Stephanie Sack

Communications Manager at The Barge Lady or 800.880.0071

September 20, 2015



Travelers Taste the Authentic Flavors of Europe on Luxury Barge cruises


Culinary tourism along the inland waterways of Europe is thriving in the 2016 cruise season


Gastronomes and oenophiles have plenty of opportunities to sample cheese and wine while in Europe, but the most devoted of Europhiles and epicureans will especially enjoy these five premium tastings as part of the cultural immersion exclusive to luxury barge cruises. These floating hotels are converted cargo barges which have undergone extreme renovations and makeovers, and are crewed by a team of enthusiastic locals who have valuable connections to Europe’s iconic cuisine culture.

According to the American Culinary Traveler, the percentage of US leisure travelers who travel to learn about unique dining experiences grew from 40% to 51% between 2006 and 2013. Especially appealing to this group is the fact that many European barges cruises offer guests enjoy guided daily excursions to the region’s attractions and activities, including the area’s hyperlocal dining and drinking community. “Tastings are always a popular choice for those who wish to truly experience the authenticity of Europe’s legendary gastronomy,” says Ellen Sack, The Barge Lady, an American-based broker of 50 European barge cruises. “We are seeing more passengers in 2016 excited about these once-in-a-lifetime visits to the artisan food producers of France and Scotland, especially among younger barge cruisers, as this type of traveler generally wants to ‘taste the place’ they visit.”



5) Olives — Along the Canal du Midi, the First Class, 10-passenger barge Athos soaks up the Southern French sunshine, as do the local olives! A tasting of freshly pressed olive oil at the Oulibo, the local olive oil pressoir, is akin to a drop of liquid summer on your tongue. Guests will take a stroll in the heart of a converted olive grove as part of an escorted tour, which covers all the seasons of the olive, the benefits of the olive, stages of preparation of olives, and olive oil. The tour ends with an olive and olive oil tasting. (see image #1)


4) Truffles — Deep within the Provence-Carmargue region on the Ultra-Deluxe, 12-passenger Napoleon, guests go behind the scenes to one of the world’s most secretive business – truffles. A tour of a Provencal truffle plantation allows a select few to learn how truffles are cultivated and how truffle dogs are trained, along with tips on how to clean, store, and cook with truffles.  A look for France’s elusive “black gold” with professional hunters is followed up with a sampling of fresh truffle hors d’oeuvres and truffle oil, accompanied by a glass of champagne. (see image #2)


3) Whiskey — A wee dram is the perfect welcome to Ireland. Aboard the Deluxe, 10-passenger Shannon Princess, an afternoon visit is made to a local whiskey distillery in the the lively River Town of Athlone. Dating from 1757, the Kilbeggan Distillery is the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world.  Passengers will take a tour of the old warehouses, and enjoy a meet and greet with onsite distillers. Of course no tour is complete without a tasting; guests will indulge in a Masterclass with tastings from four unique Irish whiskeys: Greenore Single Grain, Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey, Tyrconnell Single Malt, and Connemara Peated Single Malt. (see image #3)


2) Armagnac — Gascony has many secrets and pleasures which are revealed to the guests on the Saint Louis. The Armagnac region in Gascony was one of the first areas in France to begin distilling spirits, but the overall volume of Armagnac production is far smaller than Cognac production and therefore is less known outside Europe. In addition, Armagnac is for the most part made and sold by small producers, whereas Cognac production is dominated by big-name brands. Located in a 12th Century church, passengers enjoy a tour of the distillery of this boutique brandy — and of course the opportunity for a very special tasting. (see image #4)


1) Goat cheese — As part of the culturally rich itinerary aboard Burgundy barge Savoir Vivre, a visit to a local goat farm and cheese maker ensures the lifestyle and history of the area are vibrantly represented. Farm owner and goat expert Laure Plait introduces you to her small herd of lively goats, and then escorts you to her gourmet boutique for tastings of the many types of small batch goat cheeses, also known as “chevre”. This intimate tour and tasting is a highlight for foodies and Francophiles alike.


Further cuisine-related activities such as open kitchens, informal cooking lessons, and visits to local produce markets round out the singular gastronomic opportunities available on Europe’s luxury barge cruises. “As cuisine emerges as a main motivation for travel and tourism, those looking specifically for unique food experiences would truly enjoy the dynamic culinary programs aboard a luxury barge cruise,” explains Sack.  “These tastings, along with the gourmet cuisine and wine pairings served on the vessels themselves, provide a direct connection to the flavors, recipes, and history of an authentic yet accessible European lifestyle.”




Since 1985, Ellen Sack, The Barge Lady, herself, has been the world’s leading expert in selling European hotel barge vacations.  These bespoke vessels carry between 4 and 24 guests, are fully crewed, and can be found on the French canals, as well as on the inland waterways of Italy, Holland, England, Scotland, Ireland, Belgium, and Germany. Sack, based in Chicago, is a pioneer and trailblazer in the barge industry, and has received many accolades.  The greatest personal thrill was her selection in 2011, 2012 and 2013 as a Top Travel Specialist by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine, joining an elite community of worldwide travel providers. In 2014, Sack was chosen for Wendy Perrin’s WOW list of Trusted Travel Experts, and has been recommended by the author of 1000 Places to See Before You Die, and by the travel editor of The Today Show. For more information, visit or call 800-880-0071



Maralyn D. Hill, M.Ed.,  The Epicurean Explorer

Executive Editor,

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