Rates range from about $2,500 to $6,000 per person; if you're flexible, you can sometimes find lower special offers. All costs are included except airfare, transfers to and from the meeting point, and crew gratuities. Some trips also offer a half-board option, meaning breakfast and either lunch or dinner is included. I heartily recommend you consider this, since dining in local eateries is one of the prime joys of these off-the-beaten-path explorations.
See also: Small ship cruising
Sound good? It is! The big question is: Where do you want to go?
There are numerous companies that offer European barge trips. Here are four experienced and reputable companies that specialize in barging and offer a full range of options:
The Barge Company: Offers include half-board cruises, plus special Food and Wine cruises.
Barge Lady Cruises: Themed feasts include Chocolate and Wine tours in Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Upper Loire, and a Culinary Cruise on the Canal du Midi.
European Waterways: Offers Christmas Cruises and Wine Appreciation Cruises, among many themed itineraries. Also features a 6-week, 1,000-mile voyage between Avignon in southern France and Amsterdam in northern Holland.
French Country Waterways: Special offers include an imaginative "Quinquennial Anniversary Special": For couples celebrating a quinquennial — that is, occurring every five years — wedding anniversary, a discount will be applied on select departure dates. The discount is equal to the number of years married — a 5 percent discount for five years, 10 percent for 10 years, and so forth, up to 50 years. I can't imagine a more romantic way to celebrate!