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Barge and Sail

Waterways 101: Just What is a Bike & Boat Tour, Anyways?

Posted on Thursday, July 28th, 2022

Story by: Molly Waldstein | Travel Writer

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At VBT, we’ve long been charmed by the allure of adorable barges dotting the canals of Europe. Our Netherlands Bike & Boat: Springtime in Holland tour has been a top seller for over fifteen years—and has inspired us to develop a series of delightful Bike & Boat vacations in top destinations around the world.  

Waterways 101: Just What is a Bike & Boat Tour, Anyways?

One Thing’s for Sure—It’s Au Courant in Adventure Travel!  

When you think of cruises, you might picture enormous ocean-going vessels with several restaurants, a fitness center and at least one casino.  But their little cousins—barge, yacht, and river-boat cruises—are rapidly gaining in popularity due to their smaller size and more intimate sailing experience. At VBT, we’ve long been charmed by the allure of adorable barges dotting the canals of Europe. Our Netherlands Bike & Boat: Springtime in Holland tour has been a top seller for over fifteen years—and has inspired us to develop a series of delightful Bike & Boat vacations in top destinations around the world.  

Question: What’s the most convenient thing about Bike & Boat Tours? 

Answer: Unpack only once—this hotel travels with you! Sometimes switching hotels can feel like a chore. You gather all your clothing and sundries, smash everything back into your suitcase, sit on top of it and hope the zipper works. There are moments when we all wish a comfortable hotel room could somehow magically travel with us to our next destination. That’s why VBT’s Bike & Boat tours are so special—these floating accommodations literally do travel with you. All you have to do is unpack once, then relax and arrive at an exciting new destination each day. It’s a comfortable, convenient way to travel—and it’s a great way to cover a lot of ground in a short time. 

Question: What are the different types of VBT Bike & Boat tours? 

Answer: The two types of VBT Bike & Boat tours are barge & yacht tours and river cruises.  

  • Barge & yacht tours: VBT’s barges and yachts are a home away from home. They hold 20-30 passengers and are entirely private to our groups. They typically travel during the day—so when you start your ride in one location, the boat will be there to meet you at a new location in the afternoon. 
  • River cruises: These 4-star floating accommodations can lodge over 100 passengers and are not private to VBT groups. River cruises typically travel at night—which means you can return to the boat at any point during the day to rest, change clothes, or do some independent exploration. In the morning, you wake up in a new harbor—just waiting to be explored. 

Question: What are the cabins like? 

Answer: On all VBT sailing vessels, standard cabins are a bit smaller than an ordinary hotel room and include private bathrooms. They typically have two twin beds with room to store luggage underneath. On river cruises, there’s also the option to upgrade to a larger cabin. 

Question: Are luxury cabins available?  

Answer: River cruise ships are like floating 4-star hotels. They offer several levels of luxury accommodations—including features such as larger windows, balconies, and upgraded bathrooms. Upgrade options aren’t always available on barge & yacht tours, although larger cabins are occasionally available. 

Question: I love to bike, but my partner might not want to join every ride. Are non-biking activities available?  

Answer: Yes! River cruises are a great option for couples with biking and non-biking partners. Many optional activities are included—such as sight-seeing tours, concerts, and theatre performances. All guests are welcome to participate—or just take a day to relax and watch the river drift by. Barge & yacht tours also include options for relaxation days—including the popular pastime of sailing with the crew, seeing sights by water, and soaking up the sun in comfortable lounge chairs on the boat’s deck. 

Question: What meals are included?  

Answer: River cruises offer 4-star service and include all meals plus beer and wine. On biking days, your VBT trip leaders may host an included picnic lunch on land. On barge & yacht tours, most meals are included—plus you’ll have a few nights to explore local restaurants on your own. When dining on board, your dedicated chef creates a delicate fusion of local flavors to give you an authentic taste of the region at every meal. 

Question: When does the boat travel?  

Answer: River cruises travel at night so you can disembark and reembark at your convenience during the day—then wake up each morning in a new location. By contrast, barges and yachts travel during the day—so when you start biking from one harbor, you’ll meet the boat in another harbor that afternoon. On barge & yacht tours, you’ll have an opportunity to explore the local nightlife and return to the harbor where your boat is docked. 

Question: Will VBT trip leaders travel with us?  

Answer: Yes! A minimum of two VBT trip leaders accompany every VBT Bicycling Vacation. On the larger barges, there will be three VBT trip leaders instead of two to ensure everyone gets the support they need.  

Question: What happens if there’s severe weather?  

Answer: Our experienced captain and crew will make adjustments to avoid hazardous conditions as well as any canal or river traffic. They know these waterways intimately and are always ready with a backup plan they can implement at a moment’s notice. 

If a guided Bike & Boat adventure is on your bucket list of Big Trip vacations, our VBT Tour Consultants are eager to help! We’ll answer questions, point you in the right direction with optional activities, sight-seeing, or tour extensions that will help you reach your goals. Just a quick call to 800.245.3868 will put you in touch with an expert Tour Consultant who will be happy to help you build a plan that ticks every box. 

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