Barge trips: You can have crew or pilot your own

October 25, 1992|By New York Times News Service

Q: We are interested in taking a barge trip on the canals of France next summer. How can we get information on such trips?

A: When considering a barge trip, you can decide whether to pilot your own barge or to travel on one with a crew. Self-drive barges, which accommodate two to 10 passengers,are said to be easy to operate in the canals, even for those with no nautical expertise. Crewed barges usually include food service, sometimes with wine tastings, and crew members may serve as tour guides for land excursions. Barges that have crews can be hired either as charter barges, used exclusively by those who hire them and usually carrying six to 12 passengers, or hotel barges, often accommodating 12 to 22 passengers and booked by the cabin.

Prices for chartered barges are for the whole boat for a week; for hotel barges, they are for one person for a week based on two in a cabin and include meals. The rates are for high season, which is usually late August into October, and may be lower at other times. Here are two companies that operate canal barges in France:

* Abercrombie & Kent, 1520 Kensington Road, Oak Brook, Ill. 60521; (800) 323-7308. In France, this company operates five charter barges (capacity four to eight) and two hotel barges (20 or 22). Canal trips include Chablis, Burgundy, Bordeaux and central France. Prices for hotel barges are $2,490 to $3,250 a week (three-night segments are available), and generally include travel to and from Paris or other city, sightseeing and drinks. Charter barges are $15,900 a week for the four-passenger Virginia Anne (Chablis and Upper Burgundy) to $32,500 for the luxurious seven-passenger Fleur de Lys (Eastern Burgundy), which is the size of boats that usually carry 22. The company also has a 52-passenger "hotel river cruiser" that sails on the Rhone in Provence at $3,950 a week.

* French Country Waterways, P.O. Box 2195, Duxbury, Mass. 02331; (800) 222-1236 or (617) 934-2454. This company has four barges, holding eight to 18 passengers, all in Burgundy, for $2,575 to $2,975.

Here are some companies that represent a number of barge operators in France, with examples of vessels:

* Le Boat, P.O. Box E, Maywood, N.J. 07607; (800) 922-0291. This company represents self-drive and crewed barges, which operate on canals throughout France. A two-person, self-drive barge costs about $1,600 a week, and a large self-drive barge holding eight costs around $4,000 a week. The Anjodi, a crewed barge that takes up to 10 guests and operates on the Canal du Midi, can be chartered for $23,500, or guests may use it hotel-style for $2,400 a person for a week.

* Jody Lexow Yacht Charters, P.O. Box 573, Jamestown, R.I. 02835; (800) 662-2628. Two-person self-drive barges are roughly a week; one accommodating six is $3,400 a week. A charter barge called Le Papillon, with three double cabins, sails the canals of Burgundy at $17,400.

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