Backwaters previews 2019 Cruise-Tour Holidays to the Heart Of France

Specialist operator increases day-cruise offering with the introduction of short breaks and themed itineraries exploring France’s network of hidden inland waterways from £395PP for a two night trip

The chance to explore off the beaten track French antique shops with TV’s antiques guru Michael Hogben; discover the beers of the Artois with an expert beer sommelier and an ornithological focused cruise taking in some of the Somme’s best birdlife spots are just some of the highlights of Backwaters’ 2019 programme.

New itineraries for 2019 include a series of special interest holidays with themes including: ornithology, wines, antiques, music. They will feature alongside a selection of popular itineraries from last year’s inaugural programme, which explore the hidden rivers and canals of France’s heartland. Prices lead in at £395 per person for a scenic three-day Mother’s Day cruise on the River Somme with time to enjoy historic Amiens. The price includes two-nights B&B accommodation in Amiens at the three-star Holiday Inn, cruises each day with lunch on-board, travel and transfers.

Backwaters is pioneering a new and inventive sub-genre of cruising on the smaller-gauge waterways of France not accessible to conventional river-cruise vessels. Its new-build vessel, Natalia, is configured not as hotel-craft but as a day lounge so that passengers can cruise the narrower canals and rivers in comfort, with a supporting coach offering excursions to the great châteaux, vineyards and other high spots and also doing the local ferrying between boat and hotel.

For its 2019 season, Backwaters plans to operate most of its no-fly tour-cruises in the heart of Burgundy, but it will start the season with a few weeks exploring the River Somme and Canal de St Quentin before its boat continues south for the summer. The Company’s development plans provide for another boat to be built for permanent operation on these northern waterways from 2020.

Highlights of next year’s programme include two week-long trips hosted by antiques expert and TV personality Michael Hogben, who regularly features on the BBC One’s Bargain Hunt and ITV’s Dickinson’s Real Deal. The Classic Nivernais Antique Breaks will depart on 7th July and 29th September 2019, and will cost £1,650 per person for a week’s all-inclusive cruise exploring the scenic and secluded Canal du Nivernais in the rural heartland of Burgundy, with excursion time spent exploring the antiques shops of the area. The tour includes all travel and transfers, excursions, full board and seven nights’ accommodation at the family run three-star Hotel Normandie in the historic city of Auxerre. Michael will be on hand throughout the week to offer the benefit of his own 35 years of experience of fine art, antiques and collectables.

Beer lovers will enjoy the Easter getaway beer themed cruise on the scenic Canal de St Quentin in North France with beer sommelier Cheryl Cade. The seven-day trip showcases the beers of the Artois with brewery visits and on-board tastings as well as free time for guests to spend in Reims, Laon and St Omer. Overnight accommodation is based at the perfectly situated three-star Ibis alongside the Basilica in the centre of St Quentin. Departing 16 April, the price is £1,225 per person and includes all travel and transfers, excursions, full board and six nights’ accommodation.

Other options include:

Birdsong in Spring: an early season three-day short break cruise on the River Somme hosted by a professional nature guide and featuring visits to local birdlife attractions. Departing 25th March, the full board trip costs £445 and includes overnight accommodation at a three-star hotel in Amiens and transport, transfers and excursions.

A Remembrance Cruise on the Somme: a four-day trip featuring guided visits to nearby battlefield sites and memorials with three-star accommodation in central Amiens. Departing 6 April, the price is £545 for a full board programme including travel, accommodation and transfers.

A Gourmet Cruise from Aisne to Champagne: A peaceful 6-day trip along the canals which link the valleys of the Oise, Aisne and Marne, finishing in the great city of Reims. This 6-day full-board tour-cruise includes fine dining a la carte at the lakeside four-star Qualys Hotel at Lac d’Ailette and costs £1,175

Champagne Voyage down the Marne: a week long itinerary offering a rare chance to explore the heart of the Champagne region by cruising nearly 100 miles of the Marne between Epernay and Meaux, with visits to the Mercier Champagne House and overnight accommodation in Chateau-Thierry. Departing 1 May, the seven-day cruise costs £1095 per person for a full board programme including travel, accommodation and transfers.

Natalia’s licensed capacity is 55 although company policy is to restrict numbers to around 40 to ensure plenty of on board space. It is the first boat of its scale in the world to have been designed and fitted with modular hybrid diesel-electric engines enabling it to cruise silently for six hours. The boat has just been shortlisted by the Guild of British Travel Writers for their European Award in the Responsible Tourism category.

Most Backwaters’ tour-cruises are for one week and the pace is so gentle the boat is invariably within easy commuting range of the same hotel throughout. With the hotel stay comes that bit of extra space, freedom and choice that regular hotel-boat cruisers are denied.

Unaccompanied travellers may find the Backwaters cruise option especially attractive. Although hotel single occupancy supplements are passed on as additional to the holiday price, they are typically less than £200 for the week and compare favourably with the much higher supplements that usually apply to lone occupancy of on-board double-cabins.

For the full programme, more information and to book visit or call: 01303 263 422.

About Backwaters

A sister company of Buzzlines Travel, Backwaters was established in 2017 to develop a new genre of integrated cruise/coach tour/hotel stay holidays on the European inland waterways network. It is led by Lynn Woods, a former RAF Squadron Leader, who in 1994 co-founded Adastra Software, which developed the core system used by the NHS 111 service. Having spent ten years discovering the delights of the canals and smaller rivers of France in his own barge he decided to develop a model of cruise-and-tour that would enable people to enjoy the French waterways at a leisurely pace for an affordable price.