European Waterways Sees Dramatic Growth

Company offers barging in France, Italy, Scotland, Ireland and England By: Marilyn Green
European Waterways offers intimate barge cruising in some of Europe’s most popular destinations. // © 2011 European Waterways
European Waterways offers intimate barge cruising in some of Europe’s most popular destinations. // © 2011 European Waterways

The Details

European Waterways

Fams can be arranged in order for travel agents to experience European Waterways’ intimate, exclusive concept firsthand. Interested agents should email

Word is spreading about European Waterways’ all-inclusive, intimate barging experiences. According to owner John Wood-Dow, 2010 bookings were up 39 percent over 2009, and 2011 bookings have seen a more than 50 percent increase over the same period last year.

European Waterways claims the title of Europe’s largest barge operator, with each boat carrying 4 to 20 passengers, mainly FIT. The line does about 40 percent charter business, often consisting of “groups of friends booking together as they would for a ski lodge or a multigenerational family group.”

The company arranges special interest cruises for charter as well, including wine and golfing cruises. The commission is the same for selling charter and individual staterooms, starting at 10 percent for new agents and rising as volume increases.

The product is all-inclusive, right down to the transfers and pre- and post-cruise tours, and appeals to well-traveled empty nesters. Wood-Dow calls the product “gentle adventure” and noted that European Waterways has the only barges in Scotland, Ireland and on the Thames.

The company also has vessels sailing in Burgundy, the Canal du Midi, the Loire Valley, Champagne, Provence, Paris and Lorraine, France; Belgium; Germany; Luxemburg; The Netherlands; and Italy. New product includes a Venice to Mantua route.

Since last season, European Waterways has carried out an extensive, $500,000 upgrade program on a number of its top barges beyond the usual annual maintenance work. The flagship hotel barge La Belle Epoque received one of the most wide-ranging upgrades, including a quieter engine, two new cabins and bathrooms, new designer soft furnishings, new flooring, a new on-deck Jacuzzi, a remodeled bar, and new air-conditioning and heating systems. The company also replaced more than 90 percent of the interior wood paneling with seasoned, satin-varnished, mahogany and other hardwoods.

Belle Epoque has a crew of five, including the captain, a master chef, tour guide and two housekeepers, who care for a maximum of 12 guests. The barge offers a number of itineraries in Burgundy, including themed cruises such as Families With Children and walking cruises for guests keen to discover more of the region on foot. Highlights include a visit to the village of Flavigny sur Ozerain, which was the location for the film, “Chocolat,” and a visit to Noyers-sur-Serein, considered to be one of the most beautiful villages in France.

“We always have an active program of special offers,” said Wood-Dow. “Travel agents can offer their clients as much as 25 percent off on a luxury holiday.”

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