Picture yourself on the deck of your own private riverboat, taking in the serenity of the French countryside as you sip from a Grand Cru vintage. Then imagine sharing this incredible journey with – and only with – the friends of family that make travel special.
Barge cruising is perhaps one of the most intimate and luxurious ways to experience a country: to float along its rivers and canals with their behind-the-scenes views, and to do it aboard a luxury hotel barge that accepts anywhere from four to 12 guests. It’s perfect for a private charter. The barges are spacious, inviting and the level of service and culinary skill of the ship’s chef and crew will surprise you.
Shallow bottomed barges, outfitted with generous room sizes (some even boast four-poster beds) will moor just about anywhere. And with such a small group on board, voyages can be tailor-made to suit you all. You’ll be immersed in the countryside: Perhaps a stop to go horse-back riding along the many trails of Languedoc? Or dining with vintners in Burgundy after a tour of their exclusive cellars? Maybe sampling vintages from a family-run Champagne vineyard is on your bucket list?
These historic barges once plied European waterways delivering cargo. By the 19th century, the canal network of Europe had links to the English Channel, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea. When water transport declined, some ships were scrapped, but the best were kept and restored or retrofitted into five-star floating hotels.
Drifting peacefully through the Loire Valley, Provence, Burgundy, or along the Canal du Midi (a UNESCO heritage site) may be what your group needs to reconnect and celebrate the better things in life.
How Soon Should You Book?
If surviving a pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that we don’t want to wait to see the world. Some folks are ready now to explore and others are feeling more cautious and would like to wait until COVID infections diminish and travel feels more normalized. I recommend booking barge cruises 1-2 years in advance of travel.
For all trips, here are some general guidelines.
2 Years Out: Destinations for time-specific events such as Japan for its spring cherry blossoms or Rio de Janeiro for Carnival. More time is also needed for limited-capacity destinations, such as hiking Machu Picchu in Peru or gorilla trekking in Uganda.
1 Year Out: In the post-Covid travel landscape, a full year is ideal for safaris and cruises to ensure you get the safari camps and sailing itineraries you love, especially if you plan to travel during the high season or holidays.
6 Months Out: Most beach and ski destinations don’t require as much time to lock down the best accommodations. But if you visit includes a must-see museum exhibit or show, book as soon as you can.
Regardless of the trip, you can start dreaming, planning and saving for your vacation and extra-special experiences now.
Helen Jordan is the owner of Jordan Luxury Travel, an independent affiliate of Brownell Travel, a member of Virtuoso. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.