Barge cruises haven’t exactly come barging onto the travel scene. They’ve been around since the 1960s, when flat-bottomed cargo ships from the pre-railroad era were prettied up and repurposed as floating hotels. But until recently, they’ve been the little guy of the European cruise industry, mostly popular with in-the-know luxury travelers.
It’s fitting that the leisurely alternative to river cruises has been slow to get the press it deserves. Much of barging’s appeal lies in its relaxed pace. Where a river cruise might cover a few hundred miles of the Danube or Rhine in a week, seven days on a barge could mean traveling just 50 miles through the canals of Burgundy, France. Of course, the tradeoff is a more intimate, bespoke boating experience that could make any river cruiser a convert.