For dyed in the sea boaters, every day onboard is a good day – and that includes both the last and first days of the year. Throughout the Southeast, mariners have begun New Years Traditions to celebrate the New Year and their love of the water.
If you’re in the Hampton Roads area, Spirit of Norfolk offers a New Year’s Eve family lunch cruise on Dec. 31, followed by a dinner cruise stretching into 2013. The yacht, certified to carry up to 450 passengers, provides a unique tour including spectacular views of the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet. Guests enjoy bountiful buffets, a champagne toast, party favors and onboard entertainment amidst the festive décor for $129 per person. http://spiritofnorfolk.com/Norfolk/new years-eve-dinner
In North Carolina, the most dedicated boating crowd is concentrated in the village of Oriental. There, they pay homage to their town’s name by running a traditional Chinese dragon on New Year’s Eve complete with the local populace banging on pans and other noisemakers. That is followed by a traditional Croaker Drop at midnight, when a four-foot decorative representation of the local fish is lowered from the rigging of whichever boat is docked at the town’s free dock that night.
Following those late-night shenanigans, the most dedicated of boaters mark Jan. 1 with the extremely informal two-decade-old Instead Of Football Regatta sailed on the Neuse River with a noon start. It is so informal that the winners are drawn at random during a party after the “race.” In 2012, it drew more than 60 boats. The event was begun to convince people to use their boats rather than their televisions on the first day of the year.
In Charleston, the SpiritLine cruises will have two of its vessels out on the harbor for the turning of the calendar.
The Spirit of the Lowcountry will leave the Aquarium Wharf for a sail-ebration with its rockin’ the harbor and rollin’ on the river dance music provided by DJ Ric Rush. A menu of heavy hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar available will ensure that everyone enjoys the night. Cost is $65 per person.
Spirit of Carolina will head out of Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant for a New Year’s Eve dinner cruise. The ship’s chef will prepare an exquisite four-course dinner served by an attentive wait staff for $85 per person. www.spiritlinecruises.com
Big Orange Cruise
In Miami, the New Year is marked by the dropping of the “Big Orange” at midnight. The big moment is preceded by free band performances in the Bayfront Park Amphitheater and followed by a fireworks show over the bay.
The best view of the fireworks, of course, is from the water. If you don’t want to take your own boat out for the late night cruise, you can hop onboard the Biscayne Lady, Venetian Lady, Island Lady or Miami Lady party yachts for $179. Cruises will include open premium bar and unlimited food. All three multi-level yachts feature bars and dining, dancing and open air areas for guests to enjoy their evening. www.islandqueencruises.com
Additional party and tour boats will offer New Year’s Eve cruises all along the Florida coast, including the CarrieB in Fort Lauderdale, which will cruise the New River, ICW and canals to see the opulently decorated mansions and yachts. Check the boats’ websites or call to see what is available.
Another New Year’s Eve fireworks extravaganza takes place over Blackwater Sound on the bayside of the Upper Keys between mile marker 103 and 104. The show is hosted by Sundowners, Senor Frijoles, Cactus Jacks, Gus’ Grille at the Marriott Key Largo Beach Resort, and the Caribbean Club – any of which provide viewing options. Or you can always float your boat for the best view, being sure to remain outside of the fallout zone.
At the end of the island chain, Key West supplies revelry for all tastes, including the lowering of a drag queen in the glass slipper on Duval Street. But for the nautically inclined, the Historic Seaport is the best option. There, the celebration includes a salute to the island city’s colorful seafaring heritage. Just before midnight, a pirate wench begins her descent from the top of the mast of a stately tall ship – completing it as the clock strikes and 2013 officially begins. Also planned are cannon blasts and live music designed to provide a rollicking start to the new year.
New Orleans New Year
In the Big Easy, you can ring in the New Year aboard the Steamboat Natchez or the paddlewheeler Creole Queen while floating down the Mississippi enjoying views of the city skyline and the best seat in the house for the fireworks celebration. Both cruises feature plenty of Louisiana cooking. Natchez has local top 40 band performing onboard and charges $175 per person. Creole Queen features a DJ and charges $110 per person. www.steamboatnatchez.com or www.bigeasystore.com
Many of the hundreds of boats in Texas’ Clear Lake marinas will head out onto Galveston Bay for a great view of the 10 p.m. fireworks show off the Kemah Boardwalk. Joining them will be the party ships Star Gazer, Star Cruiser and Star Spirit from the Star-Fleet. The company is offering three-hour cruises including open well bars, buffets and heavy hors d’oeuvres with the cost starting at $104 per guest. Passengers will cruise from Clear Lake into Galveston Bay. After the fireworks, there will be dancing to a disc jockey followed by a midnight countdown to a champagne toast. www.starfleetyachts.com
For the sailors among them, the New Year starts with the annual Revognah Regatta hosted by the Houston Yacht Club. What’s a Revognah? It’s what many of the racers might be suffering from that morning spelled backwards. The race is open to all keel boats. The skippers meeting is in the main bar of the yacht club at noon. Racing begins around 1:30 p.m.