We've all heard of dinner and a movie, but how about dinner and your very own private cruise?
A Gulf Breeze charter captain has pivoted his business model to make the "dinner cruise" a real thing for families and small parties itching to eat their takeout meals somewhere other than their dining room tables.
"I was pretty much just like everybody else sitting at home with my wife and kids, and my mother-in-law offered to buy dinner if we took the boat out to eat it on," said Joseph Weaver, owner of Wave Cutter Charters. "So it got to the point where every other day we were doing that. And my wife made the comment, 'It's worth every penny just to get out of the house for a minute.'"
Weaver said his own family experience led him to go public with his idea. Last week, he made a Facebook post offering up a $25 boat ride for any group of six people or less who would like to eat their takeout meals on his charter boat while he rides the waves on Little Sabine Bay behind Shaggy's on Pensacola Beach.
The idea and the social media post alike have both taken off since then Weaver's post has been shared more than 1,000 times. So far, he said, 10 to 15 groups have taken him up on his clever idea.
"The cruise normally takes an average of 30 minutes. Sometimes it's 30, sometimes it's 35," Weaver said. "We've got a stereo on the boat, trash can, cooler in case they got some other drinks. And then a lot of people are still wanting to do a dolphin cruise while we do that. They just bring their food and we do a two-hour dolphin cruise out in the bay. Of course, that's more expensive."
Jennifer Demming dined on the charter boat with her young family on Wednesday. The Pensacola Beach resident said she had racked her brain that day trying to circumvent the coronavirus-induced shutdowns and do something memorable for her son Jesiah's eighth birthday.
"I messaged the guy to see if he had anything that day and he did, so we went that night," said Demming, a mother of three kids all under the age of 8. "The kids got some shrimp from Shaggy's and we all went out there."
Demming said her kids very much enjoyed a safe break from the quarantine. The birthday boy even got to pretend steer the boat.
"They just liked being out on the water," she added. "Other than some bike rides, that was our first time doing anything in weeks."
Weaver is one of countless small business owners who's had to get creative in order to win back some of the business lost by the pandemic. Wave Cutter Charters is an offshore fishing charter that does both offshore and inshore fishing, as well as dolphin cruises.
"I'm losing a lot of money just like everybody else," Weaver said. "All the vacationers left, the spring breakers are gone. I'm having people cancel their fishing charters as far out as July. They're saying since they're out of work they can't go on vacation this year. So we had to find something that was marketable and this was it."
Weaver said social distancing is honored on the spacious charter, and all the proper sanitary precautions are taken while Weaver is captaining a dinner cruise.
"The seats are disinfected before and after every group," he said. "And every time people call me I'm making sure it's their private group — I'm not building a group. So the people in your household are coming with you. It's geared toward families. I've had six people on the boat, I think, one time."
If you're interested in booking a dinner cruise, give Weaver a call at 256-390-6639.
Jake Newby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-435-8538.