By Jana Jones, Cruise Critic contributor
The 13-passenger La Belle Epoque, sister barge to L'Impressionniste, was built in 1930 to carry logs from Burgundy to Paris and Amsterdam. The 128-foot long, 16.5-foot ship was converted to a hotel barge in 1995 and cruises through Burgundy on the Upper Burgundy Canal.
La Belle Epoque has seven cabins, including one single and two suites. Rooms range in size from 90 square feet for the single to 165 square feet for the larger of the suites. Three of the rooms can be configured as either twin or double. Guestroom decor is reminiscent of an Art Nouveau French country manor, with dark woods, toile fabrics and appointments from the Belle Epoque. Each guest room has a closet, reading lamp, hairdryer and at least one window or porthole that opens; the suites have small sitting areas. The en-suite baths are tiled in marble and have a toilet, sink and shower (the suites have a full tub). Amenities include towels, shampoo, shower gel and soap. All current is 220 to 240 volts (North American appliances need converters) with the exception of the bathrooms, which have a 110 outlet for shaving only. Rooms offer air-conditioning (individually controlled) and central heating.
The saloon, located above the guestrooms, is large and comfortable, with a curved sofa, armchairs, occasional tables, a bar, a stereo with CDs and a small library. Attractive and relaxing, the room is furnished with antiques and reproductions from the Belle Epoque. The dining table seats 14.
Forward of the saloon is the outside deck, with a covered portion, an open portion and a six-person hot tub. Tables, umbrellas, teak reclining chairs with pads and flower-filled pots create an inviting atmosphere. During nice weather, wine, snacks and occasionally full meals are served outside.
Meals are served in a single seating, with breakfast and lunch offered 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. Dinner is an elegant candlelit affair, with regional cuisine paired with wine, desserts, cheeses, coffee and liqueurs.
As on all of the hotel barges in European Waterways’ fleet, La Belle Epoque 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 and hot-air balloon rides, cost extra. Two air-conditioned VW mini-buses follow the barge’s route and are available at designated times for transport.
Excursions on La Belle Epoque include private wine and fois gras tastings, a visit to the Abbey de Fontenay, a UNESCO world heritage site, and a trip to the village of Flavigny sur Ozerain, location of the film "Chocolat."
La Belle Epoque carries 10 bicycles. Because the boat travels so slowly, passengers can easily debark at a lock and catch up with the barge later. Board games, boules, and binoculars are available for guest use. Special family, wine or walking theme charter cruises are also available.
The barge has five crew members: a captain, chef, stewards and a tour guide, all of whom speak English and French.
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1) It's all inclusive - no nasty surprises. Luxury cabins, all meals, drinks, wine, transportation to and from private excursions/tours, equipment, EVERYTHING is included for one reasonable price.
2) Our luxury suite just happened to be ...continue