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Dinner Cruises Serve up Currents and Cuisine

Nothing is more relaxing than going out for a scenic cruise on a river or lake. 

Faith travelers looking for some waterfront fun should book a local dinner cruise. Travel planners can find them in waterfront destinations on both coasts, as well as on lakes and rivers across the country. Groups can learn more about the history of a city while enjoying a wonderful buffet or plated dinner onboard. After dinner, travelers get to enjoy live music, play interactive games, enjoy craft beers and cocktails or just lounge on the boat’s observation deck, spotting local wildlife and relishing the local scenery.

Here are five dinner cruises that your group travelers will love.

BB Riverboats

Newport, Kentucky

Cincinnati and Ohio are separated from northern Kentucky by the Ohio River. BB Riverboats, a family-owned cruise company, has plied the river between the two states from its home berth in Newport, Kentucky, since 1979. The Belle of Cincinnati is the largest of the company’s paddle-wheel boats and can carry up to 700 passengers for dinner cruises and up to 1,000 for sightseeing cruises. The River Queen, the smallest riverboat in the fleet, can host up to 240 people for dinner cruises and up to 400 for sightseeing cruises.

“There’s a lot of history along the Cincinnati riverfront: football and baseball stadiums, historic bridges and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center,” said Randie Adam, vice president of marketing and visitor experience at the Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau. The neighborhoods overlooking the river are situated on scenic hills that overflow with history. 

The Captain’s Dinner Cruise happens during the week and includes DJ entertainment and a buffet with two dinner entrees. On weekends, the Admiral’s Dinner Cruise includes a live band and four entrees on the buffet. On Sundays, the company offers its Family Dinner Cruise, which offers a lighter buffet. There are lunch cruises daily and 90-minute Cincinnati sightseeing cruises that don’t include food.

Themed cruises include dinner cruises that partner with Stonebrook Winery or area bourbon distilleries for tastings onboard. BB Riverboats offers holiday brunch cruises and an all-day cruise upriver to Augusta, Kentucky, so passengers can experience a lock and dam. Once in Augusta, they can get a bite to eat and walk around the town before having dinner on the boat and cruising back downriver to Newport.

Celebration Belle

Dubuque, Iowa; Moline, Illinois

The Celebration Belle, a 750-passenger paddle-wheel riverboat, plies the Mississippi River from Moline, Illinois, to Dubuque, Iowa. From dinner and daily sightseeing cruises to four-hour themed cruises and multiday cruises, the company can accommodate just about any group travel request. The riverboat, which was built in 1986, has been cruising the Mississippi for 35 years and has two enclosed dining decks and two observation decks that are great for watching the scenery go by.

The Mississippi River and the towns that grew up around it are rich in history, from the advent of river commerce and westward expansion to slavery and the Civil War. Narrated sightseeing cruises offer an in-depth look into how the Mississippi has affected the Quad Cities area and how it continues to affect the lives of those who live along its banks. 

All meals are prepared fresh aboard the riverboat, and the Celebration Belle is one of the only cruise ships on the river with an elevator, making it handicap accessible.

“We’re known for our buffets, but currently, we have switched to plated meals, which went over well,” said Susan Yarolem, director of sales and marketing for the Celebration Belle. For lunch, guests may enjoy a marinated baked chicken, vegetables, a potato, a roll and dessert. 

The Celebration Belle offers themed cruises throughout the year, including music cruises like Classic Oldies, Christmas Music, Broadway and Movie Tunes, and Keys and Country, which feature pianists playing country songs. Fall foliage cruises are popular, and the company’s four-hour cruises include homemade sticky rolls and fruit when passengers board and a hot lunch and live entertainment later on.

All-day cruises take passengers from one destination to another, launching either from Dubuque or Moline, and include breakfast, lunch, a prime rib dinner and live entertainment.

Spirit of Baltimore


City Cruises offers sightseeing tours, dining cruises and private events aboard its two ships: the 450-passenger Spirit of Baltimore and the 460-passenger Inner Harbor Spirit. Passengers travel past some of Baltimore’s most famous landmarks on a one-hour narrated sightseeing tour or dinner cruise along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Along the way, they see the USS Constellation, a masted sloop commissioned in 1855 that was the last sail-only warship to serve in the U.S. Navy and is now a museum; the National Aquarium; Harbor East, the city’s modern waterfront destination full of restaurants and shops; Fells Point, the area that has best preserved the city’s Colonial past; and Fort McHenry, the pentagonal fort famous for its role in the War of 1812, when its defenders successfully repelled the British naval attack on Baltimore Harbor. 

