First things first: a vocabulary lesson. There’s no “hello” in these parts, young passengers are told upon boarding — “ahoy matey” is preferred. And it’s of the utmost importance to be well-versed in bad words such as “scurvy dog,” “old salt” and “scalawag.”
The Boomerang Pirate Ship is fire-engine red and black, adorned with Jolly Roger flags. After picking up landlubbers at the Georgetown Waterfront, it heads down the Potomac, with views of the Washington Monument, Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, Pentagon and Hains Point. The ship is two levels, and there’s an observation deck and full bar (most drinks are $4 to $8).
During the hour-long kid-centric treasure hunt cruise, the story is that Evil Edgar, a scurvy dog if there ever was one, stole the keys to the treasure chest and fled. As the “Jaws” theme blares, Edgar appears in a speedboat, clutching a sword and waving a set of old brass keys. The only solution is to use the ship’s 12 water cannons to blast him — and you can trust that he’ll end up soaked.
There’s also a two-hour adults-only voyage: The pirate actors are replaced by a DJ and second bartender. “It’s like a party cruise that happens to take place on a pirate ship,” says Nikki DuBois, Boomerang’s president and founder. Dressing up is encouraged, and while eye patches and bandannas are the obvious choice, passengers have come as parrots, mermaids and octopuses.
Through late October. 3100 K St. NW. Family treasure hunt cruises $20; adult cruises $20-$30. boomerangpirateship.com.
The Odyssey DC is long, wide and low, like a white stretch limo that’s come to pick you up for prom. Inside, the windows and ceilings are glass, and there’s a celebratory, special-occasion feel.
The dinner cruise aboard the recently renovated vessel starts at 7 p.m., but early arrivers are served their first course of the sit-down meal soon after boarding opens at 6 at the Wharf. There are a few options for each course: On a recent Thursday evening cruise, the maple- and mustard-glazed chicken breast and salmon filet both impressed. But the real star was the warm butter cake topped with vanilla ice cream, the kind of dessert you’d chase down on land or sea. Though dinner is included in the base price, alcohol is extra ($17 for a margarita, for instance), and there are plenty of upgrades, from menu items to a guaranteed window table (a worthy splurge).
Wear your finest — the dress code is “elegant or dressy-casual attire” — and your dancing shoes. During the early part of the evening, a few couples twirled across the dance floor as a husky-voiced vocalist performed old favorites. After dark, when a DJ started cranking party tunes, the dancers let loose: At one point, 20 revelers and a few staff participated in a spontaneous electric slide.
The meal stretched throughout the three-hour outing, but passengers were free to roam the ship. (If you happened to be outside when your entree was ready, one of the notably friendly servers would retrieve you.) At sunset, the panoramic view — Reagan National Airport on the left, Washington National Cathedral in the distance, monuments on the right — felt unrivaled, best observed from a quiet bench on the deck.
Year-round. 580 Water St. SW. Weekend brunch cruises from $77.90; lunch from $64.90; dinner from $114.90. odysseycruises.com.
After dark at the Wharf, what appears to be a disco spaceship is gliding down the Washington Channel — an orb that flashes red, green and purple as it does 360-degree rotations. The curious vessel is the Float Boat 360, available for charter since 2018. Gressy Cuadra, director of operations, says she fields numerous calls from Wharf visitors who want to know what, exactly, the boat is, and how and when they can ride. “Have you ever seen a round boat before?” she asks, clearly rhetorically.
The Float Boat can accommodate nine passengers, plus a captain who guides the two-hour journey through the channel. There’s a plastic table and built-in cooler in the center of the disc-like boat; the voyage is BYOB and BYO-snacks. Anyone on board can connect to the Bluetooth-enabled speakers, and passengers are known to stand up and groove. There’s always at least one who yells, “Do a doughnut!” — but such tricks are spread out so as not to cause dizziness. Expect to travel at a leisurely pace, Cuadra says: “You’re literally floating on the Washington Channel, in a really unique and fun boat.”
A few minutes after departing from the Georgetown Waterfront, Captain Mike Clark cut the motor on the District-themed pontoon boat. “It’s all you now,” he called.
Spin class meets booze cruise on the Potomac Paddle Pub, a 2018 addition to the local waterways. The boat’s six-foot paddle wheel is powered by passengers pedaling at 10 cycle stations (which face a mahogany bar), plus a motor that the captain turns on and off by request.
During the 90-minute BYOB cruise, the Paddle Pub travels from Georgetown to Columbia Island Marina, where passengers can deboard for a bathroom break (or purchase a shot at Island Time Bar and Grill).
Most give pedaling a brief go, and then relocate to the soft-cushioned lounge at the front. After 10 minutes of rigorous pedaling, you feel it, particularly in your quads. And elsewhere, too: “These are the most comfortable bike seats you can find, but they’re still bike seats,” Luke McCartin, the company’s general manager, said on a recent Monday evening while taking a break from his station. Still, there’s usually at least one overachiever who goes all out to prove his or her pedaling prowess, and some captains download apps that show the boat’s human-powered speed — bragging rights for the pedallers, to be sure. Many return to their bike seats after “a drunken burst of energy,” McCartin says.
Though it’s billed as a pub, kids and families are welcome, and McCartin reports that all kinds of groups have come out: SoulCycle instructors who could lead the boat across the river several times over; bachelorette parties made up of women in heels; and those suburban moms who used the Bluetooth speakers to blare “Bad Boys” during a routine Coast Guard stop.
Through late October. $45 for adults, $25 for kids or $500 for the whole boat on weekdays; $625 for the whole boat on weekends (no individual tickets are sold on weekends). potomacpaddlepub.com.
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