A boat rental in Southport now offers a dinner cruise at local restaurants

Living in southeastern North Carolina means you’re never too far from the water. And, fortunately, a number of boat charters and similar businesses can be found throughout the region to make it more accessible to enjoy time afloat.

Sunset cruises, sightseeing cruises and other customizable trips are available in Brunswick County through companies such as Southport By Sea Side and Cruising Tiki. But one bed and breakfast owner recently started putting a unique, food-focused twist on the idea.

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Suzanne Foster is the owner of LaPolena in Southport, which has its own culinary perks, including what she calls the best breakfast in town. A few years ago she added a boat and a new business, Nautical Hosting.

“We really did this because there was a demand,” she said. “We started with sunset cruises and it kind of exploded.”

The idea was to provide a “premium yachting experience without the stress of owning your own boat,” according to the website.

Groups can opt for dinner cruises at restaurants like Smoke on the Water in Wilmington with Southport-based Nautical Hosting.

This season they have also added dinner cruises. Generally, it’s open to groups of ten or more and includes luxury transportation to a local restaurant with beer, wine, and finger food while you’re en route, as well as occasional live music.

“I like knowing what people are drinking and having it on hand,” Foster said. “And we have a charcuterie board from the Southport Cheese Shoppe.”

Diners also receive champagne and dessert from another local business, Side Street Bakery, on the way home. For the Southport version, you can dine at Joseph’s Italian Bistro or Rusty Hooks Dockside Grill. For the dinner cruise from Wilmington, you can make the most of boat time and travel up the Cape Fear River to Smoke on the Water in the Riverlights community.

A dinner cruise booking also includes beer, wine and a charcuterie board from Southport Cheese Shoppe.

Although Foster has been there to help on a few of the cruises, she mainly relies on her captain and a skipper/host to oversee the experience.

The response has already been positive, Foster said. Some romantic couples will pay the full group fee, which starts at $169 per person, for the dinner cruise just to have time and the meal to themselves. Other diners head into town for the experience, she said.

Allison Ballard is the food and restaurant reporter at StarNews. You can reach her at [email protected]

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