A must-do this summer: an Amsterdam canal cruise on a private boat

There is, many aficionados of the Dutch capital would argue, no better way to appreciate Amsterdam than from the water – especially now that the tourist boats are currently out of the running. 

A few good friends, something delicious to eat and drink… what could be better than gently motoring through Amsterdam’s waterways on a summer afternoon? And now that the city is still largely in the hands of its locals, you can really appreciate the beauty of the 17th century city centre from its never-ending network of canals.

If you don’t own or have access to a boat, or are visiting the capital for a day or two, there are various rental options on offer. And if you don’t fancy steering the boat yourself, then check out the private boat rental Amsterdam has to offer.

Starboard Boats, for example, is currently offering a 90 minute cruise for up to 10 people, with unlimited beer, wine and soft drinks for €195. The boat is electric which makes for a quiet cruise as well as an environment-friendly one.

‘Our boat can actually take 20 people comfortably, but we’ve cut this to 10 in order to comply with social distancing regulations,’ says head of operations Timo Haaker. ‘And it goes without saying that the boat gets a through clean in between cruises, and the skipper is behind a screen. The boat is also easy to access, so you don’t need to be helped to get in.’

Family visits

Amsterdam’s main canal ring has been a Unesco world heritage site since 2010. The city has over 100 kilometres of canals, crossed by 1,500 bridges and bordered by hundreds of listed buildings, ranging from elegant town houses to churches and even the odd windmill or early industrial site.

There is always something new to catch your eye. So a private canal cruise is not only a great way to treat yourself, but makes a great excursion if friends and family are visiting, now that the restrictions on travel are being lifted. After all, an electric motor boat is a much gentler way to get to know the city than a commercial canal cruise with its taped commentary and plastic cups.

‘We try to offer a personal touch,’ says Timo. ‘It is all about making our passengers happy. We believe in quality not quantity.’

And if you want to give something back to the city as well, you can also take part in the monthly plastic fishing trips to help keep the waterways clean – something which is particularly popular during company team-building events.  The plastic waste which is fished out is handed on to partner company Sharepack which turns it into everything from office lamps and children’s toys to souvenir key rings.

Make an occasion

The Starboard Boats team also offer catering, such as a luxury Mediterranean lunch or a dinner – even a birthday cake if your guests or you are celebrating.

So what about the weather? Well you don’t need to worry if it rains, because the boat has a partial roof which you can shelter under should it turn nasty, and you can still get great views. And if you are cruising in winter, there are even heated cushions to keep you cosy.

Cruises usually start at the company’s offices on the Herengracht but the route itself is flexible, so if you have specific wishes, the team will do their best to take them into account.

‘I like to go down to the Amstel so you get a bit of a river feeling and then into east which is lovely and green,’ says Timo. ‘We can go past the zoo, so if there are children on board they can spot the elephants and the giraffes.

‘But the western islands are fascinating as well, and not somewhere that people often go. And of course, the red light district is completely different at the moment. It is so quiet without any tourists that this is a rare opportunity. It really is worth a visit.’

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