These two words are sometimes used interchangeably, and it’s no wonder because a barge is a riverboat. However, not every riverboat is a barge. Confused? Let us explain:
1. Flat bottoms (No, not that bottom!)
Both barges and riverboats have a flat bottom. They’re both built for travel on inland waterways like rivers and canals, which aren’t deep and don’t have waves like the ocean.
2. Narrow build
It doesn’t come as a surprise that both barges and riverboats are long and narrow. Riverboats, in general, are longer and somewhat less narrow. They have a more box-like profile: a long rectangle, while barges have more traditional curved shapes, revealing their historical uses as cargo ships.
The barges used for Boat Bike Tours were originally built to carry cargo on canals and rivers. The riverboats we use were built for one purpose: to carry passengers comfortably along the waterways.
The barges we use have, of course, been thoroughly renovated to carry passengers instead of cargo. Generally these vessels are small, carrying a maximum of about 40 passengers. Many are quite a bit smaller, with room for only about two dozen guests. Riverboats, on the other hand, can carry 100 passengers or more.
5. Luxury and size
Riverboats are generally more luxurious than barges. They often have multiple decks and sundecks, extending higher above the water. They are wider and bigger in general than barges.
6. Slow travel
Barges generally travel more slowly than riverboats, for a maximum experience of the region. Because they are smaller and more maneuverable, they’re more easily able to offer opportunities to disembark so you can explore your surroundings spontaneously on foot or by bike.
Which should you choose?
Now that you know the differences between barges and riverboats, which should you choose? That depends entirely on what you’re looking for. To travel with an intimate, friendly group, where you’re most likely to get to know your fellow passengers, choose one of the smaller group trips on a barge.
If what is most important to you is the level of luxury and amenities, you might like a riverboat better. You’ll be with a larger group, but the ship will still have a friendly, casual atmosphere.
Either way, your trip will be a fabulous combination of beautiful scenery, pleasant cycling through natural reserves, countryside and towns, good company and excellent food.