France Cruises Expands Its 2012 Offerings with New Vessel and First-Ever Winter Canal Program in France and Belgium

France Cruises is introducing the industry’s first hotel barge cruise during the winter season along the inland waterways of France and Belgium aboard the luxurious Esperance, and its newest ship, the 8-passenger MS Elisabeth. Each expedition combines the opportunity to enjoy France with gourmet dining, fine wines and sightseeing excursions to ancient villages, castles, cafes, and markets. © 2011 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

France Cruises is introducing the industry’s first hotel barge cruise during the winter season along the inland waterways of France and Belgium aboard the luxurious Esperance, and its newest ship, the 8-passenger MS Elisabeth. Sailing from December through March, the vessels will tour the renowned regions of Provence and Flanders, respectively.

The 6-passenger Esperance will journey through the south of France between Avignon and Montpellier. Travelers can look forward to passing colorful autumn landscapes and rich wildlife of horses and bulls aboard their all-inclusive floating hotel on the Rhone River. The cruise features enriching shore excursions to historical and cultural sites, such as the Pope’s Palace in Avignon, the largest gothic palace in Europe, and the Roman city of Arles, home of legendary artist Vincent Van Gogh. Programs for four- and six-night cruises are available. Prices for this itinerary start at $4,335 per person, based on double occupancy.

Aboard the MS Elisabeth, guests will float past rolling hills and medieval towns on the canals of Belgium between Namur and Bruges. Highlights of the 6-night cruise include a guided tour of the impeccably-preserved, 13th-century town of Bruges, dubbed the “Venice of the North”; a visit to a local snail farm in Namur; and an exploration into Brussels’ popular attractions, including the city’s famous landmark, the Atomium. The vessel also offers a Christmas and New Year’s Eve cruise, which features exciting visits to local festivities spotlighting the holiday season. Rates for the cruise begin at $3,360 per person, double occupancy.

“We’re offering our clients a one-of-a-kind canal experience in the standard off-season not available anywhere else,” said Jean-Francois Dabrowski, president of France Cruises. “With fewer crowds, colorful scenery and pleasantly cool weather, there’s no better time than winter to visit Europe’s countryside.”

The MS Elisabeth

MS Elisabeth, the latest addition to France Cruises’ collection of hotel barges, will navigate the heart of France and Upper Loire region, as well as the northern part of Belgium. The vessel boasts four comfortable cabins with en-suite bathrooms, a large sun deck and terrace, and a spacious salon and dining room area surrounded by 12 impressively wide windows providing for the most beautiful views of the idyllic countryside. Cruisers will enjoy a gastronomic menu of regional dishes like Fish Waterzoii and cheese fragranced with ginger and coriander, and even be afforded the opportunity to accompany chef and host, Martine, to the local produce markets to choose the specialties for the evening. In addition, MS Elisabeth offers an array of special theme cruises that tailor to the interest of passengers, including golf, wine appreciation and culinary cruises – the latter giving guests the chance to learn the art of French and Belgian cuisine with Martine.

To learn more about the winter cruises in France and Belgium, and the new MS Elisabeth visit www.francecruises.com.

France Cruises, Inc. specializes in canal and river cruises in France. France Cruises’ fleet of over 40 luxury hotel barges and riverboats float along the narrow canals of France, providing an intimate way to discover the splendid and historic countryside. Along with superb opportunities for relaxation, the carefree elegance of each expedition combines the opportunity to enjoy France with gourmet dining, fine wines and sightseeing excursions to ancient villages, castles, cafes, markets. For more information visit www.FranceCruises.com. Additionally, France Cruises offers a concierge service, which assists in acquiring car rentals, train tickets, hotel stays and more together with its new land tours and hotel packages division: www.FranceCountryTours.com.

For more travel features, visit:

www.travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate

www.examiner.com/eclectic-travel-in-national/karen-rubin

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