The Cote d’Azur or French Riviera, as it is known the world over, is one of the most popular resort-filled destinations for the summertime Mediterranean yacht charter. Many of the charter industry’s largest, most expensive luxury yachts visit the city of Cannes each May so that charter guests can mingle with movie stars during the famous Cannes Film Festival. In many cases, the charter yachts are as impressive as the stars themselves, drawing onlookers along the docks from morning until night. Some people pay more than $1 million a week for the privilege of chartering a yacht to be a part of this crowd.
Of course, there are other options for yacht charter vacations on the French Riviera, many of them onboard more affordable yachts that visit Cannes during other summer months or that cruise right by on their way to the famous cities of Antibes, Nice and Monaco. There are also smaller ports of call with less crowd congestion that you can meander around and explore, places like the charmingly colorful Villefranche-sur-Mer and the historic stone city of Eze.
Antibes is actually as interesting for yacht-spotting as Cannes, what with the city boasting the largest yacht harbor in all the Cote d’Azur. You can walk down a single dock during any week of the summer and see billions of dollars worth of luxury yachts, many of them available for charter to the world’s richest and most famous. Nice is just as metropolitan as Antibes, with both an old town you can explore as well as new high-rise resorts along its stretches of white-sand beach. Monaco—a small country unto itself known as a tax haven for millionaires and billionaires—is perhaps best known in terms of yacht charter as the place where you can go ashore to play in the Monte Carlo Casino as if you were James Bond himself.
On the quieter side of the French Riviera, you can enjoy coastal towns such as Villefranche-sur-Mer, which is just a few miles Nice, French Rivieraeast of Nice but is a world away in terms of culture. The bay at Villefranche is one of the deepest in all of the Mediterranean Sea and thus draws larger ships, including cruise ships, but the town itself is quaint compared with places like Nice and Antibes, so your charter yacht captain can arrange for you to arrive long after the crowds have left and the charming streets will be yours alone to explore.
The town of Eze is also near Nice, a short cab ride away from the coast. Your charter yacht captain can arrange for you to enter its medieval walled-village shops long after the typical tourists have left there, too, so that you can chat with the local shopkeepers just like U2’s Bono, who owns a villa there.
Canal Charters in France
You may not think of inland waterways when it comes to yacht charter destinations, but the truth is that along the canals of France, more and more barges are beginning to offer cruising vacations with amenities and service that are up to the same standards as charter yachts in other parts of the Mediterranean. This is in large part thanks to some former yacht owners and charter yacht crew who are renovating French canal barges so that they can offer the same quality of cruising vacation experience in Wine Country that charter yachts offer along the Cote d’Azur and beyond.
Bordeaux and Burgundy are two of the most popular French regions for canal charter, with one-way itineraries that allow you to sample all the fine wine and cuisine for which both regions are known. A typical day onboard a luxury canal charter includes cruising through pastoral green countryside, wandering through the stone streets of centuries-old villages, and touring everything from historic castles to goat cheese farms along the way. There are of course winery tours, as well, where you can taste everything from the most sparkling Burgundy whites to the deepest Bordeaux reds.
Canal charters are routinely offered as self-drive barges, which are do-it-yourself boats much like bareboat charter yachts elsewhere, and hotel barges, which come with full crew just like a luxury yacht and allow you to simply be a pampered guest while the staff cares for you and runs the boat.
Most crewed canal charter barges have samples of your chosen region’s best wines onboard, too, for nights when you would like to sit in comfort onboard your own chartered boat while tasting some of the best foods and wines that come from the region each year. Your boat’s chef will typically be well-versed in recipes that highlight France’s top produce and meats, so you will be able to enjoy complimentary food with your chardonnay or chablis. With just six or eight guests onboard some of the larger crewed barges, the experience can feel like a private gourmand tasting with all the comforts of home. And you can dine onboard every night of the week if you decide you prefer it to touring the wineries themselves.
Inland canal charters are also an excellent option for anyone who wants to try yacht charter but has concerns about going from island to island in ocean waters. Charter barges in Bordeaux and Burgundy are never more than a few feet from shore, and you have countless opportunities every day to step off the boat and go for a walk or a bike ride along the paths that typically line the canals themselves. Whether you’re a wine lover or a sightseer, a do-it-yourselfer or a crewed charter guest, there is a canal barge charter in France that our experts can help you book to suit your personal tastes.