We have taken quite a few cruises including ocean, canal and river and quite honestly this is the best water trip we have ever taken. If you want an incredibly relaxing 6 night vacation with excellent food and service, good company and scenic views constantly passing by your window, then this is the trip for you.
We were picked up from the Hotel Westminster in Paris and taken in comfortable mini buses for the 3 hour ride to the embarkation point at Fleurey-sur-Ouche All the male crew drive the two buses and the way they navigate through the streets of Paris (which are a nightmare to drive in) is a wonder to behold.
The itinerary itself along a stretch of the Canal de Bourgogne was superb and we were lucky enough to have good weather and to time it just when the trees along the canal were changing into their spectacular autumn colours. The pace is very slow which means you can just hop on one of the supplied bikes and take a trip to the next lock or two, or even visit a nearby village and be back in time for lunch.
Our accommodation was also excellent. We had the Renior suite in the bow section of the barge which was surprisingly spacious along with a similar well appointed en-suite. Most other passengers had to put their suitcases in a separate store, but we had room for ours in the suite. We had to request bottled water and soap which was not a problem and this was replenished as required.
The food and wine were superb. Joss our English chef did us proud every day for breakfast lunch and dinner. Breakfast was light if you wanted it, with cereals, preserves, fruit and fresh bread from the local village boulangerie. However if you wanted eggs in any style with some crispy bacon, that was not a problem either. The food complimented the local area and was restaurant quality especially the Duck Confit we had for dinner on the first night. We also visited the local market in Dijon to stock up on supplies and to provide lunch which Joss and the staff prepared for us when we got back to the boat. Similarly, wines were mostly from the local Burgundy area which were very good. Occasionally we had something different and a couple were a little disappointing.
The rest of the barge is well designed with a lovely dining area with seating for 12 and a lounge area, although this was a little tight if all the 12 passengers were there. We were the only non American passengers and we got on very well with the other five couples and exchanged addresses and emails to share photos at the end of the trip.
The crew always went above and beyond and would try to cater to your every need. Daniel who was officially the captain was well organised and very knowledgeable about the local area and gastromony. The two hostesses Carolyn and Erell who supported Joss and did pretty much everything else from serve dinner with great panache, describe our wines to keeping your room immaculate. Lastly there was Vincent who expertly steered the barge through excruciatingly narrow locks- a real Bargeman and of course Sam who ably supported him in all this.
All trips were included and they were varied and very enjoyable. All required a short ride in the mini-bus, but the highlights were the trips to Dijon and Clos Vougeot with wine tasting after. But the standout was our trip to Beaune and the famous negotiant Bouchard Pere and Fils which included a guided tour, a tutored wine tasting of fabulous burgundy wines and finally a perfect lunch with superb wines laid out in their orangery.
It would come as no surprise that we are looking at doing another trip with European Waterways in 2019.