A true barging experience through the heart of France, the intimate Esprit carries just 18 passengers served by a crew of seven. A total of nine staterooms are available with double or twin bed configurations on Lower Deck, while the ship's Main Deck serves as the social hub, housing the cozy lounge, bar and outdoor sun deck.
At 128 feet in length, Esprit is more akin to a floating boutique bed-and-breakfast than a traditional river cruise ship. This is the barging difference: With only 18 passengers onboard, a cruise onboard Esprit feels like a floating VIP tour where you are a valued passenger, not merely one of a crowd.
Don't let Esprit's age fool you: This lovingly maintained ship is attractively decorated with comfortable seating and plenty of books, games and music. Complimentary bars are stocked with a variety of beverages (both regional and further afar), and French Country Waterways outfits each of its vessels with a selection of onboard bicycles -- always available free of charge.
A deluxe motor coach accompanies each barge, following it along its route to enable sightseeing excursions daily.
Like the entire French Country Waterways barge fleet, Esprit offers a healthy dose of gourmet French cuisine paired with local wines.
Breakfasts tend to feature continental fare featuring local ingredients (think freshly baked bread and croissants from local bakeries) and specialties, while lunches onboard are served buffet-style. At dinner, four-course candlelit dinners are the standard, with locally sourced cheese, fish, meat, and fruits and vegetables. Dietary restrictions can be catered to with advance notice.
Sailing through Burgundy, the selection of wines onboard remains proudly French. More than two dozen different wines are featured, representing nearly every major growing district in the country. French Country Waterways picks its wines in an annual tasting event, and more than half of its onboard selections bear the labels of grand cru and premier cru vineyards, such as Gevrey-Chambertin, Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet.
Aboard Esprit's cruises in Burgundy, French Country Waterways also offers passengers the ability to dine ashore as a group at one of the region's top restaurants. Those sailing aboard Esprit will enjoy refined Burgundian specialties at the Lameloise restaurant in the small commune of Chagny, which boasts some of the best markets and world-class restaurants in the region.
A total of nine cabins featuring double or twin accommodations and their own ensuite bathrooms are provided aboard Esprit. All cabins feature river views, exquisite wood paneling, plenty of storage space and luxury Lanvin bath amenities.
Passengers will want to bring North American-style power adapters, as electrical systems onboard are two-pronged European-style 220V outlets. In keeping with the relaxing nature of barging, cabins aboard Esprit do not feature televisions.
An outdoor dining area with tables and chairs is featured at the forward end of the Main Deck, giving passengers onboard 180-degree panoramic views of the waterways ahead.
Due to the intimate nature of barging, no formal entertainment is offered onboard. Passengers prefer to mingle informally onboard over a glass of wine and discuss the day's adventures, or cozy up in the lounge with a good book or a game of cards.
Esprit sails French Country Waterways' barging cruises through France's Burgundy region.