On this cruise, you just can’t lose

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Cruisin’ Tikis outings pack a punch of big fun on Siesta Key’s local waterways

By Ned Steele

Cruisin’ Tikis is the most fun per square foot you’ll ever have on the water.
Barely a speck next to the gleaming yachts and large party boats on Sarasota Bay and just 16 feet across, it’s like the cozy cottage amid the row of mansions. The comfy family sedan cruising alongside the big SUVs.

And when you charter her for a few hours with Capt. Bill Hogan at the helm, “The boat is yours,” says his business and life partner Marcia Bishop. Meaning, you’ll set the plan – sunset cruise, brunch cruise, sandbar-and-swim excursion, wherever in the bay you’d like. There is no fixed route.
And, if you happen to have your own dock, Capt. Bill will pick you up there.

Marcia Bishop and Bill Hogan at the wheel of their Cruisin’ Tikis operation. (photo by Ned Steele)

Basically a compact, floating tiki bar, Cruisin’ Tikis is an intimate, private charter experience. You set out with your chosen loved ones or besties – as long as they’re older than the age of 10, and there’s no more than six of them.
They don’t even have to be human. Hogan and Bishop will welcome your canine companion.
Cruisin’ Tikis is a national franchise, and the partners have owned the Sarasota Bay location for two years. They’re reformed landlubbers — he ran a convenience store; she worked part time in a golf club. They’ve fully renovated the vessel, which they named Tuff Tiki after it survived two hurricanes.
Despite their slogan, (“Why go bar hopping, when you can hop on a bar?) this is not a “booze cruise.” Cruisin’ Tikis is strictly BYOB and, if you overindulge, Capt. Bill will “86” you. (It’s only happened once.)
That said, you are encouraged to bring anything you can drink responsibly. Food? Bring whatever you’d like. Pizza and wings are the most popular, but anything goes.
Once a group of Philadelphians boarded with cheesesteaks flown in that morning from their home town. Music? Bring your playlist.
Who does a Cruisin’ Tiki charter, and why?

Bachelorette parties lead the list — about 75 of them a year. Then there’s birthdays, anniversaries, and family gatherings. Twice in two years, the Tuff Tiki has been the site of a marriage proposal.
Although they operate out of Hart’s Landing, Siesta Key is vital to the experience. Their most popular trip is the sunset cruise at Big Pass. Often, they’ll cruise the canals off the Intracoastal Waterway, or pick up passengers at Bay Island’s Nora Patterson Park. Though they live on the mainland, Hogan said “Siesta Key is why we’re here.” (The couple formerly lived on the Jersey Shore.)
Cruisin’ Tikis will take you anywhere the boat can navigate, chugging along at up to 7 mph, powered by a 30-horsepower Suzuki. And you might well see a dolphin or a manatee. (Sorry, no venturing into the Gulf.) The most touching request Hogan and Bishop have granted? An elderly resident of a retirement home asked them to sweep across the bay for a final look at the house on Bird Key he had lived in.
If you’re not sure where to go or what to do, Bishop will help you plan a theme and route, and otherwise create a memorable experience. Prices are reasonable: $200 to $600, depending on length and number of passengers.

Cruising alongside the Ringling Bridge. (submitted photo)

It’s a winning formula. Much of their business is repeat; some customers book several cruises a year. It’s become what Hogan and Bishop call their “tiki family.”
One of them is Lynn Odegard, who with her husband recently took their four children out on the bay as their Christmas gift.
They can’t decide what’s their next cruise — their daughter’s 16th birthday in May, or spring break with the visiting relatives. “We’ve been here 20 years,” Odegard enthused. “This is the most fun we’ve ever had on the water.”
Perhaps the best endorsement of all came from a caller who demanded to book a cruise immediately. Told the boat was out on a cruise, the caller replied “I know. I’m on a big party boat right next to you. Can I get off it and jump onto yours?”
“Nobody,” Bishop said, “leaves unhappy.”
Book your cruise by calling (941) 253-5404, online at CruisinTikisSarasota.com, or email the business for info at Info@CruisinTikisSarasota.com.

A group having a blast off Siesta Key. (submitted photo)
Ned Steele
Author: Ned Steele

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