Dinner cruises have evolved into fine eateries over the years, coming a long way since the dubious 24-hour buffet of Julius Caesar's primitive binge barge. Taste four stars beneath starry skies with today's Groupon: for $86, you get a three-course dinner cruise for two aboard the StarShip II from Yacht StarShip (a $194.63 value, including fees and taxes). Beverages and gratuity are not included.
Aboard the triple-decker, 150-passenger StarShip II, a seasonal menu of gourmet dishes fuels passengers through an intimate evening of dancing, DJ tunes, and breathtaking Tampa Bay views. The clacking shutter of a photographer's camera welcomes guests up the ramp, with the shots developed in an onboard darkroom and available for purchase or improvisational collage work during the evening. The captain and crew extend official salutations before the dining-room manager escorts each group to its private table for a starter, such as a traditional caesar salad or the soup du jour. Tines sink into the char-grilled prime pork chop adobo or the goat-cheese-filled caprino pasta purses, ideal for carrying lasagna-noodle wallets. The fresh catch of the day serves up the finest flavors of the sea before a daily selection of desserts clears palates with a wave of sweetness.
After dinner, parties ascend stairs to the promenade deck for 360-degree views of bayside splendor rife with the Gulf's elegant wildlife, such as dolphins, pelicans, and discofish. Dancing duos dip partners as the cruise director blends classic toe-tapping tunes with modern pop hits on the lounge deck. Tampa's night-lights glitter beneath the unveiled stars, which wink shyly in the sky and pointedly avoid eye contact with the man in the moon.