While historic droughts have impacted European rivers, conditions have been more favourable for Europe’s intricate network of canals, where water levels can be better controlled.
Among the beneficiaries, hotel barge cruising specialist European Waterways notes that manmade canals can be less impacted. There is no natural flow of water subject to nature and large reservoirs keep them “topped up.” As a result, the company has been able to operate its many luxury hotel barges in Europe and the UK with less disruption than cruise operators on larger rivers that include the Rhine and the Danube.
“In addition to the historic nature of canals, the smaller sizes of our vessels give us more flexibility to relocate them to nearby waterways that are less affected, if necessary,” says Derek Banks, European Waterways’ managing director. “We can therefore maintain many of the same excursions to ensure the cruise experience remains at the highest standards for our guests.”
It’s All Good
Cruising between Venice and the Renaissance city of Mantua, European Waterways’ La Bella Vita hotel barge “has not been affected,” says Banks. The vessel is bypassing stretches of the Po River impacted by the drought and utilizing the Canal Bianco, which continues to support normal traffic. La Bella Vita is European Waterways’ largest and most unique hotel barge with a capacity of up to 20 passengers.
In France, where water levels have dropped on some higher stretches near canal summits, Banks says the company avoids potential disruptions to its cruises by moving some vessels to better supplied sectors lower down the waterway. These include La Belle Epoque in Northern Burgundy and Renaissance in the Upper Loire and Western Burgundy, which were moved to different routes earlier. Following recent rains, the company will move Renaissance back to its normal route as the situation eases.
Other regions in France remain unaffected. Most notably are cruises on the Canal du Midi, which is recognized as the best in France for water management. The company operates three hotel barges in different sections of the canal: the eight-passenger Enchanté between Salèlles d’Aude and Trèbes ; the eight-passenger Anjodi between Marseillan and Le Somail ; and the 10-passenger Athos between Argeliers and Marseillan.
In Southern Burgundy, the company continues to cruise its usual routes with Finesse and L’Impressionniste. It’s also “smooth sailing” for the historic L’Art de Vivre, which cruises France’s longest-established canal, the Canal du Nivernais in Burgundy.
In the UK, the company’s Magna Carta hotel barge is currently operating in the middle section of the historic River Thames, where water levels are normal, and it’s “business as usual” in Scotland, where the company’s Scottish Highlander and Spirit of Scotland cruise the famed Caledonian Canal. “Lock Ness holds more water than all of England’s rivers, lakes and reservoirs,” says Banks. “The canal is also fed by Lochs Dochfour, Oich and Lochy, all which contain massive water reserves.
“You can’t hold back a river to maintain its water levels, but that’s exactly what you do with a canal!” says Derek Banks.
European Waterways Hotel Barging is a boutique, unique experience that offers an immersive and all-inclusive “gentle voyage of discovery” focusing upon the culture, history, fine wine, and gourmet cuisine of regions. With a 6-to-20-person capacity and 1:2 crew ratio, European Waterways is able to provide an impeccable level of on-board service and transport their guests on intimate inland waterways that are inaccessible to larger vessels. This fascinating network of smaller canals allows for flexibility, spontaneity, and ample opportunity to hop off and explore the beautiful surroundings via bicycle, or on foot. In addition to this, there are daily, chauffeured excursions “off the beaten track” to a wide variety of enthralling locations, from exquisite wine tastings to private tours of stately homes. With over 40 years’ experience and a fleet that spans nine countries, it is the largest luxury hotel barging company in Europe.