Barge Lady Cruises is a niche barge cruise line that provides the very highest quality cruising experience. Guests can choose from 50 different luxury barges that run over 30 unique waterways in eight European countries. The Barge Lady Cruises started offering their high-quality barge cruises in 1985. The business is family owned and operated and all cruises are planned from beautiful downtown Chicago. Between the six women who run Barge Lady cruises, they boast an impressive 70 years of experience in not only barge cruising, but also culinary tourism and luxury hospitality.

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A typical barge cruise season runs from April through October. Cruises travel at no more than four miles per hour on non-tidal canals, so the risk of sea sickness is minimal.

Permanent Attractions

Barge Lady Cruises focuses on European barge cruising, which are cruises that take place on the many different and intricate antique waterways made up of rivers and canals around the European countryside.

Guests who cruise this way will spend their time on a barge, which are essentially small, floating boutique hotels that are able to host anywhere from 2 to 22 people at a time. This makes each barge feel like a personal experience, and the staff on the barge can focus their attention on a small number of passengers.

Each barge is staffed by an English-speaking crew, including a personal chef, a tour guide for onshore excursions, a hostess, and a captain.

The majority of Barge Lady Cruises are offered for seven days and six nights. They travel to a variety of different European countries, including France, England, Scotland, Ireland, Holland, Belgium, Germany, and Italy.

Guests can choose cruises based on their star rating, which affects the cost of the barge cruise. These ratings are similar to hotel star ratings, in that the higher rated cruises have larger sized cabins and additional amenities. However, the quality of customer service will remain the same, no matter the rating. The “lowest” rated three-star barge cruises offer one hundred square foot cabins, while the “highest” rated six star barge cruises include 250 square foot cabins with hot tubs.

The website also allows potential guests to search for a barge cruise based on a variety of different options - from number of guests in the party (from 4 to 20), region preference, and experience (family adventures, golfing, bicycling, or girls’ trip). This allows for the most customized experience possible.

A typical day on a barge cruise starts with a fresh breakfast of local pastries, fruits, or made to order breakfasts (on barge cruises that offer that). By lunchtime, cruises will reach an area of interest where guests will be taken onshore by their tour guides and shown to a daily excursion (which may include a wine tasting, shopping, bicycling, or other local activities). Guests who choose to not take part in these excursions are welcome to stay on the barge as well, which offers salons, areas for reading, or just relaxing. Once arriving back on the barge, dinner and a cocktail hour will be served.

Special Events

For guests who want a special experience, Barge Lady Cruises offers private cruises. Also known as a charter cruise, private barge cruises allow guests to rent the entire vessel. Each charter cruises will start with a conversation with a knowledgeable tour guide who will find out each group’s individual needs and desires and will come up with the perfect private cruise for each group. These types of cruises are perfect for family reunions, honeymoons, birthday parties, and bachelor and bachelorette parties.

Another special type of barge cruise offered are the food and wine cruises. These cruises take place only in France and highlight the best the country has to offer. Culinary cruises, as they’re known, include many different onshore dining excursions, wine tastings, and classes on traditional French cuisine techniques by the private, onboard chef. Guests can cruise to either Southern Burgundy or the Canal Du Midi. These cruises book up quickly, so guests should book as soon as they can commit.

Dining and Shopping

Each barge cruise comes with a personal chef, who will create both seasonal and regional dishes for guests. Chefs are more than happy to accommodate dietary options like gluten free, vegetarian/vegan, allergies, etc. Shopping is not available onboard, but excursions are offered daily that will allow guests to visit the shopping districts of many of the European cities the barges port at.

Barge Lady Cruises, 101 W. Grand Ave #200, Chicago, IL 60654, website, Phone: 800-880-0071