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The Only French Barge Cruise We Recommend

March 2021 Update After this crazy year of being extra careful about how we travel and looking back at all the trips we’ve been on, this French barge cruise is by far a must for any family or group of friends looking for Michelin-quality food and 5-star service in a covid-safe environment.

After experiencing a French barge cruise and a river cruise, I’d highly recommend the barge cruise, especially for food and wine lovers.

From the private chef cooking Michelin quality food to the amicable tour guide (who, as a bonus, is also a sommelier), the wealth of knowledge and attention we received on board the Grand Victoria boat made our barge trip in France one to remember.

Keep reading to find out why you might choose a barge cruise over a river one and what this luxurious experience is like.

Please note: We were provided with lodging for two by Grand Victoria Cruises in order to be able to help this small family business with their marketing efforts. We truly loved our experience on this French barge cruise and encourage you to read the full post to see why it’s a must for a luxury barge cruise vacation.

Four cruisers enjoying lunch outdoors while cruising the canals in France on Grand Victoria Cruises
Enjoying a fresh meal made by Chef Packham on the boat deck

Cruising the Canals of France via a Barge or River Cruise

While canal cruising in France, you can either opt for a river or barge cruise. Both river and barge cruises offer similar types of activities such as city tours and have bikes for use on board. They also go to similar destinations in France, but the main difference between these two types of cruises is the quality of service and products that you’ll get.

Generally, river cruises can accommodate over 100 guests. With more guests, they stop at more popular destinations in northern France such as Honfleur and Versailles.

However, with more guests, the cruise is more generalized. Tour groups are larger, which limits time exploring a certain place and decreases the quality of food offered. Note: The food on river cruises are still really good for a cruise; but for food and wine lovers, luxury barge cruises are the way to go.

Dining on a barge cruise while cruising the canals in France on Grand Victoria Cruises
Being served a wine from Edward’s own personal wine cellar

Barge cruises are completely opposite of river cruises in size and service. First off, the luxury barge cruises carry eight passengers and less, which allows for personalized attention while cruising.

Because of the size of the boat, barge cruises sail on canals, not just rivers, which offers a contrastingly different viewpoint of France; one that is more serene and tranquil with beautiful greenery all around (instead of industrial city sites).

Last but not least, because of the size, the chef, tour guide, hostess, etc. on board a barge cruise are all part of your personal staff. This makes for quite the luxurious experience in France.


Why Choose a Luxury French Barge Cruise

There are several barge canal cruises to choose from so here are my top reasons why choosing Grand Victoria Cruises out of all barge holidays in France is the right way to go.

Family Owned & Operated

Sitting in the salon of a luxury barge cruise on the canals of France with owners of the Grand Victoria Cruises
Having a cozy chat with Edward & Cindy, owners of Grand Victoria

What differentiates Grand Victoria Cruises is that they’re a family owned and operated boat. That’s right; every single day, Edward (husband), Cindy (wife) and Alex (son) work together to take care of you and the boat.

Since they are so personally invested in their business and clients, attention-to-detail and care for the quality of your comfort, food, and excursion experiences is of utmost importance.

Bespoke Experience

Touring the Dijon market with some insight from Edward

Because they’re NOT owned by a large company with several boats, your chartered experience with them is truly custom. They can adjust the itinerary and meal plan to your exact liking, which makes cruising the canals of France with them an absolutely joy.

Private Chef with Creative Freedom

One of the reasons why chefs love working for Edward and Cindy is that they don’t prescribe a set menu for the chefs to follow. Their private chefs have free range to cook to their creative liking.

Our chef even cooked to the weather. When it was warm out, he made delicious, filling salads. When it was cooler, he made savory, satisfying dishes.

More importantly, our shopped at the local markets daily and picked out the produce and meats he was cooking with himself.* We even got to accompany him one day, which was a fun and educational experience to be connected to the food we were eating.

*French barge cruises owned by companies do not have this freedom as they generally have set meal plans made by the companies and food delivered right to the boat.

Looking for a culinary excursion cruising the canals France? Call Waterways & Beyond, LLC 1-888-474-2849 or head to Grand Victoria Cruises’ website to find out more.

Great Wines from Edward’s Personal Wine Cellar

Getting served wine on a French barge cruise

If you’re a vinophile, then you won’t be served wine on any other French barge cruise than what you’ll be served on Grand Victoria Cruises. This is because Edward serves you wine from his own personal cellar.

He serves you two bottles of wine with each dinner and does not hold back at all. Just check out this list:

  • BEAUNE 1ER CRU “LES EPENOTTES” Blanc 2016
  • MERSAULT “LE TESSON” Blanc 2013
  • LADOIX 1ER CRU “LA”CORVEE” Rouge 2014
  • POUILLY FUISSE “LES VIGNE BLANCHE” Blanc 2015
  • FIXIN 1ER CRU CLOS NAPOLEION Rouge 2015
  • PERNAND VERGELESSE 1ER CRU “LES SOUS
  • FRETILLE” Blanc 2014
  • SANTENAY 1ER CRU “LA COMME” Rouge 2014
  • CHABLIS 1ER CRU “FOURCHAUME” Blanc 2013
  • CHAMBOLLE MUSSIGNY 1ER CRU “LES
  • CORTON GRAND CRU Blanc 2014
  • ÉCHEZEAUX GRAND CRU

Edward has even invited captains from the other cruise boats to dine with him, and each and everyone one of them have been in utter shock that he would serve such high quality wines to his guests! Yup, he does not hold back.

