What’s the most unusual accommodation you’ve ever stayed in? For some, hostels are weird enough themselves but for me, it’s usually the quirky AirBnBs that make my list and after my stay in Cartagena last autumn, I have to say that living on a boat now tops my list!
Choosing a boat for your accommodations can be a lot of fun, but it certainly comes along with its unique set of consideration. If you’ve never done so before, you probably also have no idea what it will really entail. Staying the night on a boat was not exactly what I had expected so here are some serious pros, cons, and points of intrigue I’d like to lay out for you if you’re considering the same arrangements:
Highly unique: As you can imagine, there aren’t so many people who can say they’ve lived on a boat and so choosing this sort of AirBnB is generally a new, exciting experience that feels special and unique. Hello prime storytelling material for later!
Feeling rich without actually having to join a yacht club: Who hasn’t dreamed of one day being so rich you could literally join a yacht club? Well, staying for a few nights on a boat gives you that feeling at a fraction of the cost. If you’re someone who likes to splurge on holiday and who gets a bit of a thrill from holding the keys to a very exclusive area, this is the perfect accommodation for you.
Awesome photo ops: I’d be remiss to leave out the fact that, in our Instagram-driven world, the photos you can get aboard your boat are priceless! Staying overnight on a private boat allows you many more opportunities to catch the best light (morning, noon, and night) as well as complete freedom to climb around and get the best angles without anyone else around. The struggle of cropping others out of your shot or feeling annoying to your tour guide disappear.
Many hosts will offer to take you on a boat ride for free or at a low cost: We, unfortunately, weren’t staying long enough to work in a boat ride but our host was more than happy to offer us a sail around the sea. I’m not saying this is standard practice, but quite a few AirBnB listings we’ve perused noted it as an option and, even if it’s not listed, it wouldn’t be an unrealistic thing to inquire about.
Gained insight into another lifestyle: Perhaps you’re considering one day being a sailor yourself or you’re just curious about other lifestyles. This was a fun (and not-so-overwhelming) way to get a taste of what life at sea could be. The unique vocabulary alone was like a cultural immersion in and of itself!
Sleeping like a baby: If you’re lucky enough to stay aboard in good weather conditions the consistent, calm rocking of the boat on the waves will remind you of a baby being gently rocked to sleep. However, choppier water and the location of your sleeping cabin could change this greatly (see cons).
Relatively comparable pricing (depending on location): Having first seen the option to rent a boat on AirBnB when looking for accommodations in Barcelona at New Years, I got the impression that this option was far outside our price range. However, when we came across it again in Cartagena (a far less sought-after port city) we found that pricing was quite comparable (approximately 60€ a night which was on the average-to-low side of other “entire place” options in the area). If you’d like this luxury experience at a fraction of the cost you’d expect, absolutely seek it out in less obvious destinations.
Somewhat claustrophobic: As you could easily imagine, this is not the best options for anyone who fears tight spaces. At the same time a boat accommodation will provide all the regular amenities of any other sort of lodging (bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, etc) it must be noted that everything is made a bit miniature and oftentimes sleeping quarters will require you to hunch over to enter or wander around. Also a good reason not to go with too big of a group or travel buddies you’re not completely comfortable with!
Potential for seasickness: If you are at all prone to motion-sickness, another important thing to prepare for is seasickness. Although you may imagine you won’t have any problems as your boat will be kept docked throughout your stay, the wake of incoming and outcoming boats in this enclosed area is actually much more likely to cause you seasickness than being out on the open water. Pack some dramamine just in case!
The noise of ropes will keep you up at night: Obviously, you need to be tied up to the dock somehow and this is done with thick, sturdy ropes. What you might not realize, however, is that these thick ropes get awfully loud as they rub up and down or the boat gets pulled closer and further to the dock with each wave. If you at all have the option, choose the sleeping quarters located in the part of the boat furthest away from the dock. In our particular case, the ‘master bedroom’ was located at the back of the boat (where it was tied up), so we started there but only got about halfway through the first night until we switched to the secondary bedroom at the other end. The noise was still noticeable but it thankfully didn’t keep up awake from there.
The (irrational) fear that you’ll get flooded, unhooked, etc: I have to admit that, even though our host properly warned us and explained that there was no need to worry, as someone without overnight boating experience, I was constantly worrying that something would go wrong. Each time I heard water pulsing through the boat, I imagined we were taking on water and going to sink. When the water got particularly choppy (especially at night) I feared we’d somehow get unhooked in the storm and wake up adrift, uncertain about how to use the radio and unable to explain where we were and that we needed help. Of course, none of these things happened (or were even plausible, to be honest) but you’ll likely have some of the same irrational thoughts.
Location in a marina can add another half hour to your journey into and out of town: It must be said that, although harbors are often located in central areas, having to walk through the marina and out to/from your boat will likely take longer than you realize (especially because you’ll likely drive in upon arrival). Keep this in mind when deciding when to leave for a scheduled event, how much to walk throughout the day, when to take bathroom breaks, etc. It seems insignificant at first, but after one day of going out for the day, coming back to the boat, and going out again in the evening we realized it was tiring us out more than simply staying out the extra few hours.
Points of Intrigue
The quantity of things to be explained / remembered: I struggle to put this point as either a pro or a con because it is not inherently positive or negative, but simply something to keep in mind. When we arrived at our boat AirBnB it was late, we had had a long journey, and we were hungry. If I could do it again, I would be sure to avoid all of those circumstances as our host was extremely (and necessarily) thorough in his explanations about how the boat worked and this therefore took approximately 45 minutes to get through! Once you know what you’re doing, it’s not so bad but there are so many little things that are set up differently and/or require more steps on a boat than in a standard AirBnB so there’s a lot to remember.
The cubbies: As a first example, all of the cabinets, closets, etc are actually more like ‘cubbies’ that should be locked at all times. On our boat, each handle was actually a button that needed to be pushed in for the handle to pop out, the cubbie then opened up, and we were meant to close and lock them again as soon as we were done. 90% of the time, it’s not a big deal if you forget, but if a strong wave comes along when a cubbie is open, it means that everything will spill out.
The bathroom situation: Assuming your AirBnB boat is docked in a marina, you will likely have the option to use the marina toilets and showers but this will probably require a bit of a trek and so we personally opted to use our own facilities. This required being well-versed in how to open up the toilet valve before using it, then properly pumping the contents away, and close up the valve. When it came to showering this essentially meant turning the entire bathroom into the shower as there is no specific section blocked off for this (and everything in the bathroom, aside from your belongings, is waterproof). We found that it was best to use one bathroom only for showering as the floor and walls would stay wet for a while afterwards as, even though there’s a pump to remove the water built-in, this often took a while to do.
The cooking situation: If you choose to stay on a boat, I highly recommend staying in and cooking onboard at least once! This was a really fun experience as it gave us insight into what it might be like to actually live out at sea. The structure of the stove and oven themselves was the most fascinating to me—both were built on a hinge so that they could rock counter to the rocking of the boat, ensuring safe and upright pots and pans regardless of the waves, genius!
There are probably a million other intricacies of the boat accommodations that I could go into but I think this list is already long enough. If there are specific inquiries you still have, feel free to drop them below and we’ll do our best to answer them! Happy boating!