Embracing the notion that luxury barge guests would sacrifice a few "inclusions" for a better bottom-line rate, French Country Waterways introduced Casual Cruising, "a new style of barging," aboard its 18-passenger Esprit, which plies France's Cote d'Or region between St. Leger-sur-Dheune and Pontailler-sur-Saone.
The Duxbury, Mass.-based company said six-night Esprit sailings now will provide all lunches and three dinners onboard, leaving three nights when passengers will go ashore on their own or as a group to dine where they please and pay their own tab.
"We understand that in today's economy, some of our guests would prefer to have a few less inclusions and reduce their costs, so we have introduced a program that makes some minor changes in our regular program and passes those savings on to the passenger," said company President Glenn Carr. Pricing for the Esprit's Casual Cruising program range from $2,495 to $3,495 per person, double.
The line's other three luxury barges -- the 12-passenger all-suite Adrienne, eight-passenger Horizon II and 12-passenger Nenuphar -- continue to cover all meals in the cruise fare, including one dinner ashore at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Rates for sailings on these vessels range from $5,095 to $6,495 per person, double.
Other than the three passenger-paid dinners, the line said that Esprit guests receive the same amenities as on the other luxury barges, such as creative cuisine prepared onboard and served with French wines, attentive service from a crew fluent in English and French and private wine tastings.
Sightseeing excursions feature a tour of the medieval Clos de Vougeot, the Chevaliers du Tastevin headquarters surrounded by vineyards dating back to the 12th century; a visit to Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy; and a private wine tasting in the wine village of Santenay.
Esprit guests receive roundtrip transfers to a Dijon hotel.
The French Country Waterways season runs from April 4 to Nov. 6. Its vessels are appointed in warm woods and plush carpeting and are air-conditioned. Accommodations feature private baths with full-size beds or king, queen or twin suites.
The barges are available for individual bookings and for charter by families, friends and groups of eight to 18. Special room rates are offered at several deluxe hotels in Paris and Dijon.
Fare ranges reflect a savings of $1,000 from high-season prices during the first five and last two departures of the season and $500 during value season cruises.
Agents can see detailed itineraries at the company's website, www.fcwl.com, or call (800) 222-1236 for more information.