DEREK Banks blames his mother for his lifelong interest in boats and boating. Derek, who runs barging holiday company European Waterways Ltd from his idyllic riverside home in Wraysbury, was packed off by his mum to work at Crevall’s boatyard in Old Windsor during each school holiday for every year between the ages of 13 and 18.
“I used to do everything around the yard,” he recalls, “and I learned a heck of a lot about boats and life on the water. It’s something I’ve always been interested in and for me, running a company which offers people the chance to get on the water while being extremely well looked after is just something I love to do.”
European Waterways is the largest all-inclusive barging company in Europe with a fleet of 17 luxuriously-appointed boats spread across the UK, Ireland, France, Italy, Holland and Belgium.
The company has been trading for more than 35 years – in itself a tribute to the quality of the holidays on offer – and Derek makes no secret of the fact that European Waterways aims to attract the top end of the market.
“We are targeting people prepared to spend upwards of £2,000 for a week’s holiday,” he says, “but for that, they know they are going to get a wonderful experience.
“Each of our barges has a professional skipper and a first class chef who creates superb meals throughout the trip.”
Cheap it isn’t – but I’ve always been a believer in the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ and judging from my brief tour around Magna Carta, the company’s beautiful old converted Dutch barge which offers week-long trips along the Thames, you really are pampered whilst you’re a guest on board.
Gourmet meals, a stunning wine list, deluxe en suite cabins with underfloor heating and air conditioning, a beautifully furnished dining saloon and a hot tub on the foredeck are all part of the treatment. There are even bicycles that guests can use should they feel the desire to change the scenery every now and again.
Dominic Read, who skippers the Magna Carta, spent more than a year refitting the old boat creating one of the best-equipped barges on the Thames. He said: “It was a labour of love doing the conversion but we are delighted with the result and so, judging from their reaction, are our guests.”
European Waterways offers a wide variety of themed cruises including golf, antiques, wine and the theatre along some of the most beautiful canals and rivers in Europe.
For more information, visit their website at www.gobarging.com