You might be hesitant to step food aboard a barge. And we get it: the word "barge" doesn't exactly conjure up images of idyllic countrysides, far-flung locales, delicious food, and transformative travel experiences. Frankly, we're not sure it conjures anything — "barge" isn't a commonly used term, so even if you know that it's a boat, you might not know that it transports people, not goods; or that, when it does, it's more like a mini-cruise than a utilitarian ferry ride.
But we want you to know all this, and more, because climbing aboard a barge might be one of the best travel decisions you'll ever make. Here's why:
1. A barge by any other name...
Historically, the word "barge" was used to denote a flat-bottomed freight boat — not exactly super sexy stuff. (The word is also a verb meaning "to move forcefully"). Today, however, barges are also comfortable passenger boats that can accommodate a small group — and a lot of amenities. Think: delicious food and drink, comfortable sleeping quarters, plus plenty of space on deck to watch the world glide by. Maybe a bit of rebranding is in order? "River cruise," perhaps?
2. All the appeal of a cruise (without all the people)
A barge (or river cruise, if you like) is a small boat, which means it can only accommodate an intimate number of passengers. This means a better opportunity to get to know your fellow passengers — or, if you like, the space to spend some time alone.
3. Up close and personal, on shore
Again, owing to their size, barges can navigate narrow waterways, exploring unconventional routes and docking in small communities where larger ships simply can't stop. This will give you the opportunity to explore some smaller communities, and to really get to know the less touristy areas of your destination. (And, by the way, this means — among other things — exposure to some really, really good food.)
4. Up close and personal, on deck
Have a question for the captain? Chances are, they're around to answer: another benefit of taking a barge or river cruise is the opportunity to indulge your inner nautical fanatic and get to know a thing or two about the vessel's crew.
5. Have we mentioned the food?
A smaller ship with a more intimate setting means your on-board chef can more easily curate a dining experience that reflects your destination (rather than, say, opting for a buffet that suits the tastes of several thousand passengers). You'll learn just as much about local food and drink on-board as on land. So come with an appetite!