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Cruise Ship Information

The Scottish Highlander is a boutique hotel barge cruising the Caledonian Canal in Scotland, from Inverness to Fort William. She is a Luxe motor Dutch steel barge. She is a member of the fleet of hotel barges owned by European Waterways.

Atmosphere on board

Nessie-hunting Scottish Highlander started life in 1931 as a Luxemotor rivership used to carry grain, and was converted to a hotel barge in 2000. At 117 feet long and 16.5 feet wide, but with only four staterooms, Scottish Highlander has a higher space ratio than many other hotel barges of the same size.

The staterooms on this vessel are relatively roomy compared to others, with one suite at just about 150 sq. feet and three staterooms at 115 sq. feet. All rooms can be doubles or twins and are designed with cheerful Scottish plaids, dark woods and antique reproductions. Each room has a wardrobe (the suite has two), a bedside table with reading lamp, four drawers and a cabinet. Each cabin has an en-suite bathroom with shower, toilet and sink. Amenities include soap, shampoo, shower gel, lotion, towels, hairdryers and bathrobes. Each room also has two windows with one that opens. All current is 220 to 240 volts (North American appliances need converters) with the exception of the bathrooms, which have a 110 outlet for shaving only. Rooms do not have air-conditioning (fans are available if needed), but they do offer central heat.

The saloon is graciously appointed with leather club chairs, sofas, occasional tables, a bar and several large windows. Walls are clad in clubby mahogany and yew, the floor is carpeted in a blue and green tartan plaid. The room contains a television and DVDs, a stereo and CDs, some board games and a small library. A walnut dining table serves eight. The unfurnished sundeck is used primarily for observation.

Meals are served in a single seating, with breakfast and lunch offered buffet-style. Breakfast is Continental, with breads, yogurt, cereal, fruit, coffee and tea, but a full Scottish breakfast can be prepared on request. Lunch is typically breads, cold-cuts, pates, fish, salads and cheeses served with wine. If the air is chilly, a hot three-course meal may be served, and if the weather is nice, a picnic on the moors may be planned. Dinner is an elegant candlelit affair, with regional cuisine (salmon, lamb, venison or game, such as partridge) 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, Scottish Highlander 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 cost extra. An eight-passenger minibus meets the barge at specified locations to transport passengers on their excursions.

The barge carries six mountain bikes onboard for guest use. Scottish Highlander also has a Zodiac-type boat -- called a ship's fender -- with an outboard motor for excursions along streams and creeks and for fly-fishing opportunities. Onboard binoculars come in handy for bird-watching.

Obviously, golf excursions are popular in Scotland, but in order to play at a rated course, you have to have a handicap rate card and a letter of introduction from your hometown club manager.

Scottish Highlander's route takes you through the locks and canals around Loch Ness and onto the lake itself. Excursions include visits to castles, hikes through heather-laced moors, at least one Scotch whisky distillery and dinner ashore at the Caledonian Hotel.

Available for charter, Scottish Highlander is also available as a honeymoon escape from fall to spring. The entire barge is configured for two people with a cozy, romantic atmosphere. Other charters include family sailings, walking tours and -- of course -- golf cruises.

Scottish Highlander has four crew members: skipper (captain), chef, hostess and tour guide. 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 Scottish Highlander 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

Scottish Highlander 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 Scottish Highlander, 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 Scottish Highlander 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

Scottish Highlander 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.

Scottish Highlander'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.