Other London hotels may boast views of the Thames, but only one place will actually put you on the river itself: the soon-to-launch Sunborn London, a gleaming, nearly 400-foot-long black-and-white super-yacht. Opening this July in a once-industrial section of the East End, surrounded by towering black-metal shipping-container cranes, the five-deck Art Deco-tinged Sunborn will channel the glamour of cruising’s golden age. And while neither yachts nor London hotels are generally known for the size of their sleeping quarters, the Sunborn will prove an exception, with 138 spacious guest rooms and private terraces off some of the cabins.
But why float when you could just as easily remain on terra firma? Well, bragging rights for one. And then there’s the novelty of it: there are precious few floating “boatels” in the world. Most of all, staying aboard a boat leaves you with the feeling that your ship really has finally come in. Here, some of our other favorite floating hotels around the world.
The sole floating hotel in Copenhagen made its maiden non-voyage a few years back, opening on a canal in the city center. The 12-room spot has a streamlined but warm Scando-chic style, with classic vintage Danish fixtures and furnishings, walls of windows overlooking the water and the skyline, and an expansive sundeck.
(Courtesy: Hotel CPH Living)
This former transatlantic Cunard cruiser—christened by the UK’s King George V in the 1930s—may be the world’s first boatel, docked since the 1960s in Long Beach, California, just down the coast from Los Angeles. Its nearly 350 rooms, restaurant, and bar retain a healthy dose of Anglophilia, with an exhibition devoted to Princess Diana, daily high tea, and a lounge named for that great gourmand and consummate drinker, Winston Churchill.
(Courtesy: The Queen Mary)
This clean-lined houseboat-style hotel is made up of six two-story buildings that float on pontoons off Sweden’s western coast, on the island of Tjörn. Salt & Sill’s 23 rooms have a decidedly maritime-meets-Ikea feel, while the restaurant’s cuisine celebrates Sweden’s culinary traditions, with abundant herring and shellfish. Best of all: there’s an adjacent (and also floating) sauna and spa.
(Courtesy: Salt & Sill)
Originally built based on the submersible from The Hunt for Red October, this themed floater now pays homage to the Beatles—apt enough, given that it’s docked in Liverpool, England. It can sleep up to eight, but you must book it in its entirety, no matter how big your party.
(Courtesy: Yellow Submarine)
A few summers back, this last of Ellis Island’s century-old ferryboats served as a retro-fitted B&B stay, floating in the Hudson River, off Hoboken, New Jersey, and bookable through Airbnb. After Hurricane Sandy, the 150-foot ship had to move, and the brightly hued, bohemian-feeling five-bedroom stay is now docked in Brooklyn’s Red Hook district, awaiting its next incarnation. Stay tuned.
After ill-fated plans to turn this ex-Cunard cruiser into a hotel at the Palm, Dubai, the ship is now reportedly bound for China, where, after a $90 million refit, it will become a 400-suite stay at an as-yet-to-be-determined Asian location. Our money’s on Macau, the Las Vegas of the Far East.
(Courtesy: The Queen Elizabeth 2)
Currently based in Rome, Boston-born, New York-bred Andrew Sessa is the former senior travel editor at Departures magazine and a former editor at Town & Country. He now contributes to the pages of Afar, Architectural Digest, Departures, Robb Report, Town & Country, and Travel + Leisure, writing about travel and hotels, food and wine, architecture and design, art, culture, and fashion.