Here's the thing about floating down a river on a luxury barge: It's nothing like traditional cruising. Sure, you're on water, but the pace is leisurely and the atmosphere is intimate. Forget about the seasickness pills and the throngs of passengers waiting to disembark when you get to port. Get ready for relaxation.
Continental Waterways' MS Provence, which cruises the Provence region of France from April through November, can be chartered for up to 50 people. Service and cuisine rival that in the best hotels. The staff/passenger ratio of one to three ensures personalized service, but there's no snobby French attitude here: The crew is friendly and helpful. Meals, in proper French tradition, are an event. Three classically-trained chefs shop the markets at local ports-of-call for breakfast and prepare buffet lunches and four-course dinners inspired by indigenous gourmet dishes — paired with red and white wines, of course.
Designed to take advantage of the bucolic views of the French countryside, the Provence has a lovely dining room with large glass doors that, when open, create an al-fresco environment; a lounge with comfy couches and a bar; a glass-walled library/activity room; and a 7,500-square-foot sun deck festooned with pots of flowers and two hot tubs. The 26 spacious cabins, all facing outdoors, are decorated with ceramic tiles and the sunny blue, yellow, and red colors indigenous to the Provence region.
Even the incentive attendee who's been “everywhere” will be charmed by the sights of Provence — walled medieval cities, Roman amphitheaters, fields of lavender and sunflowers, and vineyards that stretch as far as the eye can see. Continental Waterways provides a comfortable, air-conditioned bus for excursions: Not-to-be-missed sights include the legendary cities of Avignon and Arles. Planners can also arrange for special-interest cruises. A wine theme is a natural in this home of Côtes du Rhône and other fine wines.
For more information on luxury barging, go to www.continentalwaterways.com