European Waterways

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European Waterways fleet

Review of European Waterways

European Waterways is an international barge cruise company based in Berkshire, England. It operates a fleet of barge ships along the canals and rivers of Europe - mainly in France. European Waterways buys old trading barges, then refits and transforms them into "luxury boutique" hotel barges.

European Waterways

The company was established in 1977 by Derek Banks with the purchase of an existing French inland waterways cruise company that had been created just three years earlier. The first hotel barge of European Waterways was Anjodi, renovated at a cost of over GBP 100,000. In 1994, the "barge cruise" line built the 12-guest La Belle Epoque followed the next year by her sister ship, 12-guest L'Impressionniste. After these acquisitions, the company expanded steadily. As a result of cooperation with a few companies in travel industry and additional purchases, European Waterways now operates a fleet of premium hotel barges along the inland waterways of nine European countries.

Originally, the European Waterways cruise line focused on Canal du Nivernais located in central Burgundy, France. The canal links the rivers Loire and Seine, following the course of Yonne River (direction south to north). As the company grew, itineraries were scheduled all over Europe. With acquisitions such as the barges Scottish Highlander, Panache and L'Art de Vivre, European Waterways expanded to cover France, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Luxembourg, England, Ireland and Scotland. Today, with its international clientele, the company has customers from all over the world, primarily from the UK, France, Canada, China, USA, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

European Waterways experience

European Waterways barge cruising deals

  • Barge cruise ships of European Waterways carry between 6 and 20 passengers. They also provide tandem sailings to accommodate up to twenty guests. Cruises are promoted as being unique from other tours as they provide the inland cruising vacationers with views and access to areas which, on a bus tour or by car, are not ordinarily accessible. The company also adds other tourist attractions like visiting chateaux, picturesque villages and food markets. 
  • All European Waterways deals include at least one guided shore trip per day. The excursions are optional and most of them are cruise fare inclusive. Geared toward the UK and North American tourist market, the company provides English-speaking staff on all its barges as well as fully escorted tours, many of which are guided walks showcasing history, architecture, culture and art of the visited places along the itinerary.
  • Most crew members are English, Irish or Scottish. Each of them is fluent in English and one other language (at least), often the one of the host country. In addition to working the locks, cooking and cleaning, the barge's crew offers narrations on the countryside as the ship moves from place to place. They explain to passengers regional history, cuisine, wines, cheese selections.
  • Onboard the hotel barges expect a mix of traditional and antique decor with fine wood paneling and soft carpeting. The ships offer a cozy country inn feel and relaxed atmosphere throughout. 
  • All excursions, meals and drinks are included in the European Waterways cruise deals. The whole fleet offers fine cuisine, most often regional specialties, and complimentary wines and liquors.
  • All cabins on the barges have central heating and air-conditioning, also en-suite bathroom with shower. Staterooms range from double-bed or twin-bed cabins to junior suites with comfortable sitting areas. 
  • European Waterways' barges move at slow speed, often cruising through half a dozen or even more locks per week. Since the pace is slow, onboard life is quiet and relaxed. 
  • Passengers don't have to expect large production shows, or even a television for the matter. Each barge offers a library, some pamper with a outdoor (sun deck) hot tub, and all feature a CD in the saloon.
  • Each winter, the European Waterways fleet is updated. Many of the barges travel hundreds of miles to Belgium or Holland shipyards.
  • The line's customers are well-travelled and well-educated, primarily 50-plus ladies and gentlemen (mainly from the UK, USA and Canada) who like the beautiful and serene setting.
  • Though there are no concessions for kids on regularly scheduled itineraries, all European Waterways ships pamper with themed family charters where kids are well accommodated with high-chairs, cribs, games and toys.
  • Most barges have bicycles onboard for passengers to use complimentary while on land.