We chat to Olivier Baudry, owner of luxury hotel-barge Alegria, who has been running cruises on the Canal du Midi for more than a decade.
FrenchEntrée: How long have you been offering luxury hotel-barge holidays on the Canal du Midi?
Olivier Baudry: It started in 2008 when I found Alegria, which was used as a house boat at the time. It was a new dream and a new challenge. Luxury hotel-barging was a perfect way to mix my love for barging and barges with my tour-operating and customer-care expertise.
FE: What’s so special about the Canal du Midi?
Olivier: The region is beautiful and the Canal du Midi is such an exquisite piece of history. The weather in the region is also very pleasant, being in the South of France.
FE: Do you need any special qualifications to run canal/river cruises in France?
Olivier: As the owner of your own hotel-barge you need to pass the usual River Licence, with special permission to steer boats of more than 15 metres. This is rather easy and gives you the right to be the Captain of your own hotel-barge.
FE: Are your guests mainly European?
Olivier: Our guests are mostly American, Australian and British. But we’ve had guests from Russia, South Africa, Brazil, Hong Kong…
FE: What are the most enjoyable aspects of running river cruises?
Olivier: The relationship with the guests. They travel aboard Alegria for one week, which gives us time to get to know and befriend them. Also, pampering the guests and seeing how happy they are while we cruise is very rewarding. Cruising along the Canal is always different, every cruise is unique, and I enjoy steering Alegria across the country.
FE: Describe a typical day.
Olivier: After a very generous breakfast the passengers explore the region, driven and escorted by a tour guide. They return to the barge for lunch, which is served on the deck. We then start cruising slowly while they are eating. We usually moor after three to four hours by a small village or along the Canal and stay there for the night… before another great day along the Canal du Midi!
FE: Any amusing anecdotes?
Olivier: One of our guests was cycling along the Canal. She looked at some birds in the sky… and cycled directly into the Canal! She gave her cruising partners – and the crew! – a good laugh.
The hotel-barge and accompanying business are for sale. For more details, click here.