Francis Scott Key wrote the famous poem that eventually became “The Star-Spangled Banner” while marveling that the large American flag flying over the fort was still there after the terrible bombardment.

Brunch, lunch and dinner cruises feature a variety of cuisine paired with craft beer, award-winning wines and specialty cocktails. The two-and-a-half-hour dinner cruises take groups on the Patapsco River, past many of Baltimore’s historic landmarks. While onboard, guests enjoy a chef-inspired buffet that includes entrees, salads and desserts. Entertainment is provided by a DJ, who gets the crowd dancing and participating in interactive games.  

City Cruises also offers private charter experiences. Groups can determine when they would like to cruise and for how long. They can also choose their menu and drink packages and decide if they want onboard entertainment.

Flagship Cruises and Events

San Diego

Flagship Cruises and Events offers dinner cruises around San Diego Bay on its boats California Spirit and Spirit of San Diego. Groups taking a sightseeing tour of San Diego Bay or a lunch, dinner or holiday cruise will get to see the San Diego skyline from the water, which is especially spectacular at sunset with the sun reflecting off the buildings and making everything sparkle, according to Candice Eley at Visit San Diego. On the other side of the bay is Coronado and Point Loma, and passengers get an up-close view of the famous Coronado Bridge as they travel beneath it and of military boats berthed in the bay. 

The California Spirit, the company’s newest and largest vessel, has two climate-controlled interior levels and an open-air deck on top and can accommodate up to 600 guests, including 300 diners. The elegant boat has mahogany and cherry wood interiors and a state-of-the-art multimedia system. Each deck can host dancing with either a DJ or live band. It also has two full-service cocktail bars. 

The Spirit of San Diego can host 296 guests for dinner and 575 guests reception-style. It also has two enclosed decks and a 2,700-square-foot observation deck. Both boats can be booked for private groups or functions. 

For daily dinner cruises, three-course meals are freshly prepared onboard and made with locally sourced ingredients and sustainably sourced seafood. Each dinner comes with a complimentary glass of champagne. Premium dinner cruises are available on Saturday evenings, with grilled New York strip steak, roasted chicken, surf and turf, and seared Pacific mahi-mahi. On Sundays, the company hosts prime rib dinner cruises. Holiday brunch and dinner cruises are also available.

Odyssey Lake Michigan and Odyssey 

Chicago River, Chicago

Travelers can glide past some of Chicago’s most iconic buildings and neighborhoods in a glass-enclosed riverboat or tour Chicago’s waterfront from Lake Michigan on one of City Cruises’ tour boats. The Odyssey Chicago River is a 200-passenger, glass-enclosed riverboat that offers dining cruises on the Chicago River. While guests are sampling the buffet and drinking their specialty cocktails, a guide is educating them about the city’s famous architecture as they get close-up views of some of Michigan Avenue’s most famous buildings. The views are even better at night, as the city’s skyscrapers are lit up from within. 

The Odyssey Lake Michigan is a 749-passenger, four-level dining vessel that cruises along Chicago’s waterfront on Lake Michigan. Guests see the dazzling Chicago skyline at night while enjoying a scrumptious plated meal and onboard entertainment. Groups of up to 232 guests can host a private dinner on Topaz Deck, which offers wonderful views and a dance floor. The boat’s observation deck offers 360-degree views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago waterfront.

Owned by City Cruises, the company also operates the Spirit of Chicago, a four-level dining yacht that can hold 600 passengers for a buffet-style dinner with an onboard disc jockey spinning tunes and playing interactive games. For a more intimate cruise experience, book your group on the Chicago Elite, a 150-passenger dinner cruise boat with two fully enclosed dining decks and an open-air sky deck that offers panoramic views of Chicago. 

Special holiday cruises are offered throughout the year, including Mother’s Day and Father’s Day brunch cruises, fireworks dinner cruises and “sights and sips” cocktail cruises on both Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. Architectural lunch cruises are offered on the river.