Looking for luxury cruises in France? Call Waterways & Beyond, LLC 1-888-474-2849 or head to Grand Victoria Cruises’ website to find out more.

Spacious and Comfortable Rooms with En Suite Bathrooms

Traditionally, most barge river cruises hold eight to twelve passengers, but Edward and Cindy wanted their guests to be more comfortable so they fitted the boat to hold six guests.

This means that there are larger rooms with enough to space to feel both cozy and comfortable for the week.

These large rooms have true American-sized King beds with the most comfortable mattresses that you’ll ever sleep on.

Each room also has its own en suite bathroom with details for the most discerning traveler such as American-sized (not European-sized) towels and two sinks for couples traveling together.

One-to-One Staff Ratio

Macaroons available on a French barge cruise
Woman reaching for food on a French barge cruise

Edward and Cindy don’t spare any expenses when it comes to food, wine, and even their staff. There is a one-to-one staff ratio so that your needs are always taken care of.

Whether you’re just getting back from an excursion or headed to the deck to sit in the jacuzzi, there is always someone on hand to make sure you’re always comfortable.

Drinks, snacks, and even yoga mats– they’re all there for you at a minute’s notice.

Activities and Amenities

Enjoying a jacuzzi on a French barge cruise

The Grand Victoria Cruise experience includes multiple outings such as to vineyards, markets and sites and luxurious amenities such as a jacuzzi on deck and state-of-the-art bikes to use.

Each activity and amenity is thoughtfully designed to complement your food and wine experience for the week.

Looking for luxury cruises in France? Call Waterways & Beyond, LLC 1-888-474-2849 or head to Grand Victoria Cruises’ website to find out more.


Our Personal Experience of Luxury Barging in France

in the living room of Grand Victoria Cruises cruising the canals of France
Enjoying coffee in bed on a French barge cruise

The moment we stepped on board of Grand Victoria Cruises, we were greeted with a bubbly glass of Champagne and invited to relax in the salon, which has bright and modern in decor unlike other barge cruises in France that have dark, old-world interiors.

It felt like stepping into my own home (minus being greeted with Champagne; on that note, it’s better than home), and we knew instantly that this was going to be a far better experience than the river cruise we had been on the year before.

Salad served on a French barge cruise
Enjoying cheese on a French barge cruise

We already loved how comfortable the boat was, especially with the good night’s rest we had every night, but we really fell in love with the cruise when we had Chef Packham’s food.

Being world culinary travelers and frequent Michelin diners, we were in awe of both the taste and quality of the food we were getting. This alone made this cruise worth booking.

Although we’re foodies, we don’t know that much about wine, and we left the cruise with an abundance of knowledge and wider palate, especially since our tour guide was also a sommelier!

From the vineyards to wine tasting to drinking wine at dinner, we were constantly taught the history and culture behind the wines we were drinking.

For vinophiles, this French barge cruise would be a dream come true with all different high-quality wines they’d be trying and building their knowledge upon with. In fact it was for Peter, a New Yorker whom we were traveling with.

We also loved:

  • the excursions that we went on; to be honest, I generally get bored on tours, but Edward and Cindy picked out the best parts of activities to do. For example, we went to a castle, which has been family owned for over 26 generations, but we skipped the wine tasting there because they knew it wasn’t as good. See? The best insider knowledge comes with the cruise.
  • the jacuzzi; What’s not to love? While we were cruising, we fully relaxed in the jacuzzi and watched the scenery pass by.
  • the bikes; This was great for Mike who is a super active person. On a couple of days, Edward told Mike where we’d be docking next and Mike grabbed one of the highly-maintained brand new bikes and met us there by bike. The barge moves so slowly that often Mike beat us there.
Man and woman enjoying the sun on a French barge cruise

Mike, more than me, was not a cruise lover, but this was the cruise trip that completely bought us over. We are canal cruise lovers now.


Logistics of Booking a French Barge Cruise

You can either book one out of three rooms in the cruise, or opt to charter the entire boat, which is a great idea of family trips, special occasions or reunions with friends.

Value of this cruise might not come to mind when booking, but it should. For everything included above with all of its personalized attention and top-notch quality, Grand Victoria Cruises is definitely the best value option there is for canal cruising in France.

To book a chartered boat for the week whether it’s just another family vacation or a very special 50th birthday, you can call Waterways & Beyond, LLC 1-888-474-2849 or head to Grand Victoria Cruises’ website to find out more.


I hope this post helps you get more insight on cruising the canals of France with a luxury barge.

I’d love to know what you decide to do, especially if you travel with Edward and Cindy on the Grand Victoria.

Leave a comment below or come say hi to me on Instagram once you decide!

Thanks for stopping by!
Sarah

Looking for luxury cruises in France? Call Waterways & Beyond, LLC 1-888-474-2849 or head to Grand Victoria Cruises’ website to find out more.

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