Captain your own little boat through Europe
CLOSE your eyes and imagine slipping gently along, skippering your own boat on the Canal du Midi in southern France, exploring the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Pause along the way to taste the local food, savour the wines, visit medieval villages and take in the glorious scenery.
Now open eyes and start to plan, making your dream holiday a reality.
Australian company Cruise Traveller is offering the answer for a perfect boating holiday.
"Locaboat is suitable for all adult ages, and the leisurely pace of the whole product makes it a very relaxing experience," managing director Craig Bowen said.
"If you have even basic boating experience it will be easy, however even as a first-timer the operational side of the vessel is extremely simple.
"The instructions made available by the departure base are excellent, and the written information provided is comprehensive.
"I'm in my late 50s and I found the experience not only straight-forward, but one of the most enjoyable, relaxed and great value holiday experiences I have had," he added.
Locaboat is a long-established French company that owns a fleet of 380 top-quality Penichettes and canal boats.
It offers 200 different cruises to enjoy in 24 regions across Europe.
You don't need a licence to steer these fully-equipped and certified craft around and through canals and waterways.
All equipment, crockery, cutlery, bed-linen and towels are supplied, along with gas bottle and a captain's handbook.
"You'll receive boat handling instructions and orientation on the departure day to make sure you understand essential cruising rules, which are pretty simple," Mr Bowen said.
In case you are concerned, technical assistance is available every day.
You can hire a Locaboat from 642 Euro per person twin share for seven days.
That price is based on a Penichette P935W in France, ideal for a couple.
Larger Penichettes are available for bigger groups with a P1107W from only 243 Euro per person for seven days, based on six people.
There are multiple departure dates and bases to choose from.
"The itinerary is up to you. You're the skipper," Mr Bowen said.
"The Canal du Midi is a prime prospect; it's near the heart of the Camargue, an amazing region on France's Mediterranean coast, famous for its wildlife, white horses, black bulls and pink flamingos.
"The Canal du Midi is also close to the Etang de Thau and its fantastic oyster beds."
Every part of the journey is exceptional such as the area around Carcassonne with its towers and battlements complete with fortified towns of white stone and historic villages like Trèbes and Puicheric.
Medieval villages, Roman churches, abbeys and isolated monasteries; all of them can be visited from the self-drive canal boat.
Across France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland your self-drive boating holiday will be punctuated by beautiful landscapes and charming towns, castles, wine cellars and historical sights.
In France, options include Midi and Camargue, the Southwest, the Lot Valley, Brittany, the Ardennes and Alsace-Lorraine, Burgundy and Saône, the Loire and Nivernais.
In Germany, Müritz and Mecklenburg beckon, or Brandenburg and Berlin.
Another choice is the Netherlands where you can cruise either north or south Holland.
Cruise Italy's Venetian Lagoon where the great renaissance maritime city of Venice crowns this enclosed bay of the Adriatic Sea in northern Italy.
Poland's Masurian Lakes offers countless lakes dot verdant, undulating landscapes, embellished by villages, tracts of forest and thriving farms.
Green Ireland's Shannon-Erne Waterway with its 16 automatic locks, provides a delightful latticework of rivers, canals, lakes, islands and villages where visitors should pause for at least one pint of Guinness.
For information on all the self-drive boating holidays, go to www.cruisetraveller.com.au or call 1800 507 777.