Founded in 1974 European Waterways pioneered river cruising and more specifically barge cruising. The European river cruise market has exploded since that time and while European Waterways has expanded, they have stayed true to their roots of intimate, up close small cruise explorations.

The Hotel Barging Experience

Far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life, these voyages allow you to travel in luxury without the strains of packing and unpacking. Enjoy a balanced blend of daily excursions and fascinating cruising gently introducing you to some of Europe’s finest scenery, fascinating history and local culture.

Barge cruise includes all gourmet meals, regional wines, an open bar, local transfers and the use of on board facilities such as bicycles to explore the towpaths, a sundeck to laze on, or a spa pool to relax in. Enjoy daily “off the beaten track” escorted excursions to wineries, castles, markets or to see craftsmen at work.

Exclusive Collection of Hotel Barges

The fleet of hotel barges are an essay in contemporary and traditional luxury, designed with comfort and elegance in mind. Intimate and elegant barge vessels carry only 6 to 20 passengers with cabin sizes varying from cozy and compact to ultra-deluxe staterooms comparable to top hotel rooms. Every vessel in the fleet benefits from an annual refurbishment to ensure that everything is at the highest possible standard for the approaching cruising season.

With European Waterways you will find accommodation to suit all tastes, from cozy staterooms, rich in character, to spacious cabin suites, elegantly decorated. Barges combine traditional features like hardwood paneling, antique furniture and décor, with expected creature comforts such as air-conditioning and central heating.

While guests enjoy a superb level of comfort aboard every vessel, each barge is very much an individual, with décor, furnishings and artwork specifically chosen to complement its unique history. For example, the Spirit of Scotland is kitted out in the finest tartan upholstery, reminiscent of a regal, highland hotel. Whereas the Renaissance with her wooden beams and open plan airy saloon is akin to a classic French manor house.

European Waterways History

Company Founder, Derek Banks, was fascinated with the 17th century transportation network of European waterways. Cutting his teeth as a yacht master in Greece and the coasts of Europe be began self drive cabin cruises business on the Canal du Nivernais in France. The business thrived and he was joined by long standing friend John Wood-Dow and purchase their first barge “Anjodi” in Holland. 

The company was helped along the way by appearing in the BBC’s cooking series French Odyssey hosted by celebrity chef Rick Stein. The creation of Anjodi led to successive other purchases and new builds with the fleet gradually evolving into the most extensive line up of luxury hotel barges cruising the inland waterways of Europe.

Hotel Barging Compared to Other Forms of Cruising

  • Intimate ‘home away from home” atmosphere with small passenger numbers and an unparalleled level of personal service.
  • Cruises are generally less than 70 miles in a week, at only 3mph
  • Cruises are on smaller waterways and canals inaccessible to larger vessels
  • Unique cruising experiences such as Eiffel’s Aqueduct at Briare, the Arzviller Boat Elevator and the Malpas Tunnel
  • Gentle pace and immersion in the local culture and history
  • Cruising just a few feet from the towpath, it’s easy to moor up and explore on foot or bicycle
  • We usually cruise for only a few hours each day and never at night
  • Excursions in small groups to “off the beaten track” places
  • Whole barge charters possible for a group of friends or family

European Waterways and AdventureSmith Explorations

With our focus on adventure and expedition cruises, it was never our intent to get into European river cruising. European Waterways convinced us otherwise. Meeting at trade events over the years we became friendly and the deal was sealed when AdventureSmith owner, Lisa Smith boarded the Spirit of Scotland for a the Classic Scotland Cruise. Her experience confirmed that European Waterways style of river barge cruising fit well with our philosophy of up close and in style exploration.