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The Sunday Times Travel writers Mark Hodson and David Wickers.

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Luxury barges

Our verdict:

On an inland waterways cruise, the water's calm, there's always passing scenery on both sides and, unlike touring by road, you only have to unpack once. Choose a luxury crewed hotel barge to explore the rivers and canals of France and other countries - and you won't even have to tilt your own wine bottle, let alone take your turn on the tiller.

Recommended tour operator: European Waterways

European Waterways says

We are the largest luxury hotel barging company in Europe, with a fleet of 17 beautiful vessels spanning 9 European countries, it’s a cruising experience unlike any other.

  • Bucolic settings
  • Gourmet dining
  • House party atmosphere

We offer a wide array of all-inclusive 6-night luxury cruises and are proud to provide high quality hotel barging holidays to discerning travellers in search of a truly unique experience.

Since beginning in France all those years ago, we’ve expanded beyond our 7 French cruising regions to Italy, England, Holland, Ireland, Scotland, Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg, though France is still as popular as ever!

With accommodation for between 6 and 20 passengers, our hotel barges are the perfect setting for everything from solo getaways to family reunions, as you can charter the barge for private use or book a cabin and join a group of like-minded travellers.

They are also ideal for special interest groups as we host several themed cruises, such as our Whisky Trail itinerary in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, or our Wine Appreciation cruises across France and Italy.

On board, you will find that although each barge is different in style and feel, a commitment to comfort and luxury is evident throughout, from our cosy, plush staterooms to our airy and spacious suites. Why not take a late afternoon soak in the on-deck spa pool and relax before the evening’s gastronomic journey?

The friendly yet discreet crew, including an onboard master chef, are there to ensure you are pampered, entertained, and that your wine glass never runs dry!

Prices for an all-inclusive 6-night cruise start from £2,750 per person based on shared cabin occupancy and include all gourmet meals, fine wines, an open bar, daily escorted excursions and transfers to and from the pre-determined pick up point.

Should you wish, our vessels can also be privately charted, with prices beginning at £18,000.

Find out more about our luxury hotel barge holidays and the latest special offers.

Note: All the travel companies featured on this site are personally recommended by our editors. Companies pay us a flat annual fee; we don’t get any additional payments if you click on their sites or make a booking. Those fees pay for the upkeep of our site, so we can keep it current and reliable. See more about how we work.