The Osprey 1 is fittingly named; it was Osprey Cruises' first and only boat back in 1971, when the company first started. Back then, the 70-foot vessel's main routes were for carrying fishermen and spectators up to 100 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico for fishing trips and wildlife watching. And it does so today, too?it's just ceded some of its star status to the fleet's newer vessels.
And they're a compelling bunch. Take the aptly named The Thriller, a high-speed offshore racer for adrenaline cruises. Or, perhaps even more enticing, The Black Dragon. It's a recreation of a 17th-century Spanish galleon helmed by a crew of costumed pirates, rather than their less-reliable parrots. On pirate cruises, these swashbucklers share pirate stories, send passengers on treasure hunts, and generally introduce them to the grog-and-swordfighting lifestyle. Many trips happen upon schools of dolphins along the way or offer evening jaunts amid captivating sunset views.
For Isla Tours’ owner Captain Stephen Murphy, the Gulf of Mexico is not just the place he has fished and sailed for more than 30 years—it’s an old family friend. In 1961, his grandfather Eddie Murphy founded the boating company and dedicated himself to touring the Gulf’s waters. Since Eddie’s tenure, however, the company has changed substantially. Now operating under the name Isla Tours, its fleet incorporates three boats, which range from a 67-foot double-decker vessel to smaller ones with covered seating. Aboard these vessels, Captain Stephen—who has set multiple state fishing records—leads deep-sea-fishing adventures, sunset cruises, and dolphin-watching tours, during which passengers can glimpse pods of binocular-toting dolphins on people-watching tours.
When Daniel Bryant founded Breakaway Cruises in 1995, the tour company had a fleet of one—a dolphin watch boat, the Xcape. Nowadays, the Xcape is still bringing tourists face-to-face with live dolphins, but it no longer works alone. Gliding behind one of the new parasailing boats, aquatic adventurers rise up to 600 feet above the waves without having to harness a flying fish to each shoe. Meanwhile, fishermen can seek out sand trout, redfish, and speckled trout aboard assorted fishing boats. Jet skis round out the fleet, along with a second dolphin watch boat.