European Waterways

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European Waterways fleet

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Review of European Waterways

European Waterways ( is an international hotel-barge cruise company based in Berkshire, England. The travel brand operates a fleet of luxury barges along the canals and rivers of Europe, and mainly in France. European Waterways buys old trading/freight barges, then refits and transforms these vessels into "luxury boutique" hotel barges.

European Waterways logo - CruiseMapper

In 2013 was completed a fleetwide ship-refurbishment program for deck- and cabin renovations, new furniture, expanded Wi-Fi coverage.

Company history

The company was established in 1977 by Derek Banks, with the purchase of an existing French inland waterways cruise company created just three years earlier (in 1974). European Waterways' first barge was Anjodi, renovated at a cost of over GBP 100,000. In 1994, the "barge cruise" line built the 12-passenger La Belle Epoque, followed in 1995 by the sistership L'Impressionniste. After these acquisitions, the cruise line expanded steadily. As a result of cooperation with travel companies and additional vessel purchases, European Waterways now operates a fleet of premium hotel barges along the inland waterways of nine European countries.

European Waterways

Originally, the cruise line focused on Canal du Nivernais (located in central Burgundy, France). The canal links tow 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 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, and primarily from UK, France, Canada, China, USA, South Africa, Australia New Zealand.

European Waterways experience

Note: For convenience, as part of the European Waterways fleet, CruiseMapper also lists barges that belong to other shipowners and/or are currently under a charter. Among the largest cruise lines are European Waterways, Elegant Waterways, CroisiEurope, Phoenix Reisen, Belmond Rivier Cruises, Douro Azul (Portugal).

  • A bareboat charter is hiring the vessel without including its administration and technical maintenance as part of the deal.
  • A time charter is hiring the vessel for a fixed period of time on a daily hire basis. The shipowner manages the vessel (staff, crew, supplies, etc), while the charterer selects cruise ports and itineraries, and also pays the fuel, port charges, commissions.

European Waterways barge cruising deals

Hotel-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 the history, architecture, culture, and art of the visited places along the itinerary.

Most crew 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 hotel-barges have central heating and air-conditioning, also an en-suite bathroom with a 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, shipboard life is quiet and relaxed. Each barge has library, some have an outdoor (sun deck) hot tub (whirlpool), all have Bar-Saloon (lounge). Most hotel barges have bicycles onboard for passengers to use complimentary while on land.

Company's customers are well-traveled and well-educated, primarily 50+ aged ladies and gentlemen (mainly from UK, USA and Canada) who like the beautiful onboard setting and serene cruising travel experience. Though there are no concessions for kids on regularly scheduled itineraries, all European Waterways boats pamper with themed family charters where kids are well accommodated with high-chairs, cribs, games and toys. 

Each winter, the European Waterways fleet is updated. Many of the ships travel hundreds of miles to shipyards in Belgium or Holland to be drydock refurbished. In 2019, the company invested over USD 0,5 million in fleet renovations. Refurbishments included stateroom redesigning, cabin bathrooms upgrades, enhanced onboard amenities. For most of these projects is contracted the UK company Falchi Interiors Ltd (based in Datchet, Slough-Berkshire, England) specializing in residential interior design. Refurbs 2019 also included adding new soft furnishings and upgrading ships' sound and lighting systems.

Itinerary of European Waterways

Follows a list of popular hotel barges cruising in France. In brackets are shown the river and/or the wine region in France.

The list of European Waterways barges includes:

European Waterways related cruise news