Couch traveller: We’re dreaming of fabulous floatels

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How about a bit of escapism for a bank holiday Monday? Shayna Sappington navigates some of the globe’s best water-loving hotels

Fingal Edinburgh

Launched in 1963, the Fingal used to ferry supplies to Scotland’s lighthouses, many of which were engineered by the Stevensons, of Robert Louis fame. After the vessel’s retirement, the Royal Yacht Britannia Trust invested £5 million into her conversion from maritime workhorse to luxury hotel, opening last year. Its 23 cabins are named after each of the Stevenson’s lighthouses, while its vintage grandeur – Art Deco and Neoclassical inspired design, coupled with all mod-cons – makes it a cinch for milestone celebrations. Cabins from £220.



Port x Prague

Designed by the award-winning Atelier SAD, Prague’s Port X is a swish river capsule in the hip and happening Holesovice neighbourhood, known for its unique architecture, art galleries and trending restaurants, and just 20 minutes from the historic capital. A clean and contemporary aesthetic features throughout the houseboat (which caters for up to four persons), with a spacious, open-plan living area overlooking floor-to-ceiling-window views of the Vltava, the Czech Republic’s longest river. Houseboats from €212.


Off Paris Seine

Docked centrally on the Quai d’Austerlitz, this boatel harbours magnifique modern suites, a sun terrace, plunge pool and a bar and restaurant with live music and weekend parties. Embark on a Seine cruise from the boatel’s private marina or – more affordable – dine on Breton oysters, ceviche and crab rolls from the “La Mer à Boire” menu, which runs seasonally from June until October. Cabins from €100.



Good Hotel

“Stay good, do good” is the mantra of this admirable 148-room enterprise, which trains long-term unemployed locals, stocks suppliers from small, local businesses and donates profits to help educate children from low-income families. The result is a beautifully designed and affordable accommodation option, which was literally shipped from Amsterdam to London’s Victoria Docks in 2015. London City Airport is just an eight-minute DLR ride away, while Canning Town Tube stop is within a 15-minute walk. Cabins from £65.


Belmond Afloat in France


Offering upscale, private charter river cruises throughout France, Belmond Afloat – from the same stable as the Venice-Simplon Orient Express – comprises seven boats across different routes. Book a cabin for two on the Belmond Napoléon, travelling from Tain-l’Hermitage to Avignon, or the Belmond Hirondelle, from Châlons-en-Champagne to Epernay. All cruises include curated itineraries – truffle hunting, hot-air ballooning, wine tasting – and have bicycles on board for day trips. From €5,080 per passenger.


Boat-Hotel de Barge

This characterful, 22-room boutique boatel is housed in a large, retired barge docked on the Bruges-Ghent canal in Belgium’s Centrum district – one kilometre from Bruges central station and 500 metres from Minnewaterpark, a gorgeous lakeside park. The hotel’s true hero though is arguably its restaurant, The Captain’s Table, which serves contemporary cuisine with an emphasis on fresh seafood. Cabins from €99.



Queen Mary Long Beach

Launched 23 years after Titanic, the Queen Mary was the luxury cruise liner’s superior in every way: bigger, faster – and it didn’t sink. Star-spangled guests during its golden age include Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Winston Churchill and JFK, except during WWII, when it served as troopship. While you are aboard its current iteration as a three-star, 347-suite boatel, learn more about its construction, celebrity ties and its apparently haunted past during a guided tour of historic exhibits, model gallery, engine room and 4D theatre. Cabins from $102.


SWEETS hotel

More a network of floatels, SWEETS is made up of 28 different bridge houses across Amsterdam. For a century these structures have housed bridge keepers in charge of opening bridges for frequent boat traffic. Now automated, they’ve been converted into lodgings to help preserve the city’s past. Each unique suite has been smartly designed and beautifully decorated, and although space is minimal (suitable for just two people), the canal views are unbeatable. Houses from €100.


The Covington Inn

This nostalgic towboat has been afloat the Mississippi River since 1946. No longer a cargo barge, however, The Covington Inn in Minneapolis-St Paul welcomes guests as a bed and breakfast these days. Its three storeys contain four staterooms, each with deck access, while owner and Minnesota native Liz Miller welcomes guests with her quintessential Midwestern hospitality, offering advice on local haunts – theatres, museums, shops, eateries and breweries – in nearby downtown St Paul, a food and cultural haven. Cabins from $165.

Header photo courtesy of Belmond Afloat in France. Above, photo of The Covington Inn, courtesy of Visit Saint Paul

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