GoBarging makes Reine Pedauque wheelchair-accessible
Barging through Europe has just gotten more accessible, in every sense of the word. By introducing a renovated vessel that can accommodate guests with disabilities and enable them to experience all facets of its product, GoBarging has opened European river and canal barge cruising to a previously shut-out demographic segment.
By David Yeskel
The Reine Pedauque, a luxury barge that plies the waterways of the Burgundy region of France, has been refitted with wheelchair lifts, stair lifts and bathroom handrails. Doors on all decks are wide enough for wheelchair access. The showers in the two Royal Suites feature a shower seat and handrails, and beds are just 28 inches high. Also, the minibus that shadows the barge is wheelchair-accessible. These enhancements are designed to offer disabled guests the same luxury experience and choice of excursions available to all passengers.
According to Derek Banks, Go Barging's CEO, the Reine Pedauque is the only wheelchair-accessible barge in the industry. Banks, who has helmed his business for more than 30 years, said he firmly believed "that every company in the holiday industry should attempt to accommodate physically challenged travelers."
Despite the small size of the eight-passenger Reine Pedauque, luxury is not compromised. The air-conditioned vessel has a dining room, lounge, sun deck and four suites, ranging in size from 184 to 320 square feet. Each suite is equipped with a private bath.
The barge's English-speaking crew of four has a singular mission: to accommodate individual passenger desires while providing outstanding service. In fact, Banks likened the GoBarging experience to a "moving house party with good food, good wines and sophisticated company."
The gastronomic experience is paramount. It is France, after all. Go Barging's European chefs take guests' culinary tastes into consideration when planning the day's meals and may even take those guests to local markets to select provisions for dinner, which typically features geographically appropriate French specialties, regional wines and an extensive cheese selection.
Passengers may get on and off the barge to walk or bicycle along the towpath, all the while keeping pace with the slowly moving vessel. Most mornings, passengers gather to explore local cultural attractions via the company's air-conditioned minibus, typically returning to the barge in time for lunch. Afternoons are usually enjoyed on deck as the barge passes idyllic country vistas on its meandering route, which covers only about 70 miles during the course of six days.
GoBarging's largely English-speaking passenger mix skews about 70% North American, with the remainder comprising of Britons, Australians and South Africans. The product generally appeals to well-traveled urbanites in their 50s, according to the company.
Departing from Dijon and sailing down the Burgundy Canal, the Reine Pedauque negotiates 45 hand-operated locks. The barge cruises six nights, from Fridays to Thursdays, in April through October. The voyage includes all meals, open bar (including regional wines) and daily escorted excursions. The passenger-to-crew ratio is typically 2-to-1. All-inclusive rates range from $3,550 to $3,950 per person, depending on accommodations and dates selected.
Asked what attracts U.S. guests to his product, Banks pointed to what he described as the three major advantages of barging over large-ship luxury cruising: intimacy, flexibility and a true immersion.
In addition, GoBarging prices its fares in U.S. dollars, which is to Americans' advantage as the dollar continues to sink against the euro. But the real kicker is that GoBarging creates such a stress-free and relaxing environment that, according to Banks, a sail on the Reine Pedauque is, in effect, "like two weeks' vacation in one." And that, he said, is the deal closer. Contact us here for more information on Reine Pedauque back to top