Although not as famous for its waterways as Venice or Amsterdam, Manchester does have an abundance of lovely canals in which you can dump an unwanted shopping trolley or unfortunate murder victim. The amount of history in the city, and its links to Liverpool via the Ship Canal make it ripe for some posh bloke with a beard and a boat to slap up a website and start charging for trips. Here’s a round-up of what’s available so you don’t have to spend hours trawling through the web.
City River Cruises
Yes, they may be based in Liverpool, and yes, they may have a name that conjures up an absolutely terrible song – but Mersey Ferries have decided to concentrate on the importance of the Ship Canal and are now charging punters for passage between the two cities. From Salford Quays you can take a 6 hour trip down the 35 miles of canal – checking out the spectacular scenery and listening to a lively commentary. They’ll tell you the story about the rich history of the canal, as well as the two cities role in the industrialisation of the modern world.
To keep you lubricated there’s also a bar and snacks, should you get bored of nodding your head every few seconds pretending to listen. The only thing that is a bit annoying about this trip is the fact that when you reach your destination in Liverpool, it’s then a coach transfer back to Salford Quays. I’d call it underwhelming; driving down the dreary, grey M62, after such an enjoyable boat ride.
Tickets start at £42 per person
Manchester Water Taxi
Nice and simple this one – basically the people over at the Manchester Water Taxi (WAXI) in Castlefield will provide you with a fast vessel in which to travel from Castlefield to Old Trafford and The Trafford Centre. Just like them water taxis in Venice, the trip is light on information or tourist vibes but they will get you from A to B in relative comfort. So if your idea of hell is driving on the M60 over the Barton Bridge on a weekend, or getting on the 250 full of sweaty idiots talking loudly on their phones – then this is the option for you.
City Centre Cruises
Based in Castlefield and with two massive bloody boats, City Centre Cruises have loads of options for you to get yourself on the waterways and have a great time. The company offers both Private Hire options, and Scheduled boats with set events and times, and so whatever you’re looking for – you’ll be likely to find it. Booking privately you can take advantage of lots of dining options, a fully licenced bar, DJ & Karaoke options and plenty more to make sure your birthday party or hen party is as mucky as you want it to be.
With their Scheduled cruises they have some good options including MUFC Match day travel, a Sunday Lunch cruise, and even an Afternoon Tea Cruise where you can pretend you’re one of the aristocracy, eating small sandwiches and cakes while a flock of ducks take part in their mating season right outside the window.
As probably the most notorious boat cruise company in Manchester, Dry Barge offers punters a huge range of events and options in which to get absolutely rat-arsed while slowly gliding around the cities walkways.
If you’ve got a special event coming up – perhaps it’s your birthday, or you’ve managed to secure that massive contract at work, or you’ve just had the all clear from the GUM clinic – Dry Barge can host your event with a large selection of beers, wine and champagne as well as loads of entertainment options.
Their boat, The Bohemia, holds between 35 and 60 people and you can arrange for a buffet, DJ, Karaoke, strippers, probably even someone to walk around with a bowl of Smarties on their head if you asked. Check out their website for prices, and you can oddly buy yourself some Dry Barge hot pants – which I’m sure everyone would love as a special Easter present.
Manchester River Cruises
Although they don’t offer anything drastically different from every other River Cruise company here in Manchester, these guys have a great range of options for tours around the Ship Canal should you feel like growing a big bushy beard and trying out your sea legs.
One of their best tours is the dedicated Man Utd match day trip, taking you all the way from Spinningfields, right up to the Old Trafford front door, ready to watch a bunch of overpaid mard-arses get some more money to spend on gear in Flannels on a Tuesday afternoon. The journey departs 1 hour before kick-off and takes approximately 30 minutes – giving you plenty of time to grab a greasy burger on the way into the stadium. After the match, the boat leaves 20 minutes after the final whistle – which is great for avoiding the crowded Metrolink – especially if you’ve lost and everyone is sulking.
They also offer a wide variety of other, touristy cruises, from quick 45 minute rides around Salford Quays, right up to trips all the way to Liverpool down the Ship Canal.