Guest Author - Julie Emrich Fredrick
Have you ever considered getting away from the crowds and tour busses while vacationing in Europe? Would you like to see a different area each day without having to pack and repack your suitcase? Does the thought of seeing the towns and countryside from the water sound enticing? If you answered yes to any (or all) of these questions, then a barge trip on Europe’s many waterways may be exactly the trip for you.
Barge travel has been popular in Europe for decades, but only recently has it caught on in other parts of the world. Various types of barge trips offer an array of options, depending on your travel style. Are you looking for independent canal trip? Then chartering your own self-drive barge may be the route to take.
Would you rather have a little more structure, guidance and service? A private charter offers all that, and more.
Prefer pampering? A hotel barge provides the ultimate in luxury.
Self-Drive Barges The most basic type of trip would be renting a barge yourself, with no crew or meals included. This would offer the most freedom, as you choose your own route sights to see and overnight ports, but you would have to know something about navigation, clearing locks and mooring. With the exception of German travel, no license is required to man your own helm, and boats are equipped with bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen. Instruction is given upon arrival at the port, as are canal guides and maps. Bicycles are available at an additional cost. This option can accommodate 2-12 passengers.
Private Charter Barges Private chartered barges are privately owned barges, with the owners acting as crew and guides. Meals vary according to the barge, but usually include breakfast. Other meals can often be arranged. Some private charters have a self-catering kitchen, and you can purchase food at local markets, preparing your own meals and saving money. On the other hand, eating at area cafes and restaurants is a great way to truly experience the local flavor of the region.
Check with the charter company, as these charters vary on the level of service and excursions that are included in the price. Some of the trips include only you and your select guests, and are wonderful for private celebrations, family reunions and other special holidays. Personal service is key, with excursions tailored to guest’s wishes. Often special outings such as golf or hot-air ballooning can be arranged. Others allow for more independence, only suggesting shore excursions, allowing you to handpick your activity level and choices. Bicycles are available.
Hotel Barges These barges operate more like cruise ships, but on a much smaller scale. Unlike cruise ships, the barges are able to dock right at the city port, giving the passengers direct access to the major attractions. These boats typically offer state of the art public spaces and high-end amenities including luxury accommodations with private bathrooms. Tour guides and gourmet meals are the norm, and you can do as little or as much as you prefer.
In summary, for a completely different perspective of Europe, consider traveling on one or more of the continents numerous waterways. Barge travel can be as basic or luxurious as you choose, depending on your time and budget.
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