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A Canal Barge Cruise or a River Cruise? What is the Difference?

December 3rd, 2013

Perhaps you’ve seen the ads on television, with the large, stately vessels floating along a scenic European river, and you think to yourself, “that sounds like a lovely, relaxed way to see Europe.” And you would be right!


We represent Uniworld River Cruises from Paris to Normandy

Then you hear about barge cruises on the canals, and wonder, “what is the difference?”

48mcxFkQ0wRE6pfTYmgxl4ecPWFUzeeeUMCq33Byhow1 – your gateway to the world of canal cruising

It’s like comparing apples and oranges – they are both delicious. I often say a barge cruise is like being welcomed into a charming boutique country inn and a river cruise is like staying in a fine, elegant hotel. I hope this information helps you decide which is the best cruise for you and your interests. Or, like some of our clients, they do both and “vive la difference!”

Features of a canal barge cruise

  • An intimate, personalized experience with 4-21 passengers and friendly crew
  • Cruise on scenic man-made canals through small villages, vineyards and pastoral countryside covering approximately 50 miles
  • Canals are excellent for walking and biking while the barge is floating along – bicycles provided
  • Customized itineraries for private charters are gladly provided
  • Barge trips are 6 nights, usually starting on Sunday or Saturday
  • Everyone dines together at one table with one menu, creating a festive, homey atmosphere
  • Often operated by the owners who are captain and chef and have put their heart and soul into your barge cruising experience
  • Small group excursions allow for private visits to savor local culture
  • Prices range from $3,500 – $8,000

Enjoy browsing our website with 40+ canal barge cruises to choose from.

Features of a river cruise

  • With an average of 130 passengers, you can socialize with a diverse group
  • Cruise on large rivers with moorings in river towns
  • Walking and biking are possible only when the ship is moored. Some ships provide bicycles.
  • River cruises are 7-21 nights and can cover many miles in several countries
  • Dining is similar to an excellent gourmet restaurant
  • A broad overview of many cities and sights
  • Operated by an English speaking, multi-national crew
  • Often a selection of excursions to choose from
  • On excursions, passengers are typically divided into groups and transported to sights on buses
  • Prices start at $3,000 per person and vary by stateroom category and season.

Features of both canal barge cruises and river cruises

  • Guided excursions including entrance fees are included. There may be optional excursions available with a supplement, i.e, hot air ballooning, golf, etc.
  • All meals and wines are included (some half board plans are available on small charter barges). Barge cruises and some river cruises offer an open bar.
  • Dietary restrictions are gladly accommodated.


Ready to go barging or river cruising? Contact us today to experience the unparalleled beauty and experience of a vacation on the water, with all the individual attention of a personalized, and personal-sized, canal barge cruise or elegant river cruise.

Beth Hanson
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988