Come, ye curious first-timers and ardent explorers, passionate adventurers of any age and cruise lovers of all kinds. Skip the megaships and luxury liners in favor of up-close-and-personal experiences via small-to-large water craft. Tour popular nearby locations. Splash into water sports, or seek your solitude touring via paddleboarding and kayaking. Oceans of exciting on-the-water tours and activities to see and do in one day or less beckon.
See, Do, or Both?
- Do you want a narrated tour of historical landmarks and gorgeous, private and celebrity real estate?
- Want to see waterways, Everglades, islands and coastlines?
- Would you like to watch wildlife or encounter marine animals in their natural habitats?
- Is the beauty of nature calling?
- Maybe you want to learn something about Southwest Florida’s Eco Systems or earn a scouting badge?
- What size and kind of boat do you want to sail?
- Are shelling, swimming, paddleboarding or kayaking more your style?
- Maybe a sweet sunset cruise with dining and dancing under the stars sounds relaxing.
- How about a private charter to celebrate a special occasion or a girl’s day out?
Where Do You Go From Here?
Do you just want something that departs from nearby, or are you willing to drive across town and park for the day to depart from elsewhere? Do you want to see a specific city, island, preserve, national park, river, or lake? Are you willing to drive within half an hour to an hour outside town to board a tour of nearby Everglades ? How long do you want your cruise to last? Wherever your tours take you, pack your sunscreen, lip balm and bottled water because you are heading for exciting adventure and fun in the sun or shade!
What Kinds of Cruise Tours Are There? Oh, My!
Never before thought about taking a cruise? Before you browