It had all the promise of a fun night. Three buddies heading into the city to enjoy four hours aboard the Sea Tea's fabulous new yacht. Rich, Bobby and I have been going on the Sea Tea a couple of times each summer for just about ten years now, Sometimes it was a lot of fun, others not so much. I've said before that going on the Sea Tea, which dubs itself as New York's Gay Party Cruise, has the potential to be really great or really lousy. Factors such as the deejay, the crowd, the theme, and the boat itself can make or break an evening on the four-hour excursion into New York Harbor, but we always head on in on a Sunday afternoon excitedly hoping for a great time. Not so much on this go around. In fact, our evening this past Sunday on the Sea Tea may have quashed our desire to ever venture into NYC on a Sunday night again.
Like I said, for the second year in a row, the Sea Tea has a new boat, bigger and better than ever. This year's model is called the Hornblower Infinity and it is a big, beautiful yacht, with multiple levels from which to enjoy the four-hour sail. Upon boarding at 6 p.m., we began to explore the cruise ship-like boat. It was elegant, with two large tastefully decorated rooms, the top lounge area, full of comfortable little seating nooks, overlooking the dining room with a large dance floor and dining tables from its center. Multiple tiered decks dotted the boat, affording the most spectacular view of the skyline, Lady Liberty and all else there is to take in here. Oh, it's going to be a great night!, I thought to myself.
But not Miss Dita, no. As we parlayed our way around the massive yacht, he was noticing things neither Blanche nor I were noticing. Finally, he shared his most important observation.
There's no place to dance outside. That's what always makes this fun!
He was right. There was no place to dance outside. The dance floor was located in the dining room, the lower half of the two-tiered center of the boat. At that time we were on the upper level, towards the center of the yacht and in a not-too-big, but biggish kind of open air area. Though I really knew better, I suggested that maybe there'd be music out there later on and people would dance there, even though the space was not really dance floor material, though.
Hmmm, maybe, he answered not too confidently.
And so we hung out, waiting for the boat to set sail at 7:30, as other passengers gathered aboard the ever-crowding boat. It was plain to see that this ginormous floater would handle a lot more people than any of the company's previous ships. Mo money, mo money, mo money! That first hour and a half was pleasant enough. The three of us chatting on the various decks of the boat and taking it all in. By the time 7:30 came around, we were all hungry and wanted to eat (passengers on the Sea Tea get a free buffet with their ticket!), but we still wanted to be outside when the ship embarked into the Hudson. So we waited. That was okay, though, because the sunset on Sunday night was spectacular!
Finally, we were out on our sail and it was time to eat. We've all been on this thing enough times to know the routine. We eat quick, and then we usually take our spots in, around and on the dance floor. What we were in for on this Sunday, though, was that this was going to be no ordinary routine. We took our spots at the end of one of two lines for food. The lines were pretty long, but not that different than normal. At first, we took turns making trips to the bathroom while the others held our spots and we chit-chatted some more before noticing that the line was not moving. In fact, well over an hour after we'd entered the line, we were still waiting. Not good!
At first, we were all complaining about the people in line, how they could be so slow in getting their food, but as we crept closer, the reason for the line not moving became clearer...the food dishes were running out quickly and weren't being replaced. As those last excruciating minutes passed, we were at our wits end, angry and disgusted. By this time we were starving, and even as we got to the front of the line, the mismanagement of the food became plainly evident.
I actually felt bad for the food servers who had to face the frustrated crowds of people. All they could do, like us, was wait for more the replacement dishes to come out. While Bobby was lucky enough to get his food rather quickly and run to a table, Rich and I were not. Both the salad and the bread were gone and we literally stood there for about ten minutes, our hot food quickly getting cold, waiting for more salad and bread to come out. It was pitiful, and no one around seemed in charge to oversee this debacle. Most of the tickets for the cruise are purchased in advance (it's five bucks cheaper that way!), and so one might think they'd have an idea of how much food o prepare and have the kitchen staff well-trained to handle it.
By the time we all sat down to eat, it was about ten past nine. We'd first entered the line at around 7:40. An hour and a half completely wasted and all we had once we were done was about 40 minutes to enjoy the remainder of the cruise before it ended at 10. I said 'enjoy,' but that really wasn't the case. The three of us spent the remainder of the ride on the top deck where we began, steaming mad, as a drag show came on to the stage below. Ugh!
So that was our Sea Tea cruise in a bad bad nutshell. Yeah, the new boat was spectacularly beautiful, but that was about all the good things I can say about it. We'd spent an hour and a half standing around at the beginning, waiting to get things started and then another waiting and wasting our precious time for food. There was little to no dancing, as the food lines lined both sides of the dance floor and most of the people were waiting to eat like us. It was too bad, too, because the deejay was pretty good.
Now I don;t know anything about the laws that govern boating excursions from New York Harbor, but I have a few suggestions, a wish list, of how the Sea Tea could possibly get better like it should:
- Serve the food while the boat is still in dock. That's when passengers are gathering anyway and there is no real dancing or mingling.
- Or better yet, especially if there is some kind of ordinance against serving food while the ship is at the pier, make the food an extra part of the package. If that were the case, the three of us would have opted out and grabbed a slice of pizza beforehand, but would have had the choice to eat or not. Of course the price of the ticket should be cheaper in this instance, but still they're making more money already by serving that many more people.
- Drinks on the Sea Tea have gone up extravagantly in the past couple of years. Whereas three or four years ago, you used to get a decent sized drink for eight or nine bucks, now you get teeny tiny cup of whatever for a whopping $14...and they don't even pack a punch! Make the prices match the product. If you're going to charge $14 for a drink, at least make it a little larger and a little stronger.
The food and the drinks are never the main reason for us going on the Sea Tea to begin with. When we go, we go to dance and have a good time in a great setting, but really, we haven't had fun on it for at least a couple of years now. It's apparently sad, but true, that those who run 'New York's Only Gay Party Cruise' run it as if they're serving stray clientele who don't expect much from the cruise except for maybe cool views in a party atmosphere. Between the exorbitant prices for a ticket (a not unreasonable $30, but considering what we've been getting, that's a ripoff!) and the drinks, and the poor food service, it would seem as if they don't give a crap about customers getting their money's worth and maybe wanting to do it again. As for me, I don't think I do anymore and that's really sad!