Finesse Review

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Jeannine Williamson

Carrying just eight passengers and five crew members, Finesse debuted in 2016 and is one of the most recent additions to the European Waterways' fleet of upscale hotel barges.

Found languishing in a dilapidated state in a Belgian shipyard, the 1950s freight barge was stripped back to the steel and given a top-to-toe transformation. The resulting luxury vessel sails gently on the Saone river and Canal du Centre through the heart of France's Burgundy wine region.

The four spacious cabins, located on the lower deck, each measure 265 square feet and are decorated in a tasteful silver-gray color scheme with deep-pile carpets in the bedroom/living area. Bathrooms are exceptionally large at 58 square feet, and feature teak flooring, double basins and a walk-in shower. Robes, towels, hair dryer and bathroom products are provided. The onboard voltage is 220v and 240v and passengers need to bring adapters for the European-style two-pin sockets.

The cabins have fixed windows and the two situated at the bow and stern -- Polaris and Bolearis -- have an additional porthole in the bathroom.

Unlike many hotel boats, which feature traditional dark wood and brass fittings to reflect the vessel's life as a working barge, Finesse has an unusually bright and contemporary interior. The upper saloon, which doubles as the lounge and dining room, has large panoramic windows and a skylight. Also, in a first for European Waterways, the barge has a show galley where passengers can watch the onboard chef prepare lunch and dinner and join cookery demonstrations. The saloon also has a small selection of books, games and a music system with CD player.

Fine food and wine play a big part in the cruising experience, and set menus showcase fresh, seasonal ingredients and classic dishes such as beef bourguignon. Dietary requirements can be catered for, but should be notified at the time of booking.

The sun deck has an alfresco dining area, with a shaded table that can accommodate all passengers, and a hot tub.

Fares include all meals, snacks, unlimited tea, coffee, soda, alcoholic beverages, excursions and Wi-Fi. Each cruise also includes one lunch with wine at a Michelin-starred restaurant. The barge also carries a fleet of complimentary bicycles, enough for every passenger.

British-based European Waterways markets the cruises to international English-speaking passengers and fellow cruisers are mostly from North America and the U.K. Primarily 50-plus, they are well-educated and well-traveled.

Life onboard is very relaxed and casual. There is no dress code, although some passengers like to dress up for the captain's dinner on the last night.

Finesse sails on six-night itineraries between Saint-Jean-de-Losne and Saint-Julien-sur-Dheune, or in reverse, and excursions include a vineyard with private wine tasting, the famous mustard-producing town of Dijon, and Beaune, which is the capital of Burgundy. There are also themed wine cruises and Finesse can be exclusively chartered by families and groups of friends.

Discretionary gratuities are not included and the suggested guideline is 7 percent of the fare, per person.


Passengers: 8
Crew: 5
Passenger to Crew: 1.6:1
Launched: 2016

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