When your 7 year old mini-Dutchie whispers in your ear “this is the best thing in Amsterdam” and its exactly what you’re thinking…
When your Dutch husband who misses the place like crazy returns for the first time in 5 months and sits back in wonder as Amsterdam glides by looking more beautiful than its ever looked…
When you realise that you started your blog to uncover experiences exactly like this…
That’s when you know that Pure Boats Amsterdam is the best recommendation you can ever make to prospective visitors to the city, knowing they are going to fall in love with Amsterdam, with Pure Boats, and almost certainly with each other if they’re lucky enough to cruise the canals with this amazing operation.
Yesterday it was our turn, and it was a bucket-list experience for us all.
Let me tell you more…
In all my years in Amsterdam, I’ve never taken a small private cruise. I’d always looked longingly at the boutique boats navigating the quieter canals and dreamed of one day getting on board.
And so this week we had our chance, and we went to the best of the best.
Pure Boats started last year and rapidly rose to the number one spot on TripAdvisor for “Best Outdoor Activities in Amsterdam” – no small feat in a category with some serious competition .
Run by the wonderful James (an Isle of Wight native and classic boat designer who relocated to Amsterdam 13 years ago) and his incredibly lovely and personable Dutch girlfriend Geertje (who effortlessly – and responsively – deals with the bookings and marketing) they set up Pure Boats with a crystal clear vision:
We love to make your Amsterdam canal cruise the highlight of your stay. This means we will do (almost) anything to make your Pure Boats experience just the way you want.
And it’s true.
What’s more their ethos ticks all the boxes for us by being:
And best of all high end but laid back.
The boat is a classy affair – this is no hen night booze cruise. Rather it is fitted out to an incredibly high spec – the seating is luxurious, the woodwork lovingly cared for and everything from the on-board blankets, to the glorious fresh flowers, the cushions the food and extras are the best of the best. The boat itself is 100% electric so as well as being an unbelievably peaceful way to travel its also a zero-waste enterprise. Add to that an approach to working with local businesses best described by them:
From our gin and our beer to our snacks, if it’s not local we most likely do not serve it. By going local, we believe we can provide you with the best experience possible. Because this way you can not only see, but also taste Amsterdam!
Most importantly Pure Boats make their guests feel utterly at home. Geertje told me they want people to feel like its their own boat, and they pull it off with panache. You feel their passion for customising trips – be that food, ambience, personalised stops according to your interests, a dip in the Amstel river (!) or more. And by the way, for an onboard Amsterdam proposal these are THE guys to work with!
Want a commentary pointing out the city’s highlights? You got it. Want to pretend you are all alone in this city of dreams? The captain (James or one of his excellent and experienced employees) will silently steer to hidden hotspots allowing you to enjoy an unforgettable couple of hours on the canals.
The boat which James has lovingly crafted seats up to 12 guests. Best enjoyed in the open air, it also has heating and a roof for cooler evenings as well as an extensive on-board bar and snacks (more of that later).
Book it out in its entirety or book a seat or two. Everything is included in the incredibly reasonable price.
So what of our trip?
We wanted to see whether it would work for families and let me tell you the answer is a resounding yes! We were three generations on board: Marc’s mum (a lifelong Amsterdam native whose family heritage dates back to the Amsterdam of the 1600s). Marc and myself (the lone foreigner on board!). Our sons the mini-Dutchies: 8 year old Oscy and 7 year old Zacy. And finally the boys’ beloved 3 year old cousin, our gorgeous niece Nina.
Beforehand, Geertje was in regular contact to ensure we had all the info we needed. Indeed we later discovered that if it rains they are unbelievably accommodating with regard to rearranging or cancelling bookings – something that once again underlines what a classy operation this is.
We boarded at the Keizersgracht – an easy to find spot where the boat was waiting and we were greeted warmly by Geertje and James who helped everyone aboard.
Once we were settled, the bar was opened immediately as James pulled away. For kids the choice was overwhelming – Dutch favourite Chocomel; orange, apple and pear juice; fizzy drinks, ginger beer and still and sparkling water as well as a lovely glass water dispenser with fresh mint water.
For adults, seasonal and local craft beers; a variety of red, white and rosé wines as well as cava; liquors including organic rum, and Dutch vodka and whiskey; and for parties or celebrations they will provide champagne.
Zacy got stuck into the Chocomel and, as it was only ten in the morning, we also enjoyed the non-alcoholic options.
As with everything Pure Boats, the whole experience was presented with style and class. The cut glass tumblers glinted in the morning sun but there was no sense of the kids having to be careful or on best behaviour as they were welcomed sincerely and treated like special guests.
Then there was the food platter. Fresh local snacks presented with effortless charm. From mini stroopwafels and kaas vlinders (literally ‘cheese butterflies’, but actually typically Dutch crispy cheese palmiers) to olives, charcuterie, cubes of Dutch cheese, grapes, dried apricots, bread sticks, walnuts, biscuits, cherries and more we snacked in style as the boat whispered its way through the canals.
And Amsterdam too rose to the occasion. The city was glittering on this glorious sunny morning. James steered us past the highlights and down hidden waterways, past swans and ducks which the kids were invited to feed. Past terraces and canal houses, churches with bells ringing and boat-based friends who called out their hellos.
Had the children needed life-jackets, Geertje was happy to provide. Toilet stops – no problem. Even colouring-in although with a view like this the youngsters onboard were too bewitched to consider other entertainment.
Eventually our magical morning came to and end. It is no exaggeration to say that we were all enchanted. Every one of us found the experience to be beyond compare and all of us are already planning our next Pure Boats trip.
For 8 year old Osc it would be a King’s Day spectacular – dressed in orange joining in the wild city celebrations from the water for once rather than the crowded city streets.
For Jenny, my lovely mother in law perhaps the classical musical Grachtenfestival. A summer night when a pontoon is placed in front of the Pulitzer hotel with musicians onboard and small boats pull up alongside for “last night of the Proms” Dutch style.
For Marc, maybe a birthday treat – James and Geertje are working on their newest boat, a stunning 36 seater with sunbeds and toilet onboard, perfect for cocktail parties and events.
But for me, I declared that my wish was for a romantic follow up. Our anniversary falls just before Christmas when Amsterdam’s light festival brings the canals and bridges to life and I imagined snuggling up under those cosy blankets with a hot drink onboard the boat of dreams – the perfect way to celebrate my love for Marc and this incredible place of his birth.
And there’s an update… Because as an extraordinary surprise for our 10th wedding anniversary a few months later that’s exactly what happened. Unbeknownst to me, Marc arranged for James to meet us in their newest boat and invited 10 of our closest family and friends on board for a magical evening. It deserves a whole other post in itself. The food and drink was superb, the boat was gorgeous (with inside and outside seating), the Light Festival was magical and we sailed into our next decade in unimaginable style.
Even if you are a visiting Amsterdam on a budget, forget splashing out on that fancy dinner, stay slightly further out of the city, but do whatever it takes to get yourself on board this wonderful boat. I absolutely promise, the memories will last a lifetime.
Now, we always knew our blog was the ultimate guide to the best Amsterdam has to offer but recent events got us wondering if former President Obama had perhaps been having a sneaky read. You see Barak was in Amsterdam recently for just 24 hours and we were beyond thrilled to see that he had checked out some of our top recommendations. Not only did he head to the wonderful Ron Gastrobar Indonesia in Ouderkerk for lunch and the superlative De Kas for dinner, but of all the dozens of boat companies he chose for a private cruise, guess which he opted for…. You got it!
Nice picture James!
You can contact James and Geertje via their website: https://pureboats.nl