Hotel boat holidays

Hotel boats are one of the best-kept secrets of the canals. Step on-board for a unique opportunity to enjoy the delightful scenery and relaxing pace of the waterways, without needing to cook meals or drive the boat.

The Edward Elgar, run by English Holiday Cruises, at Holt Fleet Bridge on the River Severn The Edward Elgar, run by English Holiday Cruises, at Holt Fleet Bridge on the River Severn

Like hotels on dry land, each hotel boat has its own distinctive character and charm. Shop around to find one that suits what you want from a holiday.

Size of boat

If you like the idea of a more intimate break, some hotel boats are run similarly to a small B&B or homestay, accommodating just one or two guests who share living space with the owners.

Larger boats will have a number of cabins for separate groups of guests. Some are run in the same way as a traditional cruise holiday, with optional excursions during the day, sit-down dinners and evening entertainment.

Inside the Kailani Hotel Boat cruising southern England Inside the Kailani Hotel Boat cruising southern England

Meals and things to see

Meals are usually freshly prepared on the boat, by a chef or the owner, leaving you free to relax and watch the views. You might also have the option of a picnic, afternoon tea or cocktails.

Any hotel boat that is cruising, rather than being permanently moored, will give you the opportunity to stop off at places of interest. You'll also benefit from the knowledge of the owners or crew, who may be able to tell you about the local area, wildlife, the history of the boat and the waterway you're on.

Routes

The cruising routes a hotel boat does will depend on the size of the boat. Smaller craft can take you onto narrower canals, whereas bigger boats will stick to rivers and wider canals. However, all will offer something different, from visiting cities to more peaceful stretches of water.

(Photo: The Wessex Rose cruises the Kennet & Avon and Grand Union Canals and the River Thames)

The Wessex Rose cruises the Kennet & Avon and Grand Union Canals and the River Thames

Depending on the waterway the boat is on, you might have the choice of a circular route or a journey with different start and finish points. This gives you the chance to travel further and see something new every day.

Moored hotel boats

In canals running through major cities, you may find static or permanently moored hotel boats. Here you can enjoy the ambiance of staying on a boat, knowing you’re free to get off and explore the area whenever you like.

Want to find out more? 

We're encouraging more hotel boat operators to add themselves to our boating directory, but you can also search online for 'hotel boat holidays UK' and 'canal and river cruises UK'.

Before you book, make sure your chosen operator has a Canal & River Trust business licence (it might be on their website or you can just ask). To receive a licence, businesses have to prove to us that their boat is in excellent condition, that they have the correct insurance, that they're trained to drive the boat safely, and more.

Another good quality mark to look out for is accreditation from VisitEngland or VisitWales, who assess accommodation and award a star rating of one to five.

Looking at previous guest reviews, either on the hotel boat's website or an independent holiday review site, will give you a better idea of what your holiday will be like. You’ll usually be able to see images and possibly video tours of the boat on the website or on social media.

Last date edited: 21 September 2020