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Tiki boats take over the Jersey Shore, offering floating good times to guests of all ages
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Tiki boats take over the Jersey Shore, offering floating good times to guests of all ages

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When you think of tiki bars, you probably picture small, kitschy spaces dimly lit with tones of green, blue and fuchsia, sporting fake waterfalls and waiters with Hawaiian shirts carrying flaming pu pu platters to guests who all seem hopelessly convinced that they are enjoying an authentic Polynesian experience.

What you probably don’t think of is a fully functional, thatch-roofed charter boat merrily floating through the sunset-drenched back bays of South Jersey with a jolly group of passengers on board. But maybe you should — because floating tiki boats have become one of the hottest trends in the area as of late, with versions popping up at various points throughout the coastline.

One of those points is Atlantic City, where Aloha Tiki Cruises sets sail from. Aloha is owned by well-known 100.7-FM WZXL radio personality Michael James, who keeps the boat docked among an army of less fun-looking fishing boats and yachts at the marina at Golden Nugget Atlantic City. And what a boat it is! Singlehandedly designed by James, Aloha’s 30-foot vessel can hold up to six guests and stands out even among other similar tiki boats.

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“I went bigger, James says. “I didn’t invent the concept of the floating tiki, but I designed the boat that we use at Aloha Tiki Cruises. There was no blueprint, I just thought it out in my head.”

The boat’s main feature is a large, custom-built, square-shaped bar made entirely from cedar wood imported from Canada. The bar has matching cedar barstools and is shaded by a thatched roof, which offers the biggest visual wow factor, even from afar. A sound system and LED lights help steer the vibe in the right direction, too, and guests can even hook up their own playlists to make sure the tunes are to their liking. And though the bar makes for prime seating, a lineup of Adirondack chairs set up in a semi-circle on the adjacent deck offers a perfect space for those looking to kick back in comfort.

“We do have one of the biggest front deck areas — which also doubles as a dance floor,” James notes.

Boozin’ and cruisin’Though the boat boasts an awesome bar, Aloha Tiki Cruises is strictly a BYOB situation. So don’t come expecting a fully stocked bar and a bartender twirling bottles in the air for your entertainment. And while this might seem like a detractor for some, all it really means is that you will save a ton on drinks by packing a cooler with some of your favorite libations. You can also bring food and bottles of spirits and juices if you plan to mix up a few cocktails while you’re on the water.

Where does it go?Wisely avoiding the potential rough seas of the Atlantic Ocean, Aloha Tiki Cruises takes you on a relaxing trip through the back bays in and around Atlantic City and Brigantine. While on board you’ll have the opportunity to gaze longingly at a variety of seven-figure dream homes as you sip your drink. And with the boat being docked at Golden Nugget, guests can grab dinner at one of the many restaurants or rock out to a live band on The Deck before or after the cruise.

What are the options?Aloha Tiki Cruises each generally last around 2 hours, but longer and shorter cruise options are also available. Early birds will enjoy the Morning Mimosa Tiki Cruise, which is available for 90-minute voyages starting at either 6:30 or 8:30 a.m., while night owls and anyone looking to party will likely prefer the Party Time Tiki Cruise, which starts at 8:30 p.m. and can be booked for up to four hours. Brunch, afternoon and sunset cruises are also available. Prices range from $350 to $500 per cruise. Additional hours can be added for a fee.

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