Passengers squeal with delight as spray hits us from the side, and a fat rooster tail rises behind us, all to the tune of — predictably — Michael Jackson's "Thriller."
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As we pass Hibiscus Island, here comes the familiar soundtrack: "What Puerto Rican lives la vida loca?" asks our tour guide.
"Rick-ee" chorus the young women at the back of the boat. And sure enough, the tour guide plays an excerpt of Ricky Martin singing "Livin' la Vida Loca" as we pass his house. Carmen Electra owns the house next door, he says.
The list goes on as we loop around the celebrity islands: Don Johnson, Rosie O'Donnell, Emerson Fitipaldi, the house from "Scarface," the house that Shaquille O'Neal sold to A-Rod — or was it Naomi Campbell? We hear different accounts on different boats.
We're heading out into the ocean, past South Pointe on Miami Beach, speeding and swerving again, spray rising up. The talking part of the ride is over.
"We offer the same tour as everybody else," says Jorge Moreno, at the Thriller dock, "but the difference is we go fast on the ocean. Nobody else does that."
And there's blessedly less talk. Having covered the same route twice as fast, the Thriller tour comes in at 45 minutes, half the length of the typical boat tour.
When you arrive at Bayside, it feels like a buffet of sailing options to spend your day on the water. From a sailboat that feels like a pirate ship, to the Thriller speed boat and a double-decker cruiser that tours celebrity island homes, there seem to be plenty of options.
If checking out the sights at a slower pace is more your thing, with plenty of photo opportunities, board the Island Queen. The tour takes you past the Miami port, crosses past Fisher Island and Miami Beach marina, then tours celebrity homes on Star Island. A bar offers snacks and drinks — beer is $5 and a pina colada is $7.
There is ample seating for 130 people, but make sure to board early in order to get a seat on the covered, open-air upper deck. (Those go quick.)
Lots of tourists and cruise ship visitors are on the boat, and the tour guide does her best to give plenty of information and history on the area, with a touch of humor. Among the homes talked about on Star Island are those owned by Gloria Estefan, Paulina Rubio, Sean "Diddy" Combs, and those formerly owned by Sylvester Stallone and Elizabeth Taylor.
On this trip, a sudden rain storm passed through the area, leaving many scrambling for the indoor area of the boat below. The open-air upper deck was left half full with most people standing under cover as the tour finished. (Oh yes, the show did go on.) So if you think storms are coming, or see a forecast alert on your smartphone before boarding, you may want to start your trip with a seat down below.
But the show doesn't always go on when it rains.
The Biscayne Bay sunset cruise on the Great White Catamaran has been cancelled twice, rained out, a reminder that we can't count on dry weather after Easter. But the third time is a go.
The catamaran offers 2 1 / 2-hour sunset cruises Fridays and Saturdays, and sometimes Thursdays and Sundays, depending on demand. Wine, beer, soda and snacks are included.
The routine is to motor out into the Bay to see the celebrity houses before dark and to be in a good position to see the sunset, then head south again. If conditions are right, the crew puts up the sail after the boat passes back under the MacArthur Causeway.
The trip appears a bit haphazard — emails requesting reservations lost, the crew still cleaning the boat at departure time, the white wine not iced down. "We're still new at this," one of the operators admits.
But once the catamaran is out on the water and we're leaning against the rail, awaiting the sunset with glass of wine in hand, the night is lovely. All is forgiven.