It has been two years since my husband and I took a barge trip on the Esprit. Since there is no other review here I thought I would share some of our impressions of the Esprit.
We have been on 24 cruises, and we both agree that this was the very best. To give you an idea of what we expect from a cruise line, our mainstream cruise line of choice is Crystal, plus we have sailed on Silversea and Radisson. While the Esprit is very small and a bit more basic than your average cruise line, it was, without a doubt, the most amazing cruise experience we've had.
The barge holds only 18 passengers and the staterooms are very small. However, they are well-planned with plenty of storage space so that we were able to completely unpack our suitcases. The main deck consists of a living room, dining room, and outdoor deck area.
The food and the service were amazing beyond description. Steve was our chef, and he had complete creative freedom based on what inspired him and what looked good at the local markets.
Lunch was buffet style with freshly made salads, a meat dish, a vegetable dish, and a quiche of the day. White and red wines, either Premiere or Grand Cru, were free flowing. The bottles were set on the table and we refilled our glasses at will. When the bottle was empty, it was replaced. Lunch was always followed with a selection of three French cheeses. Lunches lasted from one-and-a-half to two hours.
Evenings always began with a social time with champagne or other aperitifs. When dinner was ready, we'd go to the dining room where we were never disappointed in the evening's fare. Again, wine was free-flowing. We started with an appetizer, then the main course, followed by cheese and then a dessert. Dinners lasted three or more hours.
The service and friendliness of the staff were incomparable: our captain, the chef, one deckhand, and three young ladies to take care of us while on board. We also had our guide who drove the shuttle bus and was our tour guide. These tours were included in the cruise price and it was always just our group--we never joined any other groups. Plus, if someone didn't want to go on the excursion, no problem.
We visited chateaux, wineries, and local towns. When we weren't sightseeing, we were cruising and going through the locks on the canal. It was very easy to step off the barge and walk along the tow path or take one of the bicycles that are kept onboard and ride off into the next town.
If you love food and wine and want to see the beautiful countryside of Burgundy, definitely take a cruise on the Esprit.