Can't stand the idea of cruising? Go "barging"!

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The Independent Travel

For many intrepid globetrotters, the idea of a week, two weeks or a month onboard an enormous floating hotel in the middle of the ocean is enough to make them jump overboard. But a growing trend in Europe -- "cruising lite," if you will -- is more appealing to those who never want to be more than a couple of meters from land.

(Relaxnews) -

For many intrepid globetrotters, the idea of a week, two weeks or a month onboard an enormous floating hotel in the middle of the ocean is enough to make them jump overboard. But a growing trend in Europe - "cruising lite," if you will - is more appealing to those who never want to be more than a couple of meters from land.

There are about 35,000 km of waterways in Europe, according to the Inland Navigation Europe, the agency charged with promoting water-based transport. Theoretically, one can travel the length of Europe, from the North Sea down to the Black Sea by barge, passing through ten European countries. It seems logical, then, that barging holidays are beginning to take off in a big way.

Luxury barges are probably best described as floating boutique hotels. Fully equipped with spacious rooms, en suite bathrooms, air conditioning and even jacuzzis, the main difference is that hotel barges move - albeit slowly. Guests can relax in their rooms, in the lounge, in the restaurant or on deck as the hotel barge crawls down European canals at around 3 miles per hour (5 km/h). Unlike self-hire barges, they are usually staffed by a captain, chef, waiting staff, housekeeper and tour guide.

The advantage of this speed is, of course, that it's slower than walking. Unlike a cruise ship, if guests are feeling like a break from the boat, they can jump off and stretch their legs on the tow path, visit a local village or stop off for lunch somewhere before rejoining the boat later. European Waterways, the largest all-inclusive hotel barge operator in Europe, offers tours that stop in French wine chateaus, picturesque villages or World War II sites of interest, for example.

"Our aim is to introduce our guests to the local culture and history, food and wines as they cruise sedately along, so that they get a real appreciation of a small region," says Chris Gant from the firm. "Barging along the waterways and canals of Europe has become increasingly popular among travelers seeking an alternative to the fast-paced chaos of the typical land tour."

European Waterways says that despite the recession, business is good. Their 19-strong fleet enters its busy season as the weather warms up towards the end of March, especially on the most popular tourist routes such as the six-night tour through Burgundy. Per-person rates are all-inclusive and aimed at the high end market, at around €2,550 based on sharing a double cabin for six nights, although it's slightly cheaper per person to charter an 8-person vessel at around €17,800 for six nights.

Website: www.gobarging.com

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