Any recommendations for river cruises in France, especially southern France but possibly with time spent in and around Paris? Best time to go? I'm thinking about May 2011. Which cruise lines might be willing to host a travel writer? Thanks.
You asked for cruises, not self-drive boats, but one of the best holidays I've ever taken was on a self-drive French canal "barge" that looked more like a sleek cabin cruiser. Cruising from French market to French market with a kitchen on board was wonderful.
Hi, Jean. Thanks for the link. Can you explain the hotel cruise concept and explain why we might prefer a canal cruise to a river cruise (for 4 high-energy people who think such a cruise might be too slow-paced)? Can you help four of us design an individual itinerary--and provide recommendations. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.
I will email you privately and give you some specific recommendations for your special party.
I would also like to share with the rest of the group some important points concerning canal cruise vs. river cruise because it is day and night and it is a question that is asked on a regular basis.
In your specific case, I am glad you asked because the more I read about your group and expectations, and the more I believe a canal barge cruise is what you need, and not a riverboat cruise.
Unlike a riverboat cruise, a small canal barge cruise offers a more active (if you want it to be) vacation, deeper in the countryside and “off the beaten track”.
It lets you discover the soul of the area while walking, running, bicycling…or simply watching from the deck of the barge.
If you want a more flexible, casual cruise with plenty of options for biking, walking and impromptu changes in the itinerary to match your interests, then you should pick a canal cruise not a river cruise.
This type of cruise has a great deal of flexibility, plus the chance to get on and off at about anytime especially since the barge has to go through 5 to 6 locks a day.
A river cruise must follow a fixed schedule with specific moorings.
Also, a barge is much smaller than a 120+ passenger riverboat. You can actually charter your own barge with just 4 or 6 passengers which is the ideal for a cruise experience that is totally personalized to reflect your interests and preferences, from the type of meals you wish to have to the activities on and off the boat.
Another major difference with a riverboat cruise is that most of the canal barges are owner-operated. While “company boats” with hired crews can be excellent, owner-operated barges typically offer a notch or two better experience. The owners are your hosts. They take pride in the quality of the barge and your experience aboard. Your experience is exceptionally important to them…
So you should not worry about the cruise being slow-paced as the exploration by land is also what is magical about the canal barge experience...and it can be very active!
Being so close to the real French countryside life, barging provides you with ample opportunities to venture on your own or with your on-board guide to explore village markets, or simply to discover a quaint waterside hamlets that isn’t even listed in your usual guidebook. In France, historic towpaths alongside the canals provide the perfect opportunity for a leisurely walk or a more exhilarating bicycle ride (available on each barge). And in the evenings, when your floating hotel is moored, you can also venture out for a stroll into town.
The big plus with a canal cruise is that nothing is set in stone and that each planned itinerary includes a host of pleasurable side trips which show you the most delightful highlights of the area of cruising. Open air markets, private wine tastings, tiny local shops of skilled craftmen…places that cannot be seen from the river and certainly not as part of the big group.
In that sense, a canal cruise is much more authentic than a river cruise.
And I’m not talking about tailor made activities, from a cooking class with the onboard chef (that may start with shopping at the village market and hands on cooking on the barge) to hot-air ballooning…
I will email you some specific recommendations for your party of 4...You already picked the perfect date for barging (May)...Perfect weather, scenery as its nicest and outside of the crowdy, touristy season :)
I would highly recommend Viking River Cruises. I took my first river cruise last May in Germany. If you would like more information please contact me. I am a travel consultant and would be happy to find you the perfect cruise.