What's better than a boat cruise that offers the chance to see your own city (or a brand-new one) from a different perspective? A boat cruise that offers the chance to see a city from a new perspective while enjoying a cocktail (or five). There's just something exciting about hearing the sound of a boat horn as you're whisked away from the pier with a cocktail in one hand and waving to all those landlubbers not as fortunate as you with the other. So whether you're guzzling rum with pirates, dancing to Dixieland jazz, or sightseeing on a remote island, here are eight of the best booze cruises the country has to offer. All aboard? Say aye.
Argosy Cruises boasts an entire fleet of ships plying the waterways of Puget Sound, but perhaps the most memorable is the four-hour excursion to Blake Island State Marine Park, which follows in the footsteps of legendary Chief Seattle. Passengers will be welcomed with a traditional Native American clam nectar appetizer and smoked fish. On board, expect towering views of Alki Point Lighthouse and a full bar serving up local Pacific Northwest craft brews. And on land, enjoy a floor show featuring tech-enhanced Native American storytelling inside a cedar longhouse, followed by an excursion to the lush rainforest environs of Blake Island.
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No rundown of booze cruises would be complete without the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise. They provide expert docents to entertain guests with surprising stories about landmarks, including the Tribune Tower, Wrigley Building, and Michigan Avenue Bridge. Book the Twilight Cruise on Chicago’s Fight Lady, a 1,200-passenger vessel with open-air decks and granite fixtures. This daily excursion offers cocktails as the light filters down and opens your eyes to a whole new view of the city.
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Did somebody say bottomless mimosas? This weekend brunch cruise in San Francisco is worth rolling out of bed for. You’ll understand why as soon as you get a close-up view of the Golden Gate Bridge under the soft morning light. The Empress Hornblower vessel, which features sun decks, brass chandeliers, and rich mahogany bars, offers all the free-flowing liquor of a party cruise coupled with brunch that includes giant chocolate-covered strawberries.
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With its cheerful red and yellow sails, this 45-foot banana-hued catamaran has become such an iconic part of the local experience that it was featured as a playing piece in the Waikiki-themed Monopoly board game. Departing between Moana Surfrider and Duke’s Barefoot Bar, this 90-minute cruise, which sets sail four times a day, takes guests past the Diamond Head volcano while the captain plays a conch shell and dances to island tunes. It’s nearly impossible not to get in high spirits on this classic party boat, as $45 gets you unlimited mai tais, rum, vodka, sodas, and more.
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If you find yourself in Boston, hop aboard the Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships, a pair of 125-foot gaff-rigged wooden schooners. With a variety of day cruises, the pirate in you might opt for their signature Rum and Revelry tour, a 21-plus rum-soaked nightly bacchanal. This immersive experience will have you hoisting lines like an old salt, taking a turn at the wooden helm, or standing on the deck feeling the breeze whip your hair like mariners of yore. Cruise under the Charlestown Bridge and past North End, Fort Independence, and the Boston Harbor Islands while costumed buccaneers serenade you with “Blow the Man Down.” The signature drink: A Dark ‘n’ Stormy, featuring Gosling’s dark rum, ginger beer, and lime. You’ll also have the opportunity to indulge in a tasting of several local rums.
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New Orleans waterfront visitors can’t miss the Dixieland jazz pouring out of the Steamboat Natchez, which runs every day from the Toulouse Street Wharf. Built in 1975, the Steamboat Natchez is the last authentic steamboat on the Mississippi River. Lunch or dinner cruisers can nosh on homemade beignets as well as sip on an array of traditional NOLA cocktails from the full bar. Bottoms up to the signature Sazerac while snapping photos of the colorful mansions in the French Quarter and taking in tunes from a Gilded Age steam calliope.
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Only 90 miles from Cuba, Key West feels about as far away from the U.S. as you can get without a passport. Experience the Margaritaville that Jimmy Buffett once sang about on the Pelican, an intimate 41-foot catamaran with room for just 20 guests. Departing from the historic Key West seaport, you’ll see the street performers in Mallory Square and Fort Zachary Taylor state park while enjoying unlimited sangrias, wine, and Sebago’s signature peel-and-eat shrimp. Get your camera ready as the captain unfurls the sails and positions the boat perfectly underneath the sun-streaked sky.
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There’s an array of options when it comes to a three-hour sail around Manhattan, but Classic Harbor Line always comes out on top for passengers looking for an impressive view of the Statue of Liberty, Governors Island, and Ellis Island. The company’s signature vessel, which launches from the entertainment complex at Chelsea Piers, goes by the name of Yacht Manhattan and was inspired by Gatsby-era commuter boats. With room for only 75 passengers, it offers a more intimate experience than the gigantic tour vessels. As you cruise through the harbor at sunset, enjoy champagne from a full-service bar. Or, opt for one of the wine cruises ($112), which offers vino pairings, tapas, and artisanal cheeses from Portugal, Chile, and Argentina.
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