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Boating holidays have become both more accessible and more interesting, so it’s no surprise that it’s fast becoming the hottest trend among experiential holidaymakers looking for something a bit different. We’re not talking about chartering a super yacht and popping bottles off into the sunset P-Diddy style (though we wouldn’t pass up on that opportunity). The arrival of companies such as Incrediblue – the Airbnb of boating, if you like – has challenged the idea of setting sail as being only for the super-rich, inviting you to make your maiden voyage from as little as £30 a night.
The common preconception of cruises as all bingo halls and disco balls is also being challenged. Independent companies are offering boutique boat trips in some truly interesting locations, such as the Norwegian fjords or Halong Bay in Vietnam. In a world where it’s increasingly difficult to find truly novel travel experiences, we’re pretty excited about throwing caution to the wind and straight into the sails. We’ve rounded up some of the most interesting boat holidays out there, in the hope that it will whet your appetite for a bit of sea faring.
Best seen from the water, Norway’s fjords cut through monumental mountains leaving crashing waterfalls in their wake. This post-glacial landscape is one of Norway’s best-kept secrets and has a range of companies competing for your business. The most no-nonsense way to travel is aboard a Hurtigruten ship where you’ll benefit from insider local knowledge and experience Norwegian culture at sea.
River Cruise, Myanmar
Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River conjures up images of Rudyard Kipling’s Road to Mandalay. A country that is gradually opening up to tourism, some parts have already become overloaded with sub-standard guesthouses and large tour groups – dodge the crowds and get to the heart of the country with a voyage aboard the Sanctuary Ananda. With trips ranging from three to 11 nights you can sail from Mandalay to Bagan, taking in the country’s finest sights while retreating each night to this Burmese-designed 20-cabin boat. It’s not cheap, but if you bear in mind you’re getting your whole trip in one, it’s not extortionate.
Whitsunday Islands, Australia
White dots scattered across an endless expanse of indigo; Australia’s Whitsunday Islands are the stuff of dreams. Aside from the pristine beaches, the abundance of wildlife and unrivalled snorkelling opportunities, the 74 islands are surrounded by the Great Barrier Reef, making for mirror-still waters. While luxury hotels abound, the islands are best appreciated by boat – though backpacker-thronged booze cruises tend to dominate the standard routes. Escape the crowds and the price tag of chartering your own boat by booking onto a three-day cruise with Whitsunday Bliss, where (if you can get over the naff name) you’ll be rewarded with en-suite rooms, catered meals and a BYO alcohol policy.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
The mythical landscape of Halong Bay makes it well worth the excursion from Hanoi. Limestone outcrops ascending from gentle emerald waters provide the backdrop for old-fashioned sailing boats drifting along in the warm southeast Asian air. Make the most of your trip and book with the best; Au Co Cruises offer the only three-day cruise in the region on their generously proportioned ship housing a dining room, bar, spa and sundeck to ensure you don’t get cabin fever. As well as revelling in the spectacular scenery and sunsets, visit a floating village, kayak, go squid fishing or trek around some of the islands.
Canal Boat, UK
UK canal routes offer up miles of scenic waterways, perfect for a slow-paced canal boat holiday where you take the time to appreciate the British countryside and its regional nuances, with plenty of stops for pub lunches and picnics along the way. With no experience necessary, just a bit of swatting up on the rules of the canals, rent your own boat and set off to explore whichever corner of the country’s 2000-mile network most appeals. High-end rental companies include Aqua Narrowboats in the Midlands and Breacon Park Boats in Wales.
Affordable Yacht Charter
While chartering a yacht may sound extortionate, Incrediblue is billed as the Airbnb of the boating world. Enter your dates, destination (hello there, Greek islands) and whether you require a captain (yes please) and a you’ll be presented with a range of boats to choose from. Book with a group and the cost often works out cheaper than a hotel, starting from as little as £30 per guest per night. Factor in an extra bit of cash for fuel, mooring fees and rum.
And if money really is no object…
Leading the way in luxury travel once more, Aman have launched their very own yachts in the Indonesian waters. Explore the volcanic isles of the Komodo National Park from aboard the unrivalled splendour of their beautiful double-mast yacht, Amandira, or Amanikan, their three-cabin cruiser. In true Aman style, the on-board facilities wow with plush cabins, bars and sundecks and an impressive staff-to-guest ratio. But be prepared to jump ship and go on the hunt for a Komodo dragon or try your hand at a spot of diving.
If you’re seriously in the money, the ultimate boating holiday is obviously chartering your own vessel, stocking it with shedloads of rosé, grabbing your best pals and sailing off into the sunset. Burgess have a fantastic selection of motor and sailing boats all around the world and can take care of whatever your heart desires – a spa, Michelin-starred chef, on-board cinema – so all that’s left for you to do is re-enact Lonely Island and T-Pain’s “I’m On a Boat” music video.
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