2 French Country Waterways Nenuphar Cruise Reviews

This trip report covers our June 2015 week on the French Country Waterways’ “Nenuphar”. Our barge journey in Burgundy, France, became the most pleasurable and perfect vacation we have had in 54 years of marriage. There is limited, ... Read More
This trip report covers our June 2015 week on the French Country Waterways’ “Nenuphar”. Our barge journey in Burgundy, France, became the most pleasurable and perfect vacation we have had in 54 years of marriage. There is limited, non-professional, documentation on barge cruising and I had planned to prepare a vacationer’s report that would cover, in depth, our travels and all the events on the barge. After less than one day of cruising, all thoughts of thorough documentation, writing a report on my computer, or the “real world” had disappeared. Prior to the cruise, the staff at the U.S. home office of French Country Waterways (FCW) answered every possible question I presented. My questions ranged from the availability of soymilk in the morning, to what we should wear on board and when visiting the many towns of the Burgundy region. We departed home on Thursday, arrived on Friday, and went to the Hotel Regina in Paris. FCW had recommended this hotel for pre-cruise and handled all transportation and booking arrangements for us. Sunday afternoon we went to the hotel bar, enjoyed drinks, and met our three fellow barge passengers. For this cruise, only three of the six cabins on the barge were booked. There was a total of five passengers… a couple from Canada, an artist living in both the U.S. and France, and my wife and me from the U.S. East Coast. Exactly on time, a gentleman who said; “I’m here to take you to the Nenuphar”, approached us. Everyone’s luggage was already in the van. This van would eventually follow the Nenuphar on her journey and serve as our daily transportation into the countryside. We were welcomed at the barge by our crew: Matthew –captain and our daily guide, Loic – pilot, Sam – matelot, Louise and Jane – hostesses, and Tadec – chef. We were soon to learn that every member of the crew served in many different capacities. Our captain was a wine expert. Our hostesses were cheese experts. Loic and Sam would sometimes be lock keepers. And, Tadec would be responsible for adding almost six pounds to me (and my wife) in six days! It was after enjoying these amazing hors d'oeuvres with several glasses of a local, fantastic, Chablis, and relaxing in this luxurious atmosphere that I knew my plans for an, in-depth, well documented, review of the week to come had been totally destroyed. I became totally incapable of taking daily notes or documenting each event in the manner required of a quality travel reporter. Each day of the cruise was comprised of travel through the locks, visit to a local town/market/vineyard, enjoying the beauty of the countryside, classes in local cheeses and how to eat them, classes in the local wines and how to drink them, and a multi-course lunch and dinner. There was Internet service every evening when we were stopped at a port. I am aware of the lack of web reviews on barge cruising, especially with French Country Waterways, and truly wanted to help others who are contemplating it. The crew of Nenuphar, the time spent enjoying the barge and all that FCW delivers, lulled me into a state of relaxation that I have not experienced for many, many years. I will end my short report with a personal comment that this cruise on the Nenuphar delivered everything promised and in a way that exceeded our wildest expectations. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
We had several reservations about booking this trip, but our travel agent's endorsement, along with glowing reviews in the NYT and Huffington Post, convinced us. And we are so glad we did. This was an incredible, delightful ... Read More
We had several reservations about booking this trip, but our travel agent's endorsement, along with glowing reviews in the NYT and Huffington Post, convinced us. And we are so glad we did. This was an incredible, delightful experience. I'll start by giving our reservations, and why they turned out to be groundless, and then add whatever is not covered that way. 1. The rooms/boat will be cramped, uncomfortable and/or shabby. This was based in part on our experience on the Le Ponant a couple of years ago, and partly on the company's online photos. Turns out, the Nenuphar was beautifully updated, and much, much nicer than the Le Ponant. In particular, the bathroom was much more spacious, with the shower being about twice the size of the one on Le Ponant. The bedrooms were small, but we had a king, and it was so well laid out that there was actually enough room for two full-sized adults to get around in--even at the same time. The public rooms were similarly comfortable, with the right amount of seating and space. The finishes were also lovely, with dark wood and granite in the bathrooms and on the bar, and really lovely cherry walls and ceilings. (You'll have to take my word for it--the photos don't do it justice.) 2. The food will be mediocre. This was based on experience with Celebrity, which ranged from bad to better than average, and the Le Ponant, which was average to somewhat above average. In contrast, the Nenuphar's food was generally excellent to really superlative. I can be a bit demanding, but I had no reservations whatsoever, and in fact, I still fantasize about the incredible lunches we had every day. In addition, every lunch and dinner includes very thoughtfully selected white and red wines from the region, including premier and grand crus both red and white. Lunch and dinner also includes three cheese selections, which are presented with a discussion of their origin, history and flavor (which is done with the wines as well). 3. Our fellow passengers will drive us crazy, and there will be no escape. Turns out that our fellow passengers were by and large lovely, and I'd jump at the chance of travelling with most of them again. And again, we can be a bit hard to please, so I'm not just being a Pollyanna here. I will note that, human nature being what it is, a couple of folks had some quirks, but there was enough space that the quirks did not become overbearing. (Fortunately, we're free of quirks ourselves!) I think that there's some self-selection going on here--discussions with fellow passengers who were veterans of FCW said that the experience of good fellow passengers is the norm. 4. The boat will be claustrophobic. This was my husband's worry. He really struggled with the idea of a barge that only goes 100 miles in a week. Turns out there's plenty of opportunity to get off the boat as there is a tow path the entire route and passengers walk, run or bike ahead of the boat. In addition, there is an outing to a winery, historic site or town planned for every day of the trip, so this further reduces the time on the barge. 5. The French crew / the French people will be snobbish. The crew were amazing--fun, smart, incredibly helpful--regardless of nationality. And they all spoke excellent English. Really, I've never had more helpful crew on a voyage. As for the French people we encountered off of the ship, they were as friendly and helpful, or more so, than the people I encounter in Austin or Houston. Certainly, they were more tolerant of my mediocre foreign language than most Americans... 6. Daily sightseeing excursions will be overwhelming. Sightseeing excursions lasted four hours at the outside, and involved a minimum of walking and driving, so they were actually pretty relaxing. Two of them involved visits to wineries, where the hardest work was going down to see the wine cellar. Another visited the hospice at Beaune, followed by some shopping in the area. Tough, but we managed it. And finally, if you manage to get worn out by even this relaxed pace, you have the option of staying with the barge. Final notes: This was an incredibly relaxing trip, with the right blend of history, culture, food and countryside. There are a few things you should know before you go: 1) You will have to be up, dressed and out of your bedroom by 9:30 every morning (9:15 if you want breakfast). This is due to the need to clean rooms. Generally, everyone is asleep by midnight, so this tends not to be an option. 2) The food is fantastic, but as there are 12 passengers max, there are no menu options--you get what the chef makes. (There is, however, an opportunity before you arrive to inform them of food allergies, which they will then make every effort to accommodate. At least, that's my understanding.) 3) This is a very comfortable cruise, but it is not like a big ship--no entertainment, no spa, no pool, etc. It's very comfortable, but it is not a big, luxury, suite-type experience. But that being said, we're ready to go again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Nenuphar Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabin 3.0 N/A
Dining 5.0 5.0
Entertainment 3.0 3.0
Public Rooms 5.0 5.0
Fitness & Recreation 2.0 N/A
Family 1.0 4.0
Shore Excursions 5.0 N/A
Enrichment Activities 5.0 N/A
Service 5.0 5.0
Value for Money 4.0 N/A

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