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Cruise Ship Information

Athos is a Luxe motor Dutch steel barge built as a trading barge but refitted in 1982 as a hotel barge. She is currently berthed on the Canal du Midi in south-west France.

Athos was built in Groningen, Netherlands in 1929 and originally carried grain. She is named after the three daughters of the original owner - Anna, Joanna and Diana. She is constructed of iron with a high copper content which has contributed to her longevity.

Athos was purchased by Derek Banks in 1982 from a Dutchman, Fopa de Jong, in Amsterdam for £5,500. She was a retired trading barge and full of old Second World War aircraft instruments.

During 1982 and 1983, Athos was transformed by European Waterways, from a trade vessel to one of France's first ever luxury hotel barges at the cost of £100,000. Before making the three month trip from the Netherlands to the south of France, Athos was towed to a shipyard in Belgium where tanks for fresh water, generators, wiring and plumbing were installed and a shell infrastructure of steel was built. She was refurbished again in 1997 and 2008.

Athos has four guest bedrooms with private bathrooms and a saloon. Crews quarters are in the bow and stern.The Athos has a crew of four: Captain, first mate or matelot, chef, and hostess. The captain must have at least two years experience as a first mate and possess a French certificate of competency.

The Athos was featured in the 10 part BBC Series about Chef Rick Stein’s six week journey from Bordeaux to Marseille aboard the Athos on the Canal latéral à la Garonne and Canal du Midi. Famous guests who have travelled on the Athos include Rod Stewart.

Atmosphere on board

Athos was originally built in 1964 as a cargo barge to carry sand, grain and wine; it was converted to a hotel barge in 1982. At 101 feet long and 18 feet from side to side, it’s one of the widest barges in the Go Barging fleet. Athos accommodates up to 10 passengers in five double or twin staterooms. Its route is the Canal du Midi from Sallele d'Aude near Montpellier to Marseillan in the south of France.

The staterooms on Athos are quite tiny; at 77 sq. feet (the bow cabin is 88 sq. feet), there isn’t even room for a bedside table. Nonetheless they are bright and cheery, with cupboard space, reading lights and relatively large en-suite bathrooms. All bathrooms, which are decorated in white tile with a blue Greek Key pattern, have a shower, basin and toilet. Amenities include a hairdryer, towels, soap, shampoo, shower gel and conditioner. Rooms are air-conditioned and have central heating. All current is 220 volts (North American appliances need converters) with the exception of the bathrooms, which have a 110 outlet for shaving only.

The cabins are located on the same level as the saloon, which is primarily taken up by the large dining table in its center. Two contemporary sofas along one side provide space for indoor reading and relaxing. The saloon also contains a bar, small library and stereo system with CDs. Rows of windows keep the room bright; deep, rich woods line the walls and ceiling, and classy oriental rugs cover laminate wood floors. Most of the socializing and activity take place, however, on Athos' barge-long upper sun deck with its redwood floor. Furnished with tables, chairs, umbrellas, loungers and railings adorned with live plants and flowers, it's a perfect extra room for this itinerary. Guests with mobility issues should be aware that there are several steep steps at the entry to the barge.

Meals are served in a single seating, with the occasional al fresco meal on the sun deck. Breakfast consists of a Continental repast with breads, croissants, yogurt, cereal, fruit, coffee and tea. Lunch is three courses served with a specially selected rose wine. Supper is four or five courses, served inside or on the deck, with regional cuisine paired with wine, desserts, cheeses, coffee and liqueurs. The dress code at all meals is resort casual, except for the Captain’s dinner on the last evening, which requires cocktail attire.

As on all of the hotel barges in European Waterways' fleet, Athos is an all-inclusive product, with wines, soft drinks, bottled water, beer, liquor and liqueurs, as well as all onboard meals and snacks, included. (Certain vintages of wine and Champagne -- except for the Welcome Aboard greeting -- are not included, but can be provided for a fee.) Shore excursions, usually lasting from two to four hours, typically take place once a day; all entry fees are included with your cruise fare. Optional activities, such as golf and hot-air balloon rides, cost extra. Two air-conditioned Chrysler mini-buses follow the barge's route and are available at designated times for transport.

