First time on a houseboat / How houseboating works
Before you start choosing a specific houseboat and route, it's a good idea to have a general understanding of the steps involved in booking a boat, what it's like checking in to the houseboat at the marina, what to expect from the on-site training, where to moor, what type of insurance is best and what staying on a houseboat is actually like. So, take a look at our guide and tips for first-time houseboaters.
Complete guide to booking a houseboat: what to expect
Are you about to go houseboating for the first time and want to know what the booking process is like? What documents you will or won't need, what insurance is recommended for a boating holiday or what a refundable deposit is for. Read on for our comprehensive overview.
Chartering a boat without a skipper's licence
Yes, it's true — you don't need a skipper's licence to drive a houseboat on European rivers and canals (although there are a few exceptions). In general, houseboats can be rented to people without the need for a boating licence. Before you set off, you will be briefly trained at the base marina on the rules of navigation and the use and maintenance of the boat after which you will receive a permit to drive the houseboat for the duration of your charter.
However, there are a few places where a skipper's licence is required — these are mainly areas where navigating and operating a boat is more challenging and therefore for more advanced captains. In Berlin and Potsdam, for example, a boating licence is required — the SBF Binnen or sports boat licence). Similarly, a licence is also required for the Saarbrücken–Apach section of waterways in France. If you are unsure whether a licence is required in your chosen destination, please contact our sales staff who will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
What is included in the price of a houseboat rental?
Boat rental includes all the necessary equipment (see inventory sheet for specific items), a full gas tank (13 kg), initial instruction on how to operate and steer the boat, accident assistance throughout the trip (during opening hours), captain's book, boat insurance and loss insurance.
What is not included in the price?
Meals, transport to the location, engine fuel, gas and lubricating oils associated with the operation of the boat, river map, trip cancellation insurance (optional), one-way cruise surcharge and other optional services. In some destinations, you will receive a river map free of charge from us when you book your boat.
Booking and paying the deposit
Once you have selected a suitable boat, you will receive a confirmation of the reservation for this boat under agreement with us. This initial reservation is non-binding and is held for 3–7 days. For a binding booking, i.e. the conclusion of a contract, a deposit of 40–50 % of the charter price is required. The remaining balance should be paid ten to six weeks prior to departure and once paid, we'll send you all boarding details and information about the base no later than 14 days prior to departure.
What is the purpose of the boat security deposit and how much is it?
The refundable deposit is paid in euros (cash or card) directly at the port (base) just before departure. If you hand back the boat in good condition, i.e. clean, without damage, at the agreed rate, at the agreed time and place, and with a full inventory, the charter company will refund your money. The amount of the deposit varies from €300 to €3,250 depending on the type and size of the boat. Some companies also require a cleaning deposit or a fuel deposit. To make sure you don't lose the deposit, we recommend taking out deposit insurance when booking.
Houseboat insurance, deposit insurance and cancellation insurance
The boats, including equipment, are insured against any possible damage. The insurance also covers damages caused to third parties, with the deductible for these damages covered under the deposit. The insurance does not cover the lessee's personal belongings and the lessor is not responsible for their loss or damage on board the boat unless the loss or damage is caused by the negligence of the lessor or their staff. We, therefore, recommend that you take out standard travel insurance before cruising, trip cancellation insurance in case you are unable to take part in the trip, and deposit insurance to protect your money in the event of damage to the boat or its inventory.
Taking over the boat and embarking
Prior to your trip, you'll receive a document from us which will give you information on all the transport options to the embarkation point (car, train, plane). The ports or bases vary in size and there will always be staff there to help you embark. These people are also at your disposal at all times.
It takes about 15 minutes to complete the check-in formalities — signing the charter contract, paying the deposit, ordering optional services and, in the case of a one-way cruise, booking the transfer. At the base, you will also receive a folder with technical information about the boat and you can purchase a river map with a guide containing tourist recommendations in the chosen location (shopping options, restaurants, museums, etc.). You will receive the captain's book with technical information directly from us before you leave.
Take a look at this video to see what a houseboat holiday is like: