After giving the east coast a try, the StarLite Princess paddle wheel boat is back at Corey Causeway.
"With the downturn of the economy we thought we'd take one of our boats out of this market and open up where there wasn't one," said Phil Henderson Jr., president of StarLite Cruises.
So in June 2009, the StarLite Princess moved to Daytona Beach with plans to sail out of West Palm Beach during the winter months. There were complications getting the approval to sail from West Palm so the ship never left Daytona.
"We did all right in the summer months there," Henderson said, but St. Petersburg offers more year-round customers. "We were getting requests from St. Petersburg, a lot of the hoteliers wanted it and we had tour operators who wanted it so we decided to bring it back to St. Pete."
Along with dinner and lunch cruises most days of the week, Henderson is talking with the Salvador Dalí Museum about adding a destination cruise to St. Petersburg. It would last about five hours and include breakfast, lunch and transport to the museum for around $50 plus admission to the Dalí.
The dinner cruise departs Corey Causeway at 3400 Pasadena Ave. S most nights at 6:30 p.m. and costs $37.50 for dinner and live music. The lunch cruise sets sail at 11:30 a.m. on most days and costs $22.50. Both prices reflect a Florida resident discount. As the StarLite Princess celebrates its 25th year in business, different pricing and packages will be offered each month of 2011.
The paddle wheel ship is decorated in Victorian style and can seat 242 passengers or 300 standing. It is one of five ships StarLite Cruises operates in Pinellas County.
The StarLite Majesty dinner cruise sails out of Clearwater as does the Calypso Queen, a more casual dinner cruise. The Dolphin Racer is a speed boat that beckons dolphins to play as though they are surfing on the boat's wake.
"We guarantee they will see a dolphin surf or they get to come back for a free trip," Henderson said. Free trips are awarded only "once in a while."
There is also a "sea life safari" boat at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The boat is licensed to pull a net so passengers, usually a lot of children, can examine creatures right out of the water.
"When (the movie about Winter the dolphin) comes out, the aquarium is going to be packed," Henderson said.
Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or firstname.lastname@example.org.