Charter boat operator switches to elegant dinner cruises
A charter tour boat operator that was down to zero business after tourists stopped arriving on cruise ships or staying at hotels due to the Covid-19 pandemic, has found a new market.
The Excellence is now offering socially distanced dinner cruises, complete with a three-course meal and live entertainment.
And the switch has proved so popular that the weekend dinner cruises may soon be expanded to allow smaller groups to experience a sit-down meal on-board the 52-foot boat in Hamilton Harbour.
Tammy Zuill, said: “It’s a three-hour dinner cruise with a three-course meal — a sit-down dinner, where we set the boat like a restaurant, with proper cutlery, proper plates.
“It’s not buffet or paper plates. It’s beautifully set tables and we can accommodate 28 people for the dinner cruise.
“We’re doing very well, but we want to let the community know that we can accommodate small company parties, small family functions. We’ve done quite a few birthday functions.”
In normal times, the boat would be kept busy taking groups of tourists on its Famous Homes and Hideaways tour around Hamilton Harbour, a visitor attraction that is listed among the top three or four in the Dockyard area on TripAdvisor, Mrs Zuill said.
But those tours ended when the pandemic hit.
“We went from having a hugely busy year, to nothing.”
Having been in operation for seven years, Mrs Zuill and her husband Jamie, who own the business, were determined to find a way forward and decided to do cruise dinner tours with a touch of class.
“It is going really well. At the moment it is for locals who want to charter the boat for one function. I haven’t set it up like a restaurant where you can just book a table, because of Covid I was a little bit wary of doing that,” Mrs Zuill said.
“A person would charter the boat and it would be all their family and friends that would come on for the dinner cruise.”
But now she has been getting interest from people asking if they can book a small table for four.
She said it is possible, with more spacing of the tables and keeping each booking group to its own table.
The Excellence could probably cater for about 20 or 22 people in that configuration, Mrs Zuill said.
“Now that it is becoming popular, I could do it,” she added.
The boat has two decks, with dining on the lower deck. Customers join the boat and are given a free rum swizzle as they board, and sit off on the top deck as the cruise gets under way. Then they are invited downstairs for the three-course meal, which comes with a free glass of wine. Further drinks are available at a cash bar.
After the meal, diners return to the top deck to be entertained by Mr Zuill, a singer who performs popular traditional Bermudian songs and calypso. The evening is finished off with dancing as the Excellence returns to the dock. Trips mostly board in Hamilton.
“It is very intimate, very personal. And we take them into Riddell’s Bay and places where a lot of Bermudians won’t get to see those types of homes. Some are just amazed,” Mrs Zuill said.
“But now all my weekends are getting booked with private dinner cruise charters, I’m wondering if maybe I can open up on Thursday evenings and do a ‘walk-on’ dinner cruise.
“I’d have to take bookings ahead of time. I want to know if the community thinks this is something they want to do.
She added: “The food is catered. I have to make sure I have the numbers [of customers] to make it worth me running the tour.”
With separate tables for each booking group, Mrs Zuill said: “I could spread them out more downstairs, and it would be more comfortable.”
She said the dinner tours cost $125 per person for a three-hour cruise, three-course meal, two complimentary drinks, live entertainment and dancing.
To find out more, Mrs Zuill can be reached on 333-0663 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also a Facebook page
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