Published on : Tuesday, May 23, 2017
European Waterways announced that it will be expanding its excursion and on-board ship options to include more immersive activities that meet travelers’ rising demand for experiential vacations. A leader in the luxury hotel barge cruising market, the company plans to add unique, highly personalized experiences such as exclusive tours of a castle garden in Scotland led by the head gardener – and often, the “lady of the house” herself; enjoying a plate of fresh oysters after a private tour of an oyster farm; and a visit to a lady artisanal chocolatier to learn about the art of chocolate making from her first-hand.
According to Derek Banks, managing director of European Waterways, the company is continuously curating and tailoring new guest experiences to offer them a truly immersive sense of the local culture. In recent years, they have also begun to further personalize their classic wine tastings excursions, expand their culinary demonstrations to include more private one-on-one with regional chefs, and add other activities that enhance the intimate nature of hotel barge cruising throughout the company’s 18-vessel fleet in Europe and the British Isles.
“Because we travel the unspoiled countryside, our cruises are really voyages into the heart of local traditions. There are no large groups trampling through the streets, ‘disturbing the peace’ or competing against other groups for tours of popular large attractions,” said Banks. “Since most barges hold no more than 12 guests, we can go to places that are impossible for larger groups to go to. Also, barges can be completely chartered by friends and multi-generational families for even greater flexibility and personalization of the itinerary.”
Banks noted that with European Waterways currently offering up to 20% off for cabins and charters on select cruises throughout the spring and summer, they’re an exceptional value for those interested in the distinctive benefits of canal cruising.
A Step Back in Time
Another benefit of hotel barging versus larger river vessels, which often hold hundreds of people, is that guests have the flexibility to take “shore leaves” at almost any point along the route. They can hop on a bicycle to explore the countryside, or wander through many of the quaint little villages they pass along the way. With the barge speed barely above a brisk walking pace, they can easily catch up to it at one of the friendly locks, through which the captain expertly steers his boat. They could even strike up a conversation with the lockkeeper and learn from them first-hand about life in the French countryside.
L’Impressioniste in Southern Burgundy is among the many barges expanding their experiential activities. In addition to meeting with a local chocolatier to learn about her tasty art, it also provides visits to the historic Chateau de Commarin for a private, guided tour by the Count himself, who also joins them in the garden for an exclusive tasting of his favorite wines.
Anjodi on the Canal du Midi takes passengers for a tour of Le Mas de Jeanne oyster farm in the famous Thau Lagoon. Afterward, the host offers guests a glass of local white wine such as Picpoul de Pinet with fresh oysters on the terrace overlooking the oyster beds.
The company’s new Spirit of Scotland takes guests to Cawdor Castle – believe to be the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Hamlet – to enjoy a private tour with the head gardener, while Panache in Holland offers exclusive visits to the workshop of a highly skilled clockmaker to watch him at his job.
“Hotel barge cruising brings you as close as possible to the land, its people and their rich, regional history, because the vessels are literally several feet from shore at all times, just steps away from the lush countryside and charming villages that are frozen in time,” said Banks. “Our guests are often sophisticated, knowledgeable travelers who have already seen all the most famous sites in the countries we cruise. Now they want to explore those out-of-the way places of our destinations, through our privately conducted excursions that take ‘the path less traveled.’ Even at the height of summer season, there’s no ‘waiting your turn’ behind other groups as we visit with hosts whose only guests are our guests.”
Tags: European Waterways