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Three new cruises launch in Annapolis, but not everyone wants in on the party boats

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Party Boat Annapolis begins cruising out of Nautilus Point this weekend, and will spend two weeks of each month at City Dock under a pilot program.

Tourists and locals looking to make their own floating fun are gaining three new cruise options in Annapolis this month.

The Annapolis Party Boat and the Naptown Tiki Club both begin cruising out of The Marina at Nautilus Point Saturday. Later this month, under a pilot program approved Monday by the Annapolis City Council, the Party Boat and historic skipjack Wilma Lee will begin dropping anchor at Burtis Dock, at 69 Prince George St., on the north side of Susan Campbell Park.

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The Tiki Club, however, is still searching for a home after negotiations to dock in front of The Choptank restaurant fell through. Sea Suite Cruises, the boat’s operators, said they were “frantically” revising their website with updated docking information on Thursday. The boat will make Back Creek its port of call for now. “We are very excited to be opening up in Annapolis,” co-founder Jack Walten said.

Dan Cook, a spokesman for Visit Annapolis & Anne Arundel County, said adding a historic skipjack, a pedal-powered party boat and a tiki cruise should buoy a “busy summer season” in Annapolis. “Having a variety of vessels available and improved access provides our visitors more opportunities to get out on the water,” he said.

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Trevor Hardman, owner and operator of Party Boat Annapolis, said that’s exactly why he founded the business with his wife, Jennifer. The couple has lived in the West River area for more than two decades and has three children. “We spend our life on the water when boating season is in,” Hardman said. In additional to working full time as a Prince George’s County firefighter, he runs a marine repair business.

“We have lots of visitors to Annapolis, but there are very few opportunities for people to get out on the water like my family and I do,” he said. “That’s the driving force behind this. Like any business, you see a need and you want to fill it.”

“Float. Party. Pedal,” is the Annapolis Party Boat’s motto. Hardman purchased his boat used and brought it to Nautilus Point. Up to six guests sit at a central table, and each has the option of using pedals to help turn a paddle attached to the stern. Should patrons be more interested in drinking, chatting and seeing the sights, a motor will take over.

“Pedaling is optional,” Hardman said.

So is alcohol but bringing your own beverages is encouraged. Coolers, ice and water are provided, and guests can connect to a Fusion sound system. Hardman has been known to play Jimmy Buffett.

Not everyone agrees with the tourism board that City Dock needs more Margaritaville vibes, however. At Monday’s City Council meeting, Ward 7 Alderman Rob Savidge expressed disappointment that the city would be leasing dock space to “a self-proclaimed party boat.”

“I have a lot of concerns,” Savidge said, explaining that he was worried about the BYOB policy and sound system. “I’m just not quite sure this is something we should be using our public dock for.”

Hardman attended the meeting to allay those fears.

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“By no means is this a booze cruise of some sort,” Hardman told council members. “My main goal is to keep this classy and professional. It is not a frat party on a boat.”

Deputy City Manager Jacqueline Guild pointed out that the boat would have to abide by city noise ordinances and noted that the Party Boat’s lease was a pilot program —two weeks per month from April through August — that would be reevaluated before dock space could be renewed. “We are trying it out,” Guild said.

The Naptown Tiki Club has not formally applied for a lease, but the operators have made inquiries, city spokesperson Mitchelle Stephenson confirmed. Sea Suite was previously seeking a lease at 110 Compromise St. The city “does not have information regarding why that lease is not going forward,” Stephenson said in a statement.

Naptown Tiki Club, operated by Sea Suite Cruises, will begin offering charters this weekend at Nautilus Point, and is still seeking a home on Ego Alley.

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Daniel Keenan, owner of the building that includes The Choptank, said he had “no comment” on the negotiations.

Annapolis-based Oasis Marinas manages the Compromise Street docks on Keenans’ behalf, as well as several other marinas in the region where Sea Suites operates tiki boats and pedal-powered boats similar to Hardman’s Party Boat. It was Oasis Marinas’ idea to create the Naptown Tiki Club, Walten said, but now Sea Suites is “bouncing around to see where they’ll be operating out of.”

With “Ego Alley” listed as the Annapolis port on the Sea Suites’ website, bookings for the Naptown Tiki Club already exceed revenue for the company’s tiki boat at The Wharf in Washington, D.C., Walten said. Unlike the Party Boat, the Naptown Tiki Club must be rented in full for each cruise, which will max out at two hours. Group bookings so far include 50th anniversaries, 50th birthdays and U.S. Naval Academy graduation parties.

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“We’ve had such a tremendous response,” he said. The 29-year-old Arlington, Virginia, resident attended the Annapolis School of Seamanship, and believes there’s room in Ego Alley for both the floating Tiki Club and the Party Boat.

Hardman is less certain. He’s more excited about sharing the Burtis Dock with the Wilma Lee, a historic skipjack owned by the Annapolis Maritime Museum. Both boats are the first to receive leases since the city announced in would be acquiring the Burtis Dock from the state in 2020.

“This has taken years,” said Alice Estrada, president of the Annapolis Maritime Museum and Park, which owns the Wilma Lee, after Monday’s council meeting. Although the Wilma Lee and the Party Boat won’t always be sailing at the same time, Estrada was still happy to be pier neighbors with Hardman.

“The more the merrier,” she said.

The Wilma Lee, an 83-year-old skipjack owned by the Annapolis Maritime Museum, will begin offering commercial and charter cruises from City Dock this spring.

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