Send your senses into overdrive as you listen to live musicians play the blues, taste delicious barbecue, smell the salty air from the Charleston Harbor and feel the cool breezes while watching the sun set over the water. Experience this sensational ride during the twohour Blues & BBQ Cruise aboard the Carolina Queen.
The cruise was the brainchild of Drew Yochum, vice president of sales & marketing at Charleston Harbor Tours, who started working with the company in 2008. He happened to see a poster for the Lowcountry Blues Festival, and it sparked the idea, so he contacted local blues legend Gary Erwin – also known as Shrimp City Slim – to see if he would be interested in performing while on a boat.
Erwin, who plays keyboard, was on board. Now he can be found each week leading a four-to-five piece band that typically includes lead guitar, drums, bass guitar and harmonica.
They partnered with 105.5 The Bridge, the local radio station where Erwin works as a DJ, to promote the cruise. Regular listeners will likely recognize the catchy promos that feature Erwin’s smooth voice highlighting the popular attraction that sails leisurely through the Charleston Harbor – a course that typically takes passengers around the Battery, under the Ravenel Bridge and past Patriots Point on the Mount Pleasant side.
When the cruise first started, it only ran twice a month, but, as its popularity grew, it expanded to every Thursday and the final Friday of each month, March through October. Now the event is celebrating its 10th year and continues to offer customers a unique way to enjoy the beauty of the Lowcountry.
The seamless process begins by booking a ticket online or by calling Charleston Harbor Tours. Passengers show up at the boat, get checked in, then board the Carolina Queen, which usually fits about 150 to 175 people for the cruise. The ship has three decks. The middle deck, where guests board and the band is set up, also has a dance floor and a balcony area. The top deck offers observation-style seating, and the lower deck is where the food is set up.
Guests are treated to a full buffet, catered by Swig & Swine. The mouth-watering spread includes pulled pork, smoked chicken, mac ‘n’ cheese, cole slaw and rolls. The buffet is ready as soon as passengers board, and Yochum admitted that some people eat before the ship even leaves the dock. A cash bar on board serves a selection of wine, cocktails and even craft beer.
“Folks like to show up early, get a drink and walk around the boat,” he said.
Yochum said it’s been great to see people who come on the cruise for a corporate event or with a large group. They enjoy it so much that they want to come back and replicate the experience, either for a rehearsal dinner or family gathering, for example.
Sailing from 7 to 9 p.m. allows for beautiful sunsets this time of year, best viewed from the open-air top deck, with its dramatic and panoramic views of the harbor and Charleston skyline.
“There are regulars who come for the music, as a place to see the blues, and tourists who come out for the sunset,” Yochum said.
With food, music and fun, the Blues & BBQ Cruise appeals to everyone.
For more information or to book a tour, visit www.charlestonharbortours.com or call 843-722-1112.
By Pamela Brownstein0