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The specific promotions described in this article have now passed, but it remains online so that the resources named will be of future use to travelers.

For many years I spent summer weekends on a houseboat thinking that it was the closest thing to relaxation nirvana. The houseboat owner had rules -- no cell phone, lots of great food and no drinking while driving. Days were filled swimming, fishing, sunbathing and water skiing and nights were spent enjoying barbeques, fine wine and music. If this sounds like the kind of getaway you are after, grab a bunch of friends (or your family) and rent a houseboat on one of the dozens of navigable lakes across the U.S. You can also rent houseboats for down river adventures (e.g. Mississippi) and some sea-based vacations (Florida). You may be surprised by the affordability and availability of comfortable floating homes and it's an ideal way to take in the scenic beauty of some stunning countryside.

The Houseboating.org (tel. 888/454-8825; www.houseboating.org) website features rental opportunities across America, with boats available on all of the most popular lake destinations including Lake Powell (southern Utah), Lake Mead and Lake Mohave (Nevada /Arizona), Lake Shasta and Trinity Lake (Northern California), Lake of the Ozarks (Central Missouri), Lake Amistad (Southern Texas) and Lake Cumberland (Kentucky). The site gives you information about everything from the size of the lake and water temperature to noteworthy geographical feature and the number of marinas.

On picturesque Lake Powell this spring or summer, if you choose to start small and inexpensive, you can rent a 44' Explorer that sleeps ten people (with one bathroom and shower) for the following rates, the first price listed is for the spring and the second is for the summer:

  • Three days: $1,020/$1,360
  • Four days: $1,298/$1,730
  • Five days: $1,467/$1,956
  • A week: $1,654/$2,205

That works out to less that $24 a day per person on a longer stay in spring (plus the cost of fuel). A tax of 6.525 percent is applied to all rentals and national parks mandated fees including an environmental surcharge and an infrastructure fee apply to all trips booked on Lake Powell.

At the other extreme, if you are after luxury and seeing Lake Powell in style, consider a 75' Odyssey which features top-notch amenities and features that you'd expect to find on a cruise ship, not a houseboat. It boasts six queen sized beds, two fold out sofas and four bathrooms with pricing to match. A week on this luxury boat will set you back $10,495, but on the plus side you can share this cost with up to 18 people.

Of course there are several other classes of houseboats in between the Explorer and the Odyssey, plus the following special deals:

  • Reserve a 53'/54' Adventurer or a 59' Discovery for 2006 and get a special package deal with a 19-foot speedboat added to your rental
  • Rent our 53'54' Adventurer or a Standard 59' Discovery series houseboat at the published rate for five days or more, and your final houseboat fueling will be free
  • Rent a houseboat of any size from Wahweap or Bullfrog Marina and get a 19-foot powerboat at up to 40 percent off the regular rate.

Lake Cumberland is one of the country's top house boating destinations. Here, bigger is better and you can rent a 60' Deluxe (sleeps eight), a 77' Presidential (sleeps 12) or an 80' First Lady (sleeps 12) (we always new that the first lady had more clout than the president!). Prices start at $1,494 a week on the Deluxe until May 25, 2006 and peaks at $1,995 from June 30 to August 10, 2006. A weekend (two nights) will set you back between $795 and $1,195 depending on the season. The First Lady ranges in price from $4,495 to $7,195 for a week's rental.

Forever Houseboats (tel. 800/255-5561; www.foreverhouseboats.com) is currently offering the following special on its selection of houseboat rentals:

Get a jump start on the summer and beat the crowds. Rent a 56' Forever 10 or 59' Deluxe Houseboat between June 6 to 17, 2006 with a five-day midweek or seven-day houseboat getaway and save big bucks off the regular rental prices:

  • Lake Amistad: Save $300
  • Lake of the Ozarks: Save $500
  • Lake Mead: Save $600
  • Trinity Lake: Save $900

Houseboat Rental Center (www.houseboatrentalcenter.com) is a great resource for an abundance of rental opportunities across the U.S. Canada and the world. You can sign up for a free e-mail newsletter to get the heads up on special offers and deals or just use the site to book a houseboat getaway by destination. Unfortunately here, like most other boat rental websites, you have to make your bookings by phone. On the plus side though, the website links to various independently owned marinas and provides photographs and detailed layout plans of individual boats for rent. Prices aren't displayed though and you need to fill out a rate request form online.

One of their featured suppliers, Ebel's Voyageur Houseboats, offers houseboats for rent on Kabetogama, Namakan, Sand Point, Crane and Rainy Lakes in Minnesota. Book before May 31, 2006 enjoy a 10 percent discount on all rentals after August 16, 2006 or save 20 percent on rentals after September 14, 2006. During the month of September all midweek four-day rentals are priced at the same rate as three-day rentals.

If a lake vacation isn't exactly what you are after, maybe a houseboat rental in Southwest Florida would be a perfect alternative. The islands of Sanibel, Captiva, North Captiva and Cayo Costa off Southwest Florida offer the beauty of the Gulf with its white sand beaches, abundant wildlife and picturesque towns. Bluewater Vacations (tel. 239/839-7368; www.bluewatervacations.com) offers luxury rentals in two sizes -- the 37' Sports Series that sleeps six and the 41' Cabin Yacht that comfortably sleeps ten. They can also provide you with sea kayaks and a fiberglass dinghy. Prices start at $1,545 for three-nights on a 37' boat $2,295 for six-nights. The 41' house boat rents for $1,845 for three-nights and $2,595 for six. Additional days are $300 each on either boat size. There is also a $150 docking charge for the night before you leave.