If you have only been to Paris, then you have not truly experienced France. Sure, the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower may get you an Instagramable moment, but you won’t feel in your heart what France is truly about.

The same goes for cheese and wine. You haven’t truly tasted cheese and wine until you have devoured it close to its source, along the canals of the Alsace region of France.

The perfect way to really tour France (and really enjoy French wine and cheese) is on a luxurious French canal cruise selected just for you by Barge Lady Cruises. Step aboard my four-cabin, eight-passenger, six-star vessel and it feels like you’re aboard a floating club floor, where the scenery changes by the moment. Here, you will experience the best of France, topped off by service far above and beyond any other hospitality in the world.

Whatever you imagine this would be like, dream bigger.

When I arrived at theLa Nouvelle Etoile, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I stepped onto the barge and was greeted by the staff. Not just any staff; my personal staff for the week. I was sure I must be dreaming. Little did I know, this was the first experience of countless that would make me stop and say, “Pinch me” over and over again, even out loud.

Now, I have been a luxury travel expert for years, so I know what to expect for top-level service. I’ve seen it all.

Not this. The service on the La Nouvelle Etoilewas beyond what I ever thought I would experience in my lifetime. I learned that true luxury is not about a grandiose marble lobby, but rather small, customized, six-star (yes, six-star) moments throughout an experience.

Any fans here of “Below Deck,” the Bravo TV show? Well, there’s no “June, June, Hannah” on this trip. Your staff (saying that just doesn’t get old) will make sure your needs are not only met, but anticipated. My chief stew, Gabi, knew before we did that one hour before lunch was the ideal Bloody Mary hour. I have now brought this ritual home with me and practice it on the weekends as a “souvenir” of my trip. (I toast to Gabi every Sunday, and sometimes weekdays without the vodka!) Spot-on, anticipatory service is the highest mark of hospitality.

It’s no wonder celebrities and travel pros (even beyond me) choose to travel this magical French barge. The top 6 star French canal cruise in France. In the past, it has welcomed the movie stars, the Rockefellers, TV stars such as Doris Roberts and also famous authors like Ken Follett. The crew made sure I felt like a star myself.

What to Expect

This way to travel changed my life, my perspectives and how I understand luxury; it was worth so much more than words can define. Everyone’s itinerary is designed around their own wants and desires, so there is no one way to do a French canal cruise.

History and Wine

On my trip, wine was a high priority, since we were floating through the wine route of Alsace, France. Tasting the wine at its source was a treat, but meeting the actual winemaker was a highlight of our trip.

We stopped to participate in a tasting held inside a structure that has been used for winemaking since the 1400s, at the multi-generational Albert Seltz winery. In fact, our winemaker is the 14th-generation owner, who took over the business from his father in 1980 at only 19 years old. He’s now prepping his son to someday run the famous winery. Now, that’s the real deal, ripe with history and culture that you just can’t get in a regular wine tour.

The Albert Seltz winery takes seriously the creation of each bottle of wine, both in the past and in the future. Winemakers here take great care to preserve the earth that gives them their exquisite Grand Cru and other varieties. My favorite was the Sylvner Vieilles Vignes. Of course, I brought some home.

I also took home some new knowledge about wine. The winemaker taught me how to discuss wine in a polite way, referring to wine notes as if they were personalities. I also learned how to properly turn down a wine that doesn’t agree with me. Never say you don’t enjoy a wine, especially to the winemaker. Just reply that you don’t “understand it.”

Fine Dining 

Food was also an important component of my experience on the cruise. The food on La Nouvelle Etoile was as magnificent as a Michelin-star restaurant in Paris. Chef Louis is passionate about what he serves his guests, and he gathers fresh herbs from the on-board garden. While traveling, he continues to search for special ingredients (and cheese) to incorporate in the future.