For families, or small groups, chartering a luxury hotel barge can be an appealing alternative to renting a villa in Europe. Instead of being confined to a single location, hotel barge cruises offer memorable “floating” holidays as they travel through some of the most historic and culturally-rich regions of France, Italy and the British Isles. European Waterways' cruises are all-inclusive, with all gourmet meals, drinks, transportation and tours of local attractions included, compared to villa rentals, when most of these expenses are additional and can significantly increase the final cost of a holiday.

Among the wide range of hotel barge cruises available from European Waterways, L'Art de Vivre in Burgundy and Anjodi on the Canal du Midi in Southwest France are always in demand. Currently a special offer of £5,000 applies to full barge charters on selected, 6-night departure dates in June, July and August, valid to L'Art de Vivre and Anjodi bookings made by 9 May. With both being eight-passenger vessels, they are ideal for families and small groups to enjoy views of ever-changing landscapes, charming villages and lush vineyards on a gentle voyage of exploration – unlike villas, which offer just one view.

On a European Waterways' cruise, there is no need to make reservations at expensive restaurants, or pack everyone into rental cars to visit attractions. Every hotel barge carries its guests in luxury, pampered by a crew of four that includes a master chef, a hostess, an English- speaking tour guide and a professional, highly personable captain. Guides accompany them to local vineyards for private tastings, colourful food markets and châteaux in a wide range of historic and cultural excursions. On-board bicycles allow guests to pedal along the towpaths and explore the nearby towns or, if they prefer, they can relax in the on-deck spa pool with a glass of chilled wine as their hotel barge glides slowly through the ever-changing countryside.

“A hotel barge is really a floating luxury villa – with a doting crew at your service, an open bar and freshly cooked gourmet meals every day!” said Derek Banks, managing director of European Waterways. “Chartering a hotel barge gives you the best of both worlds – a private, luxury setting for your entire group and personalised attention, so that everyone can spend quality time together enjoying themselves instead of worrying about the itinerary.”