Robby, a dad with twins on the way, spent his family’s savings on an electric boat. He hoped this would allow him to create a life that would support his family, while sharing his love for Amsterdam with travelers from around the world. Six months after buying his boat, Robby’s main focus is running his Airbnb Experience, Amsterdam Experience Cruise, multiple times a day. Continue on to read his inspiring story.
What did you do before hosting this cruise?
I used to install security cameras full-time and the work wasn’t always great. At the same time I would always go sailing with my friends through the canals of Amsterdam and we loved it. It was so calming and relaxing. Amsterdam is so beautiful. My friend Sebastian worked in catering on a boat cruise and encouraged me to buy a boat. We both wanted to do something new.
I thought, should I do this? My wife was pregnant with twins and I thought I really wanted to do something else, something more meaningful. I also wanted more time to spend with my family.
How did you get started?
In the beginning we had a very hard time and we had no money at all. Then, very unexpectedly, my twins arrived two months early. Our whole world was upset but we never gave up–giving up is not in my vocabulary.
I started with a hop-on-hop-off kind of cruise. But we wanted to make this bigger, something more. We wanted more for our customers and we didn’t have a ton of bookings. Six months ago, my father in-law, who has used Airbnb on so many of his trips, said to me, “Robby, Airbnb also has experiences now. Let’s make this an experience!”
And as an Airbnb Experience we could make our customers our friends. We could share why Amsterdam makes us so happy with them.
I still have my camera business but because it is so incredibly busy with the boat, it is almost impossible for me to run. There’s so much to run behind the scenes!
Can you tell me about your first experience?
I was so scared before my first Airbnb experience. I couldn’t sleep the night before! My friend Sebastian was going to help me that day and he also couldn’t sleep. We wanted to do everything right. And we woke up and it was a wet, rainy day. We have a roof on the boat, so we can still go on the cruise, but the roof hides the views we wanted to share with our guests.
When the guests showed up we gave them the option, they could come on the cruise but that we also would understand if they didn’t want to come along with us because of the weather. It was up to them. They were great––they still wanted to take the cruise. And we had a lovely time. We told them all about Amsterdam and we talked about our lives. We had a lot of laughs. We thought the cruise went really well but we still were nervous about getting their reviews.
When I found out we got a 5-star review from them we were so happy! We popped open some beers to celebrate. And that night I went to sleep and woke up the next day with more bookings, and we’ve had more and more bookings every day since then.
How have you grown and do you have any advice for hosts that want to grow their experience in this way?
In the beginning, I ran this experience with the help of my friend Sebastian. This soon became too much and it was important to me to keep the quality high and always consider the safety of my guests. Safety is our number one priority. So I have help from three co-hosts now. They prioritize safety, too. If you look at the reviews, you’ll see everyone is happy.
If your guests feel safe, the cruise will also be good. If everything is okay on your boat, people will love the experience. You have to keep in mind some people cannot swim, some people are afraid being on the water. We have to do everything to make people to feel comfortable on the boat. We let our guests know that we check the boat and all our safety equipment, like life jackets and fire extinguishers, thoroughly every week.
What do you do if anyone is being disruptive or not following your safety guidelines on the boat?
We take them aside and we talk to them. We do let them know that if they don’t behave we have to take them off the boat. The other guests have also paid money for a nice cruise and we want everyone to have a good time. Normally, when we talk to them, we’re able to keep them calm. We give them some attention and maybe a snack.
What you think about other similar experiences in Amsterdam that are similar to yours, How do you feel about other hosts that also offer a cruise?
We all have our own businesses and I think it’s okay to have competitors. It makes you keep the quality high. And you know, we work together because on the water, you also have to work together. Many times you see other boats having a problem, and we help each other all the time. I still try to be the best, and if you look at my reviews you can see how much my guests love my cruise. We want to do everything right. If you come in the boat, you will see that everything is right. Everything has to be perfect.
You have such great reviews, can you tell me a little bit more about what you have learned from your guests and reviews?
I talk to my co-hosts all the time about how we can change the cruise. We always take advice from our guests and we listen to them. Some people wanted to know more facts about the buildings they see on the cruise so we added that in. We always want to make it better and better.
Sebastian is very good at bringing people together, I do not always know how he does it but he always makes sure that people enjoy themselves. There are guests that want his phone number before they leave!
One time we got a 2-star review and whenever we get less than 5-stars I always send a message to the customer and ask if they can help me solve the problem for them. We want things to be the best for future guests and we always want to learn from our mistakes.
Some guests told us the cruise was really nice but they had a feeling they did not fit into the group. We realized it was also really important for us to make people feel like they connect in the group. Sometimes we have people that are not comfortable with the rest of the group. So we take them with us and maybe we spend more time with them and talk to them about Amsterdam. It’s funny because sometimes most of the group will just really get along and talk to each other. So if some of the guests feel left out, you can have them talk to the captain. We explain everything about Amsterdam and try to make sure everyone feels comfortable. It can sometimes be difficult!
That’s great advice. So if you have a group that’s not gelling together, you can take a few of those people and make them special.
Exactly. It’s really funny because sometimes have guests that are traveling and they meet each other and hit it off. Sometimes they even continue on their traveling through Europe together. You’ll even find people of different ages and different backgrounds get along. They hit it off and it’s really nice to see.
What’s next for you and your experience?
I have something exciting to share with you. I just bought a new boat!
My friends said to me, I really want to do a cruise on a saloon boat. You know what the saloon boat is? A saloon boat is a boat from the 1930s. I just bought a boat from 1932. It belonged to a doctor. It will be more of a luxury boat. I want to give people a luxury experience but for a good price. I want everyone to experience a luxury cruise.
Do you have an inspiring hosting story to share? Reach out and let us know and we may feature you in an upcoming article!