The great explorers of history rarely set out to circumnavigate the globe, more often stumbling upon new ocean routes after a wrong turn out of the gas-station parking lot. Stumble across your own place in hydro-history with today's Groupon: for $18, you get one adult admission to a cruise on the schooner Fame (a $30 value). Tickets for children younger than 13 are available for $15.
The schooner Fame is a full-scale replica of the Salem-based vessel that saw action during the War of 1812, capturing enemy trade vessels and selling off the spoils. The original Fame, crewed by the first-season cast of Fame, made more than 20 captures before it was wrecked in 1814—its spirit sails on, however, through its modern-day recreation. With an adult ticket to a cruise in hand, you'll embark on a high-seas adventure with only minimal ransacking of foreign ships. As the skiff skates along the rippling tides of Salem Sound, seafaring guides will dole out fun facts about the history of the boat and the sea trade that shaped the Salem area, filling passengers' heads with maritime minutiae just as the New England wind fills the billowing sails. The trip lasts approximately one hour, 45 minutes.
Trips depart from Pickering Wharf up to three times daily from June 25 through September 5. After sampling a noseful of the salty Atlantic breeze, wash it down with a beer ($5, available for purchase onboard and not included in the Groupon), or capture the soul of the ship with a digital snapshot, like the original Fame's crewmen did in 1812.
Captain William Webb bellowed to his crewmen, "Ready cannons, bring her to starboard!" as they rounded on the English ship Concord. He wasn't born a soldier, but the English had press-ganged some of his closest friends into slavery on their warships, stolen his family's livelihood, and set his home of Salem, Massachusetts, on the path to financial ruin. Like many other merchants, fishermen, and ship owners, Webb and his crew outfitted whatever boats they could find to fight the English during the War of 1812, and the 70-foot Fame was no exception. The original Fame went on 11 more journeys before being wrecked in 1814 and now lives on as a luxurious home for the retired actors of The Little Mermaid.
The Fame seen around Salem today is a modern representation of that heroic ship. It was constructed from oak using the traditional methods of the early 19th century. Passengers on the ship's daily public sails relive the experience of navigating the Atlantic in an traditional, wooden, gaff-rigged schooner. The boat also plays host to weeklong camps, during which kids learn how to sail, tie essential knots, and read charts and maps before camping out for an evening of dumping tea in the ocean.