Excursions on Athos might include winery visits and tastings, a visit to an olive press, guided tours through the towns and villages, and a visit to the Noilly Prat Vermouth distillery.

Athos carries eight touring bicycles; guests can easily disembark at a lock, ride off to visit a village or two, and catch up with the barge later. The boat also stocks board games, boules, and binoculars -- useful for spotting animals as you glide through the Petit Camargue.

The barge has five crew members: a skipper (captain), chef, tour guide and two hostesses. Gratuities are discretionary and typically average between four and seven percent of the fare paid, given to the Captain for distribution.

There is no smoking inside the boat; smoking is allowed outside on the deck only.

Family with Kids/Teens

Family charters are available aboard all our hotel barges. You have the whole vessel to yourselves and she becomes a home from home, except we take care of all the hard work!

Whether you are young or old or a combination of all ages, or whether there’s cause for celebration, or just a chance to enjoy each other’s company. Any one of our voyages, with all that can be experienced, really does take some beating.

Many years of experience have shown us that every group is different and we try our hardest to make you aware of everything the region you have chosen has to offer, be it the Scottish Highlands, England, Ireland, Holland, Italy, Burgundy or the South of France.

Having your own chef makes evening meals both enjoyable and flexible on a family charter. Dinner can be enjoyed as a family, with perhaps a casual barbecue during the week for children to enjoy some alfresco dining. Or a high tea can be served for younger children with the normal recipes they enjoy. Alternatively, a combination where elder children join the adults for dinner and then a break between courses for an evening stroll before bedtime. Adults can then relax in peace and quiet with coffee and liqueurs.

The voyage itself is already great fun. Grandchildren may find themselves steering their 126 foot vessel along a tree-lined canal, perhaps joining their cousins in the barge jacuzzi or biking together, as their parents relax alongside on the sundeck just a few feet away. The 6 passenger Nymphea in the Loire Valley is a great example of a barge and itinerary seemingly perfect for a family to enjoy.

Ashore, as well as our traditional cultural visits, we can arrange horse riding, water sports, tennis and many other activities to keep the younger ones and young at heart, completely satisfied. As with all our charter itineraries your experience is fully customisable to suite the ages and needs of your group. Child equipment such high-chairs, car seats, child bike seats, travel cots, children’s bicycles and more are available on request at no extra cost.

Past Passenger Programs

There's one inside public room and one-and-a-half outside. The small covered deck has a small table, and the large open deck sports a table big enough for all guests.

The inside space, known as the "saloon," serves as the dining room, bar, living room, relaxation area, conversation pit, and, depending on the crowd you're with, the dance floor. It isn't big, but it's well laid-out with banquettes along the walls and two small armchairs, a small bar and a long dining table that seats 14. It's a cozy space for conversation, for reading, and -- because it's flanked on both sides by big picture windows-- for seeing the route if the weather isn't good enough to be outside. When the weather is good, though, outside is where you want to be. The big teak table on the upper deck is surrounded with teak lounge chairs and pads. It's a comfy spot for sitting and watching the scenery as the barge wanders lazily through the canals and rivers that make up this route. Whether you grab a beer from the fridge or the crew serves wine and canapes, it's a convivial spot. It's also surrounded with terra cotta planters filled with flowers and herbs; it's not unusual to see the chef come out and snip something or another for that night's supper. At the very bow, in front of the upper deck, is a hot tub that seats six. It was pretty chilly most evenings on our voyage, but the whirlpool did get used a couple of times.

The lower deck is covered and has a table for four. The view isn't as good, but it's a quieter and more private place to hold a conversation or to enjoy the out-of-doors with a good book.

Fitness And Spa

Athos has touring bicycles available for both men and women. Guests on our journey used them in Vallabregues to visit the little town, and in Maguelone to ride the mile or so to dip their toes into the Mediterranean Sea.

Other than that, the fitness routine depends on how much walking one wants to do while ashore.

Food & Dining

Starters

Salad nicoise - Green bean and potato salad with tuna and anchovies

Gnocchi verts - Handmade potato & Basel pasta with a tomato & herb sauce

Champignon farcee- Stuffed mushrooms

Saumon gravadlux mesclun- Salmon carparccio on a bed of mixed salad leaves

Main Course

Fillet de boeuf au poivre - The finest French Charolais beefsteak with a merlot and mushroom jus

Noix de St Jacques avec epinard - Sea scallops served on a bed of spinach

Lotte menieure au citron vert- Grilled Monk fish in butter and lime sauce

All dishes served with vegetables fresh from the market daily.

Cheese Board

Each night, a selection of French cheeses with a description of the cheese & the region accompanied by specially selected wines.

Dessert

A selection of traditional, all-time favorites.

Chocolate mousse

Crème Brulee

Crepe Suzettes Ille flotante

Tarte tatin

Chocolate profiteroles

Raspberry Soufflé

Entertainment

The entertainment onboard the vessel itself consists of a stereo system and several CDs (most of which have been compiled and left by former guests), the camaraderie of the guests themselves, and the interaction with the crew. It doesn't sound like much, but on a journey of this type, it's really all that's needed. One of the more joyous moments of our cruise came on the last night, after the Captain's Farewell Supper, where almost every one of the guests sang along with Don McLean's American Pie. All of us, with the exception of my traveling companion (who happened to be my mother), had grown up during the '60s and could belt out the words with abandon.

There are also some board games, and a small library of both regional travel books and novels, most left by prior guests.

The bulk of what constitutes the "entertainment" quotient on Athos, though, is the ability to see and experience, close-up, the region through which we are traveling. In Avignon we visited both the 12th-century Palace of the Popes and the Chateauneuf du Papes winery. In Arles, we saw the Roman Coliseum, known today as the site of "corridas" (bullfights), and walked in the footsteps of Vincent Van Gogh. In Aigues Mortes we dined at a local restaurant and visited the Constance Tower, seeing for ourselves how the Crusades affected the history of France. We also had the opportunity to walk the ramparts of this medieval walled city. In Marseillan we got to visit the Noilly Prat vermouth distillery, to taste the three vermouths produced and to purchase Noilly Prat Amber, which is only available in Marseillan. In Agde, at the end of our voyage, we visited the charming, tiny village of Pezenas, climbing its narrow cobbled streets as Laurent, our knowledgeable and engaging tour guide, gave us a glimpse into life in the 1200s.

Along the way, on the Canal du Rhone a Sete and later on the Canal du Midi, we were witness to the wildlife of the Camargue, a protected wetlands with famous white horses, black bulls, pink flamingos and sundry other species including egrets, pelicans, terns and wild ducks. We waved at the men in overalls who fished along the banks, learned about the culture and significance of "les taurreaux" (the bulls) around Aigues Mortes, and later, as we passed between Sete and Marseillan across the Thau Lagoon, we were witness to the acres and acres of oyster beds and learned about the culture of oysters and mussels in the region.

In the afternoons, as we cruised along our route, we would sit at the large upper-deck table, sipping wine and munching hors d'oeuvres that had been specially prepared for us, and our conversation and laughter completed the circle of our onboard "entertainment."

Fellow Passengers

Traveling on a peniche is a specialty voyage, and as a result, guests on Athos tend to be well-educated, sophisticated travelers who appreciate the fine dining, culture, history and wines of France. Go Barging is marketed internationally, so guests might be a mix of nationalities. On our voyage, everyone happened to be American, but the trip just before ours was filled with German nationals and the one just after with Brits.

Our recommendation

Athos was purpose-built for luxury cruising on the inland waterways of Europe and was launched as the private luxury hotel barge of the DeKuyper liqueur family of Belgium in 1994. SThere is a comfortable saloon and dining area with large picture windows to enjoy the surrounding countryside.

With two sun decks, there is an abundance of space to relax inside and out. There is a pleasant shaded area, as well as a sunning area with a spa pool available for relaxing in whilst cruising through the stunning countryside.

Athos's professional crew of five is comprised of Master Chef, Tour Guide, Deck-Hand and Hostess, led by a knowledgeable and experienced Captain who will ensure your cruise is highly enjoyable and memorable. Their knowledge of the region, combined with the 8 bicycles provided, will allow you to explore the areas you cruise through, in as much detail as you desire.