What is Private Charter:

As a hotel boat our 'private charter' service is very different to traditional hotel boating. Private Charter takes the good points of "Hiring" a narrowboat and combines them with the good points of going on a "traditional" Hotel narrowboat cruise - but avoids some of the pitfalls of traditional hotel boating holidays. Firstly here's a brief description of the those better known types of canal cruising holiday options.

The Hireboat Option:

With a hire boat, you are on holiday with people you want to be with (probably - no jokes about married couples please). You choose your route, and where you stop each night. It is self catering, so you do all the cooking (and washing up) yourselves - but you do have the option of pub grub at some of the mooring locations. You do all the boat handling yourselves, along with any required lock duties - whatever the weather. You will probably be able to bring family pets, and of course your children. You will be 'doing your own thing' and if sharing the weekly hire fee between more than one couple or family it can be a very cost effective option. But be aware that most hire companies charge extra for all the diesel/gas used (we make no additional charges for any of our cruise costs). If there are only two of you, by the time you add in the fuel costs, the hireboat option is generally more expensive than a fully catered hotel boat cruise (hotel boats usually have lower overheads). There are some good quality hireboats out there, but there are also some fairly rough ones too - so do check what you are getting.

Traditional Hotel Boat:

With a traditional hotelboat (as opposed to our Private Charter option) all of the boat handling and locking will be done for you. All meals are included within the tariff and generally speaking the quality of the catering will be good. You will be joining other guests on a predefined cruise route over a set number of days. The cruises (and therefore overnight mooring locations) are planned as a schedule usually more than one year earlier (so there is little scope for any of your own 'planning'). You will not normally know in advance who your fellow passengers will be (or even their gender or age group). Meal menus have to be fairly standardised (although some variation to suit dietary needs may be included). Traditionally typical hotelboat guests tended to be of pensionable age (perhaps having lost a life partner). A cruise with all services laid on - and the prospect of meeting new friends was an understandably attractive option.

Remember that most hotel boats are 'narrowboats'. You will be sharing the dining, lounge, and sometimes toilet facilities with these other unknown guests (although you may well befriend them during the cruise). The ratio of the number of guests compared to the size of accommodation may be an issue. It's not just the available space for bedrooms, it's also how do you (as strangers) all fit in the dining and lounge areas. If you come across an objectionable guest in an ordinary hotel you can always sit away from them in the dining room - in a hotel narrowboat??

Willow's Private Charter Hotel Boat Option:

Either of the above two options may suit your own personal equirements very well. There are some very good operators in both fields.

But we offer a third, more unusual, option for a canal cruising holiday. To help you make an informed decision the main points of our private charter service are:-

More on Cruise Routes & Duration:

We have a selection of hotel boat cruise itineraries to suit, whether it's a three day short break or a full weeks cruise. To see a detailed list of suggested cruises - go to Routes.

More on the Food:

We are, of course, a fully licensed Hotelboat and provide high quality full-board accommodation. Even before you arrive you will have completed our questionnaire to find out your food likes and dislikes. As to what you get for 'full-board' - Option of Full Scottish Breakfast, or lighter alternative should you wish; A light lunch to suit the weather, and that particular days cruise; Two course evening meal, with complimentary glass of wine; and finally pre-bedtime hot drink, if required.  Mid morning coffee & biscuits and afternoon tea & cake (or perhaps scones). Teas and coffees etc are available throughout the day, just as and when you fancy.  Of course some clients have very hearty appetites, others prefer a lighter diet. Whichever - we will endeavour to suit your preferences. Remember our tariffs are for full-board, with no hidden extras.

Do a Little or Do a Bit:

When it comes to the actual cruise, we the crew will do all of the boat handling, and authorised lock work - if that suits you. That will allow you to you just to sit and relax in our all weather bow observation cabin, and watch the canalscape glide by. Some of the locks are operated only under the control of Scottish Canals (SC) staff. But SC do specify that each boat should supply crew to assist their staff at locks (they are quite big locks). We are specifically authorised by SC to operate some of the large Forth & Clyde locks independantly of SC staff - so should you wish to be active at locks, you can be part of our crew, and actively assist - it's your choice. Of course you may wish to be active when it suits, but equally relax when it suits (like if it starts to rain).

Choose other things to do:

Of course you may have other preferences - walking - visiting attractions - bird watching (we've even had a book editor who just wanted the peace to work).  Some may wish to use Willow as a holiday base and explore further afield by car or rail - perhaps a combination of cruising and static accomodation at the Falkirk Wheel, or equally a cost effective central base for Edinburgh city attractions. Whatever the activity or preferences, it's your charter and so we will try to design your stay around your personal preferences - whether you wish to cruise a little or to cruise a lot - the choices are yours. There are no other guests' preferences to take into account whilst on your cruise. So when booking you can expect a few emails going backwards and forwards, to work out your holiday preferences. Do feel free to make an enquiry (without any obligation) to see what we can offer you.