All the luxury and amenities of a five-star hotel, with the added benefit of breathtaking new vistas each day: welcome to the era of the floating hotel. Also called ‘floatels’ or ‘boatels’, these are not cruise ships with thousands of passengers but stunning vessels that only accommodate a small number of guests.
Combine a luxury yacht with a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) and you have Guntû, a gorgeous floating hotel that navigates the serene, island-dotted waters of southwest Japan’s Seto Inland Sea. Award-winning architect Yasushi Horibe celebrates an understated Japanese design aesthetic with plenty of natural timber, large windows and clean lines. Each of the 19 wood-panelled suites comes with its own terrace, while some feature outdoor baths. For those without, there are two communal onsen-style baths on the second deck with large windows to enjoy the view. The priority here is relaxation and letting any stresses of life simply drift away, a vibe that is heightened with a traditional massage or sauna session in the onsite spa. Head to the sushi bar or Japanese restaurant whenever you like and the onboard chef will whip up a gourmet feast according to your personal preferences. Off-boat excursions include exploring local life around the Setouchi archipelago, from observing fisherman to attending seasonal festivals. End the day with a chilled glass of champagne from the third floor deck as the sun sets.
With award-winning architecture by Noor Design, gourmet cuisine courtesy of consultant chef David Thompson (the talent behind Nahm in Bangkok and Aaharn in Hong Kong), a bar menu from hipster cocktail designers Proof & Co, and a 1:1 staff to guest ratio, Aqua Mekong is not your average riverboat. Guests can enjoy the passing scenery of the Mekong river from the air-conditioned comfort of the indoor lounge and bar, the pool deck or the sun deck (which doubles as an outdoor cinema), while each of the 20 suites feature full length windows and eight also have balconies. Also on offer are personalised onshore excursions to historic temples and cultural landmarks, hop into double kayaks to navigate the waterways, or explore the riverside bike paths winding through small villages and picturesque rice fields. There is also a private screening room, library and games room, spa, gym, and onboard boutique selling locally made items.
For a waterborne Australian experience, cruise the legendary Murray river onboard Riverdream Boatel. The swanky houseboat features five state rooms with outdoor access and large windows, but the Sky Lounge is the ultimate place to take in the scenery, with its two-storey wraparound windows. At night guests are enveloped by a canopy of stars, while nature also impresses at sunset, with vivid colours ranging from a pinky orange through to shades of purple depending on the season. Onshore excursions include lunch and wine tasting in the Barossa Valley, hot air ballooning, kayaking, fishing, bushwalking and paddleboarding. A personal chef is on hand to take care of all dining needs, while guests can also opt to create their own gourmet feast in the well-appointed kitchen or throw the day’s catch on the country’s favourite cooking instrument: the barbie.
Prana by Atzaró
Unleash your inner explorer onboard the stunning Prana by Atzaró, the world’s largest phinisi (a traditional Indonesian two- or three-masted sailing vessel). Prana, measuring 55 metres, is two-masted and built of ironwood and teak according to traditional methods. This is where tradition ends though, with everything else heralding boutique five star standards, including its nine design-driven suites and four decks. For the ultimate experience, opt for the gorgeous upper deck Batavia master suite with wraparound windows and terrace affording stunning views from every angle. In addition to sailing remote pristine waters, there is diving, snorkelling, yoga, fishing and visits to deserted islands. More strenuous options include paddleboarding, kayaking, water-skiing and wake-boarding. To relax, sip on sundowners in the air-conditioned lounge or go for a facial in the Oasis Spa, followed by an evening of fine dining, fine wines and a movie under the stars. The bespoke seasonal itineraries include sailings to Komodo, the Banda Islands and Raja Ampat.