First thing first- I booked the houseboat through hotels.com and this is the worst thing that one can do for 2 reasons. First, I was getting the same room, 3K cheaper elsewhere( and there is nothing called Best Price Guarantee, unless you are willing to shoot 3 mails daily, till you give up for lack of response) and second, Hotels.com books this houseboat with 'pay at hotel' option, something which hotels in Kashmir, do not take as confirmation. So do yourself a favour, and book through other websites like travelguru or ibibo where your credit card is charged away. This will save you from the headache of confirming the booking again and again.
Now, coming to houseboat- its a beautiful boat. We had got the honeymoon suite, which is the smallest boat and hence we had the entire boat to ourselves. The boat has 2 entrances- and for taxis, the one which is connected through land is the preferred way, instead of taking shikara all the way. But do note, that the lanes are very narrow, pot holed, dirty and there were majlis going on nearby because of which we had to take alternate way repeatedly as police was blocking the roads. You will get lost if you ever try to take the land route to the city, so dont try it in Srinagar. As it is, safety should be your prime concern while you r there.
Houseboat is at one end of Nigeen Lake which is approximately 6 kms from Dal Lake, near Hari Parbat. Please note, that many drivers coming from outside Srinagar are not aware of its location, and frequently lose their temper, though they will charge 200/- extra for these '6 kms'. Now, Kashmiri taxi drivers are the most rowdy ones which I have seen so far, and we met so many of them. We had tried to book taxi through Arshid, the owner's son, who kept on lingering till the last moment, before saying that he couldn't . And this happened twice- one for airport pickup and the other for Pahalgam pick-up. This was the most annoying thing about him otherwise, he is very polite and courteous . So even before I landed in the houseboat, I had misgivings about the main part of Kashmir trip. Thankfully, it didnt happen while we stayed at the boat. Even his father is a decent gentleman and well behaved.
Food, as almost everyone has already written is a huge issue, and if this has not been handled so far, it makes a bad impression about the management. We had ordered vegetarian meal, and for 2 consecutive days we were served the SAME food. Chapatis are horrible, but the worst part was that next day, the potato veggie was stinking. We never made any complaint about food during our stay, as we had found out that the caretaker, didnt take demanding guests too well, and we had 4 days to spend there. Besides, I was already prepared mentally, having read about the food quality on TA before booking the room. But in Srinagar, like all other hill stations, taking the breakfast with dinner option is the wisest thing one can do while booking room. As it is, for 2 nights, it rained heavily in the evening, after sweltering afternoons, and going out was not an option at all. Caretaker, Deen, was an elderly person, who did try to please us, even when we didnt demand anything and we have no complaints about him.
Hygiene is an issue in all Kashmiri hotels. We had the same towel for 2 days, though they were dirty. Carpets (a common feature) also needed cleaning, though the caretaker doesn't allow guests to wear shoes inside. They desperately need shampooing, or at least vacuum them
Modern bathroom, with bath tub was very clean, but there are no toiletries provided except one small bar of soap. There is some problem in the shower, so temperature was not consistent and even while on cold option, hot water was coming. Pressure is too less in the shower. Power cuts are common, and houseboat will run on emergency during power cuts. The good thing about the boat is that there 24 hrs hot water supply.
Now, there are many houseboats with Wangnoo name, we even saw Wangnoo Sheraton. This one is at one end of the lake, and they have 5 houseboats. Its the quite part, of already quite Nigeen Lake, and we were so glad that we didnt stay in Dal lake. In my view, if you are in Srinagar, you must stay in the houseboat,but in Nigeen Lake.
It takes 1 hr-1.5 hr depending on the traffic (and Srinagar is a dusty city with traffic jams) to reach airport, so please keep that in mind. Also, there are 4 levels of checking at the departure, so it makes sense to leave early. However, since we had left very early morning, we took around 35 mins to reach the gate.