another, sometimes stopping at small romantic villages, visiting fairytale castles and lush vineyards. There is always something interesting to see - often on both sides of the river - and frequent stops are made for shore excursions, or just to give you a chance to taste the nightlife, or experience the daytime ambience, of a foreign town.

Aboard the river ships you will find elegant dining rooms, spacious sun decks, comfortable lounges, fitness facilities, and sometimes swimming pools. Limited laundry service is available on most river ships, but not on most barges. A river cruise, like an ocean cruise, is a "one-unpacking vacation" - no more early morning wake-up calls for long coach rides from hotel to hotel!

All meals on board are included in the cruise price, but your bar tab is charged to your shipboard account Aboard the river ships you will find elegant dining rooms, spacious sun decks, comfortable lounges, fitness facilities, and sometimes swimming pools. Limited laundry service is available on most river ships, but not on most barges. The shore excursions may be optional at a supplemental cost.


Q: Do all river cruises offer the same services?
A: Not all river cruises offer exactly the same services and amenities. On some, the dining room is "open seating" so that you can enjoy dining with different guests throughout your holiday, while on others, restaurant seating is assigned when you arrive on board (but of course, you always have the option of requesting a change in table assignment).

A great variety of fascinating shore excursions are sometimes included in the cruise price, while on certain ships, they are only available for purchase on board. Some of the river cruises forbid smoking in their restaurants and most public areas, while on others, there will be a designated smoking section in the on-board dining room.

Generally, smoking is allowed on deck outdoors. Some of the river cruises are sold only in English-speaking countries, and service on board (announcements, shore excursions, etc.) are done only in English; while other cruises are also sold in Europe and around the world, so that announcements etc. will be multilingual, and you will have a chance to mix with a variety of nationalities.


Q: What is the attire for a river cruise?
A: Clothing: informal and casual clothing is the norm on board for river ships Soft-soled shoes are essential for the decks, and comfortable walking shoes are a must. (Sneakers are excellent.) There are no formal events during these cruises. At the Captain's Dinner on the last evening, a little "dress-up" is the norm, but real formal wear is not usual. The weather in Europe can be very changeable, so take a sweater or windproof jacket & a raincoat or umbrella.

Q: How much baggage can I bring?
A: Although the barges are spacious enough, there is limited storage facility on board. For this reason we recommend limiting your barge cruise baggage to one suitcase and one carry-on per person. But pack wisely, as there are no laundry facilities on the barges, and laundromats are few and far between in the rural areas. Since river ships are larger, and often the cruises are longer it is not necessary to restrict the luggage you bring on board to one piece. Most river ships do offer optional laundry service, but not dry-cleaning. If the vessel you have chosen has a pool, a jacuzzi, or hot tub - don't forget your swimsuit! Generally, the canals and rivers are not recommended for swimming.

Q: What kind of electricity is there on board?
A: All of our vessels are wired for 220 volts but not 110 volts. We suggest you bring an adapter, converter, and /or the necessary wall plugs for your particular appliance that corresponds to the standard for the countries you will be visiting. Before using any electrical appliance while on board, please check with the crew to ensure that it is suitable for the barge's electrical system. Some of our vessels have hairdryers in the cabin, or available at reception - your pre-cruise documentation will advise you about this.

Q: Will I have a language problem?
A: All our crew members generally speak English. Some speak other languages as well. When cruising through mainly rural areas, one is quite likely to find the locals speaking with a strong dialect. Although sometimes difficult to understand, we still encourage you to try to communicate with them.

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River cruising in Europe - More Information

Everything you need to know about River Cruises and Hotel Barge in the UK and Europe.

So, would you like a small intimate cruise with between 6 and 12 fellow cruisers on board?
Then consider European Waterways. In operation and under the same ownership since 1974, this quality company offers cruises in France, Germany, Scotland, England and Ireland.

They begin by seeking out the finest classic working barges and then painstakingly transform them into luxury cruise barges.... what we call floating country hotels, using the finest of hardwoods, sold brass fittings and over a quarter of a century of experience. The photos available will 'blow your mind'...!

Imagine the sense of relaxation and enjoyment as your luxury floating hotel carries you from one peaceful mooring to the next, with more than enough opportunity to explore little villages, shops, the delightful countryside and much, much more, without the need to pack and unpack every day.  Delightful itineraries - cruising on the Royal River Thames in the 8 passenger Magna Carta whilst you enjoy the sights of London and the home counties from your luxury floating hotel.


Two house keepers complete the crew of four or what about cruising on the Loch Ness and the Caledonian canal, Scotland? On this tour which includes open bar, free wines, gourmet cuisine, entry fees to excursions not to mention a good selection of French and New World wines, complimented by assorted single malt Malts and 80 Shilling Ales!

The menu is the stuff my dreams are made of... How about "Munro of marinated Salmon, Pheasant breast with Horseradish sauce, Navarin of Lamb with Thyme, Parsley and Bay leaf, Chicken Breasts with Rasberry Vinegar finished off with deserts to die for and cheese with mouthwatering names like 'Scottish Brie, Whisky Chase, Stratdown Blue & Orkney smoked ...'


If you want to cross the water... European Waterways offers cruising on the 10 passenger Shannon Princess II, the largest luxury hotel barge cruising the Lower Shannon in Ireland.

In Europe they offer cruises in France - along the canals, rivers and inland waterways of Burgundy, Provence, Bordeaux and South of France. Special interest tours are available as is 'whole boat charter'...

Perfect for special occassions like a big birthday or special anniversaries.  In Germany the twelve passenger Serenite cruises between April and July through the smaller Berlin canals and the beautiful Mecklenberg lake region until she repositions to the Provence region, South of France.

European waterways also offers special cruises combining cruising with walking or cruising and horseback riding or even combining cruising and the Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower shows.

If you're more interested in cruising the rivers of Europe, consider AMA Waterways who offer 3 of the newest ships in Europe.

These ships cater for larger numbers but with all the space on board, you will never feel crowded. The average number of guests is 150 - who all repose is some of the largest staterooms available. The Artistry for instance, has staterooms measuring a very generous 161 square feet and each stateroom faces the outside with large windows and unobstructed views.

They have interesting itineraries covering the Legendary Danube taking in both Prague and Budapest or the Magnificent Europe covering from Amsterdam to Budapest or why not experience the Black Sea Voyage taking an unforgettable journey on the MS ‘Artistry’through a region only recently opened up to the west. This is the perfect opportunity to see Eastern Europe before it becomes "westernized."

They offer a Guaranteed share program for single travelers and Europe's newest and most modern river cruise ships including the new 'Poetry'  ....In fact, there is a whole host of reasons to cruise with 'Amadeus Waterways'... see the AMA Waterways River Cruising page!

Don't forget that we have beautiful brochures we will be happy to send you and that we can provide pre and post cruise car hire or car leasing. Just send us an email or give us a call.

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