Choose Your Cruise: The 10 Most Popular Themed Cruises
Barge holidays are perhaps the most relaxing and luxurious way to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations that do not always make the cut in tourist itineraries. Regional destinations often require more time and effort than city attractions, but barge cruises take all the hassle away and makes the journey (the best) part of trip. Think spacious en suite cabins, to-die-for cuisines and the richest of wines all enjoyed aboard an elegant hotel barge leisurely making its way through picturesque canals and rivers to some impressive ruins, majestic walled cities or pretty villages tucked away amidst Europe’s most breathtaking landscapes.
Now, what if you’re not interested in historic castles and would prefer to explore vineyards and wine cellars instead, or would rather go antique hunting than hop from one wine tasting session to the next? This is where themed cruises come in to save the day. In a nutshell, themed cruises are interest-based barge holidays. They follow the usual cruise route or itinerary but are geared towards a specific interest or topic, with excursions and activities tailored to indulge your heart’s desire. Certified wine lover? Be ready for wine tasting marathons. Self-confessed foodie? Prepare your tastebuds for gastronomic feasts on board. Love the opera? A marvellous performance in Verona awaits you.
To give you an idea how wonderfully varied themed cruises can be, here are some of the most popular themes barge holidays adopt these days.
Burgundy, Alsace, Champagne, Languedoc-Roussillon and Bordeaux await you, wine lovers! France is well-known for producing some of the oldest and finest wines in the world, with miles and miles of vineyards and countless history-rich wineries. Theme your barge cruise around your love of wine and visit famous estates for wine tasting and sometime lunch. In Burgundy, learn how wine is produced and sample sought-after vino in the fabled wineries in Nuits St George, Beaune and the Grand Cru in Chablis, or spend delightful days sampling the local wines in Languedoc’s Carcassonne, Minervois and Beziers.
Whisky fans, hear hear! If there are wine cruises, there surely are whisky cruises! Whisky trail cruises will let you discover how Scotland’s primary export is produced by bringing you to established distilleries around the country. Typical excursions include the Glen Ord Distillery, Dalwhinnie Distillery, Tomatin Distillery and of coursem the famous Benromach Distillery, a family-owned business that has been delighting whisky lovers for over 100 years.
French cuisine is no doubt one of the best cuisines on the planet, and in a gastronomy barge cruise, meals are gourmet feasts filled with authentic regional French flavours. From the appetizer to the main course and dessert, each dish is sure to awaken your taste buds! Delicious cheeses and superb wines are part of the on-board meals, and there’s no way a lunch or dinner in a Michelin-starred restaurant won’t be included in the to-do list.
Considered the birthplace of opera dating back to the 1600s, Italy surely holds a sweet spot among opera enthusiasts. An opera cruise begins with an exploration of Verona’s fantastic sights and a performance of Bizet’s Carmen in the city’s Roman amphitheatre in the evening. The cruise then continues to Venice where the City of Water’s main monuments and sites will dazzle the romantic in you. You’ll definitely learn the history of opera in this themed cruise and visit other renowned opera houses including the Gran Teatro La Fenice and the intimate Teatro Bibiena in Mantua. Tours of Chioggia and its markets, Adria, Ferrara and Mantua are also often part of the itinerary.
If you’re interested in the events of World War I and their historical impact, a commemorative World War Cruise is something you would not want to miss. Let the River Lys and Canal du Nord take you to key sites in France and Belgium during the war including museums, war memorials and battlefields where thousands of soldiers fought and died. Remember the ANZACs as you walk through the Somme battlefields and see the Thiepval Memorial, the World’s largest Commonwealth memorial to the missing. You can also participate in the moving Last Post ceremony held each day at the Menin Gates in Ypres.
It’s no secret among golf enthusiasts that France, England, Ireland and Scotland feature some of the best golf courses in the world. Add scenic waterways and an elegant hotel barge into the picture and you will have an epic golfing holidays for sure. Indulge in your favourite sport while discovering iconic landmarks and monuments.
Most hotel barges have bicycles on board for those times you just want to go ashore and pedal your way through riveting countryside. Cycling cruises turn that experience up a notch by focusing on the activity in an organised way, with daily tours on your chosen region and cycling itineraries tailored to meet your wishes. For those who love the outdoors, this is a wonderful adventure that will see you biking along towpaths past quaint villages, medieval towns, lush vineyards and beautiful castles that the Loire Valley and Burgundy are known for.
Some places are just utterly beautiful they are best explored on foot. The River Thames in England, Nivernais and Burgundy Canals in France, and the River Shannon in Ireland ribbon through the best sights in Europe, and walking cruises allow you to explore them at your own pace. Walk around Richmond Park, London’s largest royal park, and the villages of Cookham Dean and Winter Hill. Amble through the stunning hilltop village of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain or the ancient town of Montbard in France where historical wonders await at every turn, or hike in the Arra Mountains and let the lush scenery of Ireland enthrall your senses.
Antique collectors, you can’t miss this one for the world. Cruise along the picturesque River Thames from Hampton Court Palace to Henley and discover England’s most popular antique shops, including the Phelps Antique Centre and the Antiquarius. Take your time visiting the Nettlebed antique merchants and scouring the country’s largest collection of antiques.
Hop on an art cruise and who knows, that might just be what you need to awaken your inner Van Gogh or Monet. Art cruises plunge travellers to the most scenic places in the region, and there’s no surprise that most of them proceed through France’s most scenic waterway, Canal du Midi. Take advantage of plenty of painting opportunities as your hotel barge cruises from Marseillan to Algiers, and immerse in excursions that can very well inspire you to create your next masterpiece. The imposing fortified town of Carcassonne, the scenic village of Capestang, and the hilltop town of Beziers are all picture-perfect sights begging to be rendered on canvas.