UPDATE: A free tour of El Galeón is the hottest ticket in town.
By Tuesday, history-hungry South Floridians had snapped up 20,000 free tickets to tour the 170-foot replica, according to Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Grossman, Broward County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger and Vice Mayor Barbara Sharief were on board the ship for a Tuesday evening reception celebrating her arrival at Bahia Mar Marina for a six-day visit in Fort Lauderdale.
The CVB website at Sunny.org was so flooded with visitors seeking free tickets that the site crashed, Grossman said.
The free visits, which cost $15, were underwritten by the CVB and Broward County Commission
The ship next makes sail for St. Augustine, arriving in the historic city for Viva Florida 500 celebrations on May 23. -- Doreen Christensen
You won't find the fountain of youth at Bahia Mar on Tuesday, but you will discover Juan Ponce de León's ship docked at the marina.
El Galeón, a 170-foot wooden replica of the famous explorer's galleon, will drop anchor in Fort Lauderdale to commemorate Ponce de León's discovery of La Florida in 1513.
"The ship's visit is part of Viva Florida 500, celebrating five centuries of history in the making," says Jessica Taylor, spokeswoman for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau. The ship is owned by the Nao Victoria Foundation in Spain.
"Standing on the deck, it's not hard to imagine you're sailing in the 16th century," Taylor says.
Free tours of the floating museum will be offered from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, with tickets available from the CVB. Tours normally cost $15 for adults, $11 for children, Taylor says.
"You can go deep into the hull and see how the explorers lived, from their living quarters to the huge cannons," she says. "It's spectacular."
Taylor recommends wearing comfortable shoes because the ship has lots of steps.
Carrying a crew of 28, the 495-ton El Galeón began her historic voyage in April, making ports of call in Puerto Rico, Miami and Cape Canaveral. She will next set sail for St. Augustine.
"You're transported back in history," Taylor says. "It's a very authentic experience."
Click here for tickets or call 954-765-4466.
Bahia Mar Marina is at 801 Seabreeze Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale.