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Cruise Ship Information

The Panache was built in 1921 to carry cargo along the canals of Europe and is a classic Dutch design with shallow draft. She presently serves as a luxury hotel barge, owned and operated by Leigh Wootton.

She originally carried barley and hops to a brewery in the north of the Netherlands from Rotterdam and returned with bottles and barrels of beer, on one round trip per week. The owner had seven children and lived in the bow cabin with his wife, and at maximum, five of them at a time.

She was first converted in 1978 to carry 20 scouts in hammocks. She was converted to a hotel barge in 1985.

The barge has traveled from the Netherlands to Bordeaux on most of the French waterways. She pioneered barging on the southern Canal du Nivernais and the River Seille. She has also been to Barcelona and Monte Carlo by sea. When moved in 1990 to the River Cher, she was transported at 82 km/h on an enormous trailer.

In 2005, part of the Rick Stein's French Odyssey for the BBC was filmed on board.

She presently plies the River Cher.

Atmosphere on board

Originally built in 1921 as a Dutch freight barge transporting beer, Panache was converted to a hotel barge in 1985. At 81 feet long and 14 feet wide, it's among the smallest of Go Barging's vessels, and is equipped to carry six passengers. Its shallow draft makes it ideal to cruise the sandy River Cher in France's Loire Valley.

 

The three cabins are cozy -- the largest is just under 130 sq. feet, and the smallest is 84 sq. feet. Extensive use of polished hardwoods anchors the decor, both in the cabins and in the dining saloon. Each cabin's en-suite bathroom contains a toilet, shower, sink, towels, hand soap and hairdryer. Each cabin also has at least one small window that opens, a reading lamp, small closet and individually controlled air-conditioning. In one of the cabins, the twin beds can convert to a double; the other rooms are twin only. 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 dining saloon (although the bow cabin is three small steps up). The saloon has built-in sofas, a coffee table, dining table for seven, mahogany paneling, brass fixtures and stained-glass windows. Guests can also make use of the fully stocked bar and fridge 24 hours a day, as well as the stereo system and CDs. A small sitting area called the "upstairs saloon" is located a few steps up from the dining area.

 

The sundeck has seating for all guests, with reclining lounge chairs and an umbrella. Snacks and wine are often served on this deck. In the saloon, meals are served in a single seating, with breakfast and lunch offered buffet-style. Breakfast consists of a Continental repast with breads, croissants, yogurt, cereal, fruit, coffee and tea. Lunch is typically breads, cold-cuts, salads and cheeses, with the occasional hot entree or soup. The meal is served with wine, and finished with dessert and coffee. Dinner is an elegant candlelit affair, 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, Panache 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 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 or hot-air balloon rides, cost extra. An air-conditioned mini-bus follows the barge's route and is available at designated times for transport.

 

Panache sails through the central Loire Valley, primarily on the River Cher. Guests are met at the TGV station at St. Pierre des Corps and returned to the same location after the voyage. The itinerary is from Azay sur Cher to Nitray or vice versa, and includes excursions to Clos Luce (home of Leonardo da Vinci), several chateaux and their wineries, and a silkworm nursery.

 

The barge carries six mountain bikes for guest use, and the itinerary is so leisurely that guests often take the bikes and meet up with the barge at its mooring point. Some games and a small library are also provided. Panache offers theme cruise charters, which include wine, walking, cycling or family cruises.

 

Panache has three crew members: a skipper (captain), chef and a hostess/stewardess, all of whom speak English and French. Gratuities are discretionary and typically average between 4 and 7 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 Panache 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

Magna Carta 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 Magna Carta, 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 Magna Carta 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

Magna Carta 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.

Magna Carta'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.