Cruising on Lake Tahoe

by Allie on September 1, 2011

Woodwind 2 Catamaran Lake Tahoe

The Woodwind II, a catamaran out of Zephyr Cove

If you’re looking for a quick-and-dirty guide to Lake Tahoe cruise and boat tours, check out the Lake Tahoe Cruise Guide. For details on the cruise we picked, read on…

Last weekend we continued our adventures, albeit on a more local scale. My parents and sister, Jenny, drove up for a three-night visit. In addition to quality family time and exploring a Tahoe Meadows trail, their visit was a chance for me to make good on my Mother’s Day gift to my mom: a Lake Tahoe boat cruise.

My mom loves boats. Loves being out on the water. Loves the breeze in her face, the gentle (or not so gentle) rocking of the boat. She has fond memories of immigrating to the U.S. as a child on a ship via the Panama Canal – despite drinking so much orange juice on the trip that she got hives. The woman likes being on the water.

This love of being on the water is not hereditary. While I like the *idea* of boats, the reality is I have a history of motion sickness. Heaving-toast-and-eggs-over-the-rail. Turning a Grinch-ish shade of green. But my mom loves boats, and I like to make her happy. Fortunately, the motion sickness monster doesn’t rear its bile-colored head every time I step aboard.

But which Lake Tahoe cruise to take? There are several options, including sunset dinner cruises, booze cruises, Tahoe tour cruises, and lake excursions. In preparation of their visit, I researched Lake Tahoe cruises and tours on six different ships:

  1. MS Dixie II
  2. Safari Rose
  3. Tahoe
  4. Tahoe Gal
  5. Tahoe Queen
  6. Woodwind 2

And being the geeky person I am, I compiled all the information into a spreadsheet to keep it organized.  I looked at the following criteria:

  • Boat type: paddleboat, powerboat, catamaran, etc.
  • Cruises offered: tour, meal, excursion, etc.
  • Cruise duration
  • Cost (including whether a meal was served, and if so, included in the price)
  • Port (all ships except the Tahoe Gal are located in South Lake Tahoe marinas)
  • And if there were any discounts available

I pulled the information into a handy one-page PDF, which you can view or download here:

Lake Tahoe Cruise Guide

There is a wide variety of cruises available, and wildly different price points.

We decided to cruise with the Woodwind 2, a 55′ catamaran out of Zephyr Cove, because we just wanted to get out on the water, didn’t want to eat a meal on board (that whole motion sickness thing), and were not interested in a guided tour. The Woodwind 2 also had several positive reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp, whereas some of the other cruises had several negative reviews.

Aboard the Woodwind 2

We had a great experience. After taking the required group photo, we found cushions to lounge upon on the deck (my parents recognized the cushions as dog beds sold at Costco). As we got underway, the cruise attendant took drink orders. The drink menu is extensive, and dark rum is a heavily featured ingredient. The $7 price tag felt reasonable.

We lounged, we talked, we looked out across the lake and had great views of Stateline, Heavenly Ski Resort, and the east shore of the lake. We cruised out a fair distance – maybe a mile or two? – and then slowly looped our way back toward Zephyr Cove. The atmosphere was convivial, and we chatted with a family who had just moved to Sacramento from Tampa Bay. No regrets about missing Hurricane Irene, though they were surprised at how dry it was in Sacramento.

View of Stateline NV, with Heavenly ski resort in the background

View of Stateline NV, with Heavenly ski resort in the background

As we pulled back up to the dock, we saw a couple hundred people in line for the Sunset Dinner Cruise on the MS Dixie II. While the huge paddlewheeler looked like a fun time, the motion sickness monster had already taken the afternoon off. Perhaps next time!

Leave a Comment

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bruce May 16, 2013 at 6:30 am

Thanks for creating and publishing your guide. It was very helpful and saved me a bunch of time.

2 Brittany July 2, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Hi i am interested in the tours you have available. Possibly the boose Cruz or cameraman tours. Do they include wine and beer. Also what is the cost and do you have anything available July 20? Thank you

3 Dan Castelli August 1, 2014 at 6:47 pm

I enjoyed a cruise on the Tahoe gal on July 15th 2014 with my wife Cindy , I’m interested in how you prepare the alcoholic drink 1st Mate

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