By Jana Jones, Cruise Critic contributor
Built as a cargo barge in 1922 and converted in 1985, La Reine Pedauque enjoys a unique position among all of France’s barge hotels. A recent refit and renovation made this barge fully wheelchair accessible, allowing travelers with mobility difficulties the opportunity to enjoy barging along the rivers and canals of Burgundy. An elevator and a stair lift were added, one of the staterooms was converted to allow for a roll-in shower, doors were widened to accommodate wheelchairs, and a lift was added to the passenger van used to transport guests on excursions.
La Reine Pedauque accommodates eight guests in extraordinarily large suites for a canal barge; the largest is nearly 323 sq. feet and the smallest 188 sq. feet. In fact, most barges of this size (128 feet long, 16.5 feet wide) accommodate 12 or more in much smaller rooms.
Each stateroom has twin beds convertible to queens, a seating area, ample closet space, at least one window or porthole that opens, and a spacious en-suite bathroom with sink, toilet and shower, a hairdryer, slippers, robes, towels, soap, shower gel and shampoo. Electric current is 220 volts, so North American devices will need converters.
The saloon of the barge is spacious and nicely furnished with several sofas and chairs, occasional tables, a dining table for eight, a stereo system and CDs, a bar, and a small library. A small sundeck forward of the saloon offers tables and sunshades. Snacks, wine and the occasional al fresco meal are often served on this deck.
Meals are served in a single seating, with breakfast and lunch served buffet-style. Breakfast is Continental with breads, croissants, yogurt, cereal, fruit, coffee and tea. Lunch is typically breads, cold-cuts, salads and cheeses, with the occasional hot entree or soup. The meal is served with wine and finished with dessert and coffee. One lunch on this voyage is at a bistro in the town of Beaune. Dinner is an elegant candlelit affair, with regional cuisine paired with wine, desserts, cheeses, coffee and liqueurs. The dress code at all meals is resort casual, except for the Captain's dinner on the last evening, which requires cocktail attire.
As on all of the hotel barges in European Waterways' fleet, La Reine Pedauque is an all-inclusive product, with wines, soft drinks, bottled water, beer, liquor and liqueurs, as well as all onboard meals and snacks, included. (Certain vintages of wine and Champagne -- except for the Welcome Aboard greeting -- are not included, but can be provided for a fee.) Shore excursions, usually lasting from two to four hours, typically take place once a day; all entry fees are included with your cruise fare. Optional activities, such as golf, cost extra. An air-conditioned nine-passenger mini-bus with wheelchair lift follows the barge's route and is available at designated times for transport.
La Reine Pedauque's route is through eastern Burgundy, between Dijon and Vandenesse. Typical excursions include visits to vineyards and wineries to experience the differences in the wines of the region.
The barge carries eight bicycles (with helmets). Since it moves so slowly, guests can easily debark at a lock, bike or walk along the towpath, and catch up with the barge later. Boules, board games and binoculars are also available for guest use.
The barge has four crewmembers: captain (skipper), chef and two hostesses. All speak English and French, and some speak other languages (like Italian, Spanish and German) as well. Gratuities are discretionary and typically average between 4 and 7 percent of the fare paid, given to the Captain for distribution.
There is no smoking inside the boat; smoking is allowed outside on the deck only.