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Meanderer: a family-owned barge in France

Meanderer hotel barge
ABOVE: Meanderer on a canal of the Upper Loire. INSET BELOW: Meanderer in a lock, and the newly redecorated lounge.

Meanderer in French canal lock Independently-owned hotel barges are thin on the ground (or maybe we should say "the canals") these days, so we were intrigued recently when we heard about the Hotel-Barge Meanderer, a former Belgian cargo vessel that offers luxury cruises in the Upper Loire region of France.

Meander lounge photo Meanderer was converted into an upscale passenger barge in 1992, and its current proprietors--George and Susan Kovalick--have owned the vessel since 2007. They've upgraded the vessel with such features as flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi Internet access; other amenities include CD and DVD players in each cabin, an outdoor Jacuzzi, and a bicycle for every guest.

The 125-foot (38m) barge has three cabins, with five crew members to serve a maximum of six passengers. Voyages begin every Sunday from April though October, and the barge is available for whole-boat charters as well as conventional cruises. For more information, visit Meanderer's Web site at meandererfrenchcanalcruises.com.

April bargains: On March 13, we received word that Meanderer has opened two voyages in April, 2010 for individual bookings and is offering its remaining cabins for US $2,500 per person, based on double occupancy. The fare reduction of nearly 50 percent applies to Meanderer's April 18-24 and April 25-May cruises.

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