American travelers who dream of being truly immersed in Champagne region of France should look no further than French Country Waterways to deliver an uniquely authentic experience. American-owned and operated French Country Waterways has been cruising the canals and rivers of France for 29 years, offering guests all-inclusive luxury tours that include gourmet cuisine, exclusive wines and an insider’s perspective of provincial France. This year the eight-passenger luxury hotel barge Princess takes guests to Champagne, the region that produces the world’s most celebrated wine, on six-night sailings that depart on Sundays between April 7 and June 29. Rates start at $5,495 per person, based on double occupancy.
Champagne is of course known for its wine, but its location to the east of Paris put it in a key position for momentous historic events, too. Guests on this trip can discover the region’s grand heritage, encompassing the victories of Joan of Arc and Napolean and extending to the battles of the great World Wars. Passengers tour the coronation city of Reims, visit the family-owned Champagne House of Ployez Jacquemart, and partake in a private champagne tasting at Moët & Chandon. A highlight on any French Country Waterways cruise is time spent in one of France’s most celebrated restaurants. On this trip, passengers of the Princess are dinner guests at the renowned Les Crayeres in Reims, a two-star Michelin restaurant and TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice 2013 winner.
French Country Waterways prides itself in the level of service extended to guests … and in the level of relaxation those guests can achieve on their tours of France. Guests are greeted at a central meeting point in Paris by a guide who escorts them via private motorcoach to the mooring where their luxury barge awaits. An English-speaking crew welcomes passengers aboard with a glass of champagne and ushers them to staterooms decorated like a fine country inn, with warm wood paneling, provincial furnishings and plush carpets. Each room is individually air-conditioned, featuring a private bath and a king-sized bed (twins upon request). Common areas are attractively furnished and complimentary bars are well stocked. It’s always easy for guests to step ashore for a leisurely stroll, take one of the barge’s bicycles out to explore the quaint villages nearby, relax on the sundeck and watch the French countryside float by, or even explore the region via hot-air balloon. During the day, guests can also board the private, deluxe motorcoach that accompanies each barge and visit local points of interest.
Meals are a special experience on these excursions. Drawing upon the rich culinary heritage of the region, French Country Waterways’ chefs combine classic cooking techniques with the modern trend of lighter cuisine and produce results that earn raves. Passengers enjoy continental breakfasts, buffet lunches, and four-course, candlelit dinners, all in the comfort and hospitality of the barge. They indulge in fresh breads and buttery croissants that are brought onboard still warm from the villages they pass, then enjoy unique French cheeses, prime meats and fish, and garden-ripe fruits and vegetables the crew gathers at farmers’ markets en route. During the average cruise, passengers will be offered more than two dozen different wines, many with well-known labels from Grand Cru or Premier Cru vineyards.