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Wednesday,  June 12, 2024 10:55 AM 

“Outstanding”: Agents discover barge cruising in France with CroisiEurope & 5Continents

“Outstanding”: Agents discover barge cruising in France with CroisiEurope & 5Continents
Canadian travel advisors experienced the canals of France from a péniche (barge) with CroisiEurope & 5Continents. (Supplied)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

An esteemed group of Canadian travel advisors recently experienced France in a delightfully exclusive way – from the comfort a pint-sized vessel, sailing through a dreamy network of canals.

From May 8, over the course of a week, CroisiEurope and its Canadian representative, 5Continents, hosted a unique FAM for agents on board a “péniche,” a motorized barge that navigates canal locks.

The voyage on the Marne-Rhine Canal started in Epernay, a commune in the Marne department of northern France, and ended in glamourous Paris, covering highlights of France’s Champagne region along the way.

READ MORE: On Location - What’s it like on board a "péniche?" PAX cozies up with CroisiEurope & 5Continents in France

The intimate sailing, which unfolded aboard the premium-level MS Deborah (which measures just 38.5 meters long and 5.7 meters wide) involved 10 travel advisors from English Canada. 

All aboard the MS Deborah. (Michele Rauzon)

“It was a wonderful experience from start to finish,” said Michele Rauzon, 5Continents’ director of sales for North America, who led the group. “Everyone was impressed, and the food was truly the best and French gastronomy.”

Relaxing & convenient

Pronounced “pey-neesh,” a péniche is a relaxing and convenient way to experience local life in France, as PAX previously reported after experiencing a night on a barge with CroisiEurope in Strasbourg last December.

CroisiEurope owns and operates six péniche vessels – each one has just 11 cabins and holds a maximum of 22 passengers. It’s like a floating boutique hotel, staffed with a personal crew and chef.

A péniche is a barge that navigates canal locks. (CroisiEurope)

The barges aren’t fast – they reach a maximum speed of just 12 kilometres an hour. For people who don’t like turbulence on water, a péniche is the way to go. Most times, you don’t even realize you’re moving.

The vessels glide along France’s calm waterways through canals, flanked by picturesque towpaths, and into charming locales that bigger river ships can’t access.

CroisiEurope operates canal cruises in France’s Burgundy, Alsace, Provence, Champagne and Oise Valley regions, where fresh bread and pastries, fine cheeses and divine wines await. The excursions, like the French-inspired food and drink on board, are included. So are the bikes.

Inside CroisiEurope's MS Madeleine. (File photo/Pax Global Media)

Itineraries can be customized based on interest, and for travel advisors hosting small or niche groups, there are ample opportunities to charter ships and create exclusive experiences.

Barge cruising, in France, has been around for quite some time, but is only now starting to gain steam in the Canadian market. For the client who’s been there, done that, and enjoys flexibility, a péniche cruise is something new to consider. 

5Continents, meanwhile, ties everything together. The company specializes in creating tailor-made journeys, and only works with the trade.

From left: Michele Rauzon, 5Continents’ director of sales for North America; A cabin inside the MS Deborah. (Supplied)

What travel advisors said

Travel advisor Judith Coates, owner of Wired for Travel, was one of the FAM’s participants, and was left feeling inspired and impressed.  

“Cruising the Marne Canal on a péniche with CroisiEurope is a unique experience, and I can’t wait to recommend it to my clients who want to experience amazing French cuisine, visit the Champagne region, and learn about French culture, all while travelling on a relaxed itinerary with personalized service,” Coates said.

“It was such a delight to be treated so royally by the crew, to be able to learn about the art of champagne making (and champagne drinking), visit the unique towns along the way, and end our cruise in the romantic city of Paris.”

Judith Coates, owner of Wired for Travel (far right). (Supplied)

“5Continents has some really great options for experiencing CroisiEurope itineraries, and I’m looking forward to offering them as alternatives to ‘run of the mill’ tours of France.”

Ian Biddlecombe of Travel 55 has already chartered a péniche for a group of clients sailing next year.

“Experiencing barge travel, through the canals of France with CroisiEurope, was outstanding,” Biddlecombe said. “This is a unique journey that has not been promoted in Canada before. We are looking forward to establishing this opportunity in 2025 with our own charter. We had an outstanding gastronomical food experience and staff, who provided personalized, refined service. Simply magnificent!”

Dal Lockwood of The Travel Agent Next Door admitted that he had preconceived ideas about barge cruising before the FAM.

The cruise ended in Paris. (Supplied)

“They were wrong!” Lockwood said. “Our barge was a little jewel of a place. Small, but well-thought-out staterooms with large picture windows, comfortable beds, a nice washroom and great shower. A forward open deck with a hot tub, a spacious upper sun deck with comfortable lounging chairs. A well-equipped bar with premium drinks, an espresso machine, and a beautiful dining room with enough seating for everyone. Meals were gourmet and anyone with restrictions was well looked after. Excursions were varied and well thought out." 

"A very wonderful and relaxing trip all around.” 

For more info about 5Continents’ offering with CroisiEurope, click here.

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