The six-passenger Saint LouisAbercrombie & Kent's luxury river barge business continues to grow: The firm is adding a barge in Southwest France next year and experiencing double- and triple-digit sales increases in Scotland and Ireland.

The new barge is the six-passenger Saint Louis, which will cruise along the Canal de Garonne in Southwestern France, a new region for A&K's canal-barging portfolio.

The barge will sail through the Aquitaine and Midi-Pyrenees areas of France, known for fortified medieval villages, sunflowers, foie gras, wine and Armagnac brandy. It is dotted with castles, abbeys and historical towns.

The Saint Louis is 98 feet long and 16.5 feet wide. It has three queen/twin cabins, each 127 square feet and with its own en suite bathrooms. The vessel has a full herb garden on board. A crew of four travels with the guests.

The seven-day cruise starts in Toulouse, from where passengers will be transferred to the Saint Louis, docked in Lacourt-Saint-Pierre. It travels through Montech, Montauban, Moissac, Valence d'Agen, Agen, Buzet-sur-Baise and Damazan and ends in Castets-en-Dorthe.

There will be 26 departures in 2011, priced from $4,189 per person.

A&K offers 27 canal and river cruises through Burgundy, the Loire Valley, Alsace-Lorraine, the south of France and Champagne in France; Holland; Belgium; Germany; Austria; Hungary; England; Scotland; and Ireland.

Scotland, Ireland boom

While A&K continues to grow its France river barge offering, it is also seeing increased interest in Scotland and Ireland.

The company has seen a 120% increase in barging in Scotland and a 50% increase in Ireland in year-to-date 2010 sales compared with this time last year.

"One reason for this may be due to repeat clients who have cruised in France and now want to see other areas," A&K said in a statement. "Once they discover the benefits of barging, its all-inclusive nature, great value and varied activities, we find many clients continue to search out new routes or countries for river cruising."

In Ireland, A&K has the 10-passenger Shannon Princess II, which sails along the River Shannon and Lough Derg from Athlone to Killaloe.

In Scotland, the eight-passenger Scottish Highlander cruises along the Caledonian Canal from Dochgarroch to Fort William.


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