Cruising France on a Barge

More and more folks are turning to cruising as a way to see the world. But cruising isn’t just about big, fancy ships. Barge cruising is an idea that’s not very well known with American travelers. Popular in France, it’s somewhat similar to a river cruise. I was sailed with CroisiEurope, and my barge, the Raymonde, had just 11 cabins, with a maximum of 22 people and six crew. For folks that have never even considered cruising because they don’t like the idea of crowds, barge cruises can be a game changer.

Instead of cruising main river routes, barges typically move along quieter canals – it’s kind of like taking the back roads to avoid a busy freeway. But it also means you move slower, a lot slower. Top speed aboard the Raymonde is about 5 miles per hour. If you’re a brisk walker, you could give the barge a decent race.

Many of the towns and villages you visit along the way, like Reims tend not to be big ticket locales that attract the kind of crowds that make you want to pack up and head home, but that can make them even more fun to explore. And it’s idea if you’ve already been to big cities the likes of Paris.

In Reims, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame is similar to the one in Paris. It’s about 50 years younger, but with 23-hundred statues it’s said to be the most decorated cathedral in France. Stained glass windows seem to be at every turn. One section of windows feature Dom Pérignon and offers step by step instructions on how to make champagne.

But if you really want to learn about those famous bubbles, the hands-on approach is typically the most enjoyable. The Marne canal meanders through the French countryside credited with giving the world champagne. When here it’s all about visiting champagne houses and gaining understanding by tasting.

My sailing passed through 17 locks (that raised or lowered the ship on the water) on the way to Paris. Some are more dramatic than others. In some places, locals turn out to watch as well.

It takes five days of cruising – 113 miles – to reach Paris. If you were to make the trip in a car it would take you just a couple hours.

When you reach the City of Lights, the barge transitions onto the Seine River and the many landmarks of Paris put on an impressive grand finale to the cruise. The barge tied up about a 10-minute walk from the Eifel Tower, so exploring was easy. If you didn’t want to venture out, that’s okay, the tower was pretty much in full view, sparkling at the top of every hour.

Fares start at $3218, including excursions, food and drink.

See Dana’s KRON4 television segment on Youtube

Dana’s trip was hosted by CroisiEurope, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.

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