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5 Ways to Save Money on French and European Barge Cruises

November 20th, 2016

It’s true that canal barge cruises carrying 4-20 passengers can be more expensive than ocean cruises and some river cruises, but there are ways to save money without sacrificing one tiny bit of quality.

6-passenger barge Magnolia in Southern Burgundy

6-passenger barge Magnolia in Southern Burgundy

1. Book your barge cruise early

Most barges will honor the current year’s prices for the next year if bookings are confirmed with deposit early. For example, if you want to go barging in 2018, book your cruise in early spring of 2017. Remember that September is the most popular month for barging, so book even earlier if that is your preferred time.

2. Book your barge cruise late

If you can make plans 2-3 months prior to travel, we often have special offers with 10-20% discount for cabin or charter bookings. It’s all subject to availability at the discretion of the barge owner. Special offers apply only to new bookings and are not retroactive for bookings already confirmed. For example, take a look at spring special offers the winter before travel.

3. Charter the entire barge with friends or family

There are two types of barges:

  1. Charter barges for your own private group.
  2. Hotel barges where you can book cabins with other passengers on board.

All hotel barges are available for private charter, but not all charter barges accept cabin bookings. Typically, chartering the entire barge results in a lower price per person. For example, the 6-passenger Emma on the Canal du Midi can be chartered for $30,000 ($5000 per person), but booking an individual cabin is $5500 per person double occupancy.

4. Cruise during value season

Many barges offer value and regular season prices with value season being April, sometimes May, mid-July to mid-August and the last two weeks of October. For example, check out the 2017 rates for 12-passenger Luciole which has a lengthy value season at $4550 per person for cabin bookings rather than $4950 for regular season. It has single cabins, too, with no single supplement making this a great opportunity for solo travelers.

5. Half board cruises with some meals on shore at guests’ expense are considerably more affordable

For those who enjoy a variety of dining experiences, consider a half-board charter cruise for your group of 4-6. Independently owned and operated, the barge owners can offer a flexible meal plan which reduces the price. For example, the 6-passenger Magnolia in Southern Burgundy is very affordable at $18,400 half board for 6 ($3067 per person) rather than $23,650 full board for 6 ($3942 per person). The half board plan includes all meals except 4 meals on shore at guests’ expense. Excursions, open bar and everything else in a full board cruise are still included.

Want help navigating the barges to find the best cruise for your interests and budget? Contact us whenever you’re ready. We’re always ready to help.

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When is the Best Time to Book a Barge Cruise?
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What is an All-Inclusive Barge Cruise?

Beth Hanson
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988

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When is the best time to go on a barge cruise in France?

December 9th, 2014

Good question! Is there a best time to go barging?

The barge cruising season is April through October, taking in three distinct seasons. Weather can be a big consideration and much of it is personal preference, as some travelers like cooler weather where others love basking in hot sun. As in all of Europe, it can rain at any time. That said, there are months where it is less likely. Here are some features you can expect on spring, summer and fall barge cruises in France.

What can I expect in April and May?

The Burgundy Canal in early April

The Burgundy Canal in early April

Spring has arrived all over France with trees starting to green in early April with wildflowers in full array by May. The tourist season is in full swing starting Easter weekend with museums and sites which were closed for the winter opening their doors to welcome curious visitors. Yes, there is a chance of spring rains and cool weather with the occasional canal closure due to heavy rains. In that case, the barges offer extra excursions until the water recedes allowing the locks to operate again. I was in Burgundy in early April this year and took this photo. It was gorgeous. For those bargees wanting warmer weather in early spring, cruises on the Canal du Midi in the South of France can have a drier Mediterranean climate. A bonus for those cruising in April are the value season prices which can save significantly making this a good option for value conscious travelers.

How about barge cruises in June, July and August?

Sunflowers in full bloom in July

July is the month for sunflowers in full bloom. Photo by Apres Tout guest David Hall.

Summer is emerging in June and comes into full bloom in July and August. Long days and warm nights make living and dining on deck the norm. All barges are air conditioned to provide comfort inside with warm to hot summer days outside. There still is a chance of rain, but it is generally short lived especially in July and August where exciting and torrential thunder storms cool off the temperatures. The canals tend to be busier in July and August with families renting self-drive canal boats for family fun. The atmosphere is laid back and carefree – it’s summer vacation! Here is another budget bonus as many barges offer value season prices from mid-July to mid-August. As August comes to a close, a hint of autumn is in the air making this one of my favorite times to cruise.

The partially covered sundeck of Apres Tout in Burgundy

Partially covered sundecks as on the deluxe 6-passenger Apres Tout make outdoor living scenic and comfortable.                   Photo by Apres Tout guest David Hall.

Glorious September and October on the canals of France

Autumn cruise on Luciole on the Nivernais Canal

An autumn cruise on the Nivernais Canal on the barge Luciole – bliss!

It’s true. September and early October are THE most popular months for barge cruising. Why?
Well traveled Americans are big fans of barge cruising in France. They generally are baby boomers and have spent their summers enjoying family vacations at home. Seeking quieter canals and fairly predictable warm (not hot) weather, they are ready for some adult fun wining, dining and relaxing their way through the countryside. Because of this popularity, it is high season and many barges, especially private charters, book 15-18 months before departure. Warm days with cool evenings are ideal for daytime activities and peaceful sleeping. Sightseeing and activities are still vibrant yet more tranquil without summer crowds. As we approach mid October, the weather can be gorgeous with bright autumn light or cold and rainy as autumn takes hold. On November 1, the tourist industry in the countryside goes to sleep. It’s time for the barge owners to take a well earned rest and take care of their beloved barges for the next season.When is your best time to go barging

Related ArticlesRelated Articles

When is the best time to book a barge cruise?
5 ways to save money on a barge cruise in France and Europe

Whenever you’re ready to go barging, we’re ready to help. Happy travels,

Beth Hanson
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988


When is the best time to book a barge cruise in France?

October 8th, 2014
Planning ahead for your barge cruise

Planning is part of the fun!

This is one of the most important questions about barge cruising. Oftentimes, people think they have plenty of time only to discover that their preferred dates and barges are already booked. This is especially true of September which is the most popular month for barging because of the mild weather, fewer young families and students traveling, and wine harvests in full swing. It is typical for the popular charter barges to be booked over a year in advance. Also, barge cruise vacations are very popular with baby boomers and retirees who love to travel and have the means. They plan ahead to experience everything they can on their bucket list.

Here is what I suggest for getting the best selection of barges and schedules, especially if you want to charter the entire barge. Cabin bookings are a bit more flexible.

  • If possible, put it on your radar one and a half years before you want to go. Check in with your favorite barge cruise specialist (like me!) to see if prices, itineraries and availabilities have been announced for the time you want to travel.
  • Oftentimes, you can book at the current year’s prices for the following year if you book in spring or early summer of the year before. It’s a win-win. You get current prices and have a good selection of barges and times available.
  • Booking one or two cabins on a hotel barge with other passengers on board is a bit more flexible, especially if your schedule is flexible.
  • Again, if you want to cruise in September, it is important to think ahead and book as early as possible, ideally 9-12 months prior to departure.
  • As with charter bookings, it is very typical to book at this year’s prices for next year if you book in the spring or early summer of the year before traveling.

To review, as soon as you know you would like to go on a barge cruise, contact your barge cruise specialist to talk about your plans and help you select and book the right barge cruise for you.

It’s worth planning ahead to experience the “vacation of a lifetime” as many of our clients say when they return.

Related Articles

When is the best time to go on a barge cruise in France?
5 ways to save money on barge cruises in France and Europe

Whenever you’re ready to go barging, we’re ready to help. Happy travels,

Beth Hanson
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988

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



So what is an “all-inclusive” canal barge cruise?

March 24th, 2013
A delicious lunch on board Saint Louis, a deluxe 6 passenger barge in southwest France

A delicious lunch on board Saint Louis, a deluxe 6 passenger barge in southwest France

You see this phrase, “all-inclusive,” a lot, as you’re reading brochures and websites, discerning where you wish to take your next vacation. With the economy resembling a roller-coaster ride over the past few years, the concept of a vacation including “all” seems like a good idea—but is it really true, and how does it work?

Here’s what we mean by an “all-inclusive” canal barge cruise, also known as a “full board” cruise. In a nutshell, it means that once you have paid for your cruise and arrive on the barge, you will not need to pay anything to anyone during your time on board (other than an optional crew gratuity if you are happy with the service and cruise).

In more detail, this is what we mean by all-inclusive. A member of the barge crew will pick you up at the designated meeting location, usually a hotel or train station, and take you to the barge. You will receive cruise-specific information on the location once you have made your reservation, and we are happy to recommend our favorite hotels.  The barge van will return you to a designated location at the conclusion of your cruise to continue your travels.

All meals (your dietary needs and preferences are gladly accommodated) and wines are included. On board the barge is an open bar with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Accommodations with private bathroom are included in the cost of the cruise, as are all guided excursions and entrance fees. You will find that our barges also include a number of amenities ranging from bicycles, games, a library, and in many cases, hot tubs on deck! The use of all these are included in the cost of your cruise. Internet service is often available on our barges as well, though sometimes the reception in the countryside is sketchy. If it’s important to stay in touch, we suggest bringing a smart phone.

So what is not included in “all-inclusive”? Well, you will have the pleasure of buying your own souvenirs. Air or ground transportation to the meeting location and travel insurance are not included. And, if you are happy with the service and your cruise experience, a gratuity of 5-10% of the cruise price is greatly appreciated by your hard-working crew.

The bottom line with “all-inclusive” is that we will provide everything that you need to have an enjoyable, fascinating and unforgettable cruise, so contact us today to book one of our all-inclusive cruises!

Beth Hanson
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988


What to Pack for a Barge Cruise – Keep it Light!

February 12th, 2013
The idyllic Garonne Canal in southwest France

The idyllic Garonne Canal of southwest France

You’ve made plans to take a barge cruise! How exciting! The reservations have been made, the dates confirmed and now you need to figure out the really hard part.

What do I pack for my barge cruise? Feel free to download our Suggested Packing List to make it easy.

Because limited space is available on a barge cruise, it helps to choose items you can use more than once. Planning your wardrobe around one or two colors will allow each item to be used in several different ways. A neutral color like black or beige will allow lots of different looks by adding different colored tops.

First decide how casual or dressy you like to be, then adjust what you pack accordingly. Choose 2-3 pairs of pants, jeans or shorts, (depending on the season) and a skirt. With these basic elements, you can add tops, both short sleeve and long, a sweater or blazer, and a variety of scarves, belts or jewelry to change the look.

Be sure to bring a rain coat that can be layered over the sweater for extra warmth if needed. Bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes, some sandals that can double as slippers, and a dressier pair of shoes for evening, preferably with low heels. Add nightwear, a bathing suit, and a sun hat and you will be ready for anything.

Remember to bring small sizes of your toiletries packed in waterproof bags, and perhaps a small collapsible umbrella, a small flashlight, and travel alarm. Don’t forget a converter and plug adapter if you bring your own hairdryer or other small U.S. appliance. Don’t forget your camera with plenty of batteries or the charger (with the adapter plug and converter) and several memory cards.

We highly recommend purchasing a money belt if you don’t already have one. They are worn under your clothing and hold your passport, ATM  and credit cards, large bills, emergency contact information, and irreplaceable tickets.

Packing light is always a good idea, as it’s no fun to haul a heavy suitcase around. With airlines charging for checked baggage and overweight baggage, it’s also a money-saver. Most of us don’t use everything we bring along anyway, so why bring it? That will leave more room for the lovely remembrances we like to buy when we travel.

Do you have more questions about barge cruising? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions or Contact Us for more information.

We can help make your barge cruise one of the most memorable experiences of your life!

Beth Hanson
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988