The first thing to consider is whether the cruise you are planning is a catered cruise on a large boat or is it a self-drive tour?
Many of our guests do one or the other of these and then tell us of their experiences.
I do recommend that you read the feedback received below before committing to these fairly costly and not always entirely successful ventures, if you have not already committed yourselves.
The companies running these tours fiercely promote them as they make a lot of money and their promotion relies heavily on the romantic aspect of seeing France from the water.
In sharp distinction to this approach is the idea of basing yourselves in a living French village.
The latter approach provides a deeper and more satisfying experience because you will be interacting with real French people in a real-life situation whereas water tourists are seen by the locals as just that: tourists, that is, people passing through to whom they can sell their services or products.
Water tourists learn little about the real France – either past or present - they just see the superficial image the French tour operators project.
They only see France from a distance, like a series of picture postcards or a kind of touristic slide show as the stops are often a LONG WAY from the villages.
SOME SOBERING POINTS MADE BY PEOPLE WHO HAVE HAD THE BARGE EXPERIENCE.
You have to be easy going and be prepared to move slowly and wait, sometimes for long periods, to get through the locks.
Many people report that they did not enjoy the experience as it was surprisingly stressful.
They said that they just started and got to a lock and there were 11 barges in front of them.
They had to wait while they went through one at a time and this, as you can imagine, took quite a while.
Once there were 9 locks in succession and it took half the day!
Finally it was their turn, BUT it was 12 Midday, and the French lock-master went to lunch till 2pm or 2.30, or so. He finally returned but the process took an hour till 3.30pm.
So they had advanced only 1/2 a kilometre from 8am to 3.30pm!
The recent guests we interviewed were stressed by the trip because in addition to all the above there was a strike by lock-keepers and they were marooned for nearly two days.
They were worried they might not get the barge back by the due return date.
See what you think!
PLAY THE VIDEO BELOW and hear
their actual comments