A lot can happen in 50 years, and for Waterway Houseboats it’s mostly been waves of fun.
The houseboat company, started in 1968, will be celebrating their 50-year anniversary this summer.
Owned by the Vinje Family from the Shuswap, since the 1970s, Waterway Houseboats only began with a few small boats. A stark contrast to the fleet the company has now.
Neil Millar, chief operating officer, says boats from the past were unsophisticated and small in contrast to the 30-person boats that sit on Shuswap Lake today.
“We have bookings now from all over the world, but our primary bookings are in Western Canada and the northwest states,” said Millar. “We get people from everywhere, Great Britain, Russia, Australia, the Netherlands, a sprinkling from all over.”
Millar says the company has evolved greatly over the years both operationally and in the houseboats themselves.
“We put a lot of effort into making sure our guests have their best vacations ever,” he says. “Our operations department implements a quality assurance program for all of our houseboats and we truly believe in quality over quantity.”
Improvements include experiences such as the Cruise Director, which allows guest access to a free trip planner to help organize their vacation. As well, the company launched a new Waterway app with features such as a map locator, booking options and a list of area activities.
While Waterway has improved their boats and the experience, many who book are often happily surprised to find that house boating has become so advanced and even a bit posh.
“They figure it will be like those first houseboats if they have never been, they are surprised how nice it is,” Millar explains. “They often say, ‘this is nicer than my house,’ and while luxurious they are very functional.”
Although some guests might be shy to get in the captain’s chair of these new houseboats, Millar says it’s not a worry.
“The beauty of this lake is it gets very fast offshore, so if you run the houseboat up on the beach you don’t have to worry about the prop hitting anything,” he says. “They don’t go fast, the lake is big, so it’s easy to manoeuvre and we give people a course.”
Last year, Waterway Houseboats was also named Sicamous Business of the Year for 2017 as the local company supports several area charities and events.
To celebrate the golden anniversary, Waterway Houseboats is giving away 50 items to represent 50 years, including ski vacations at Silver Star Mountain, a refund for a group who went house boating in 2017 and a free trip for this year. One of the trips this summer will include a luxury houseboat vacation where the group will also get to attend Roots and Blues, where it was just announced that Michael Franti will perform.
Waterway House Boats is also throwing a May long weekend party where the Canadian band Trooper will play for a good time, not a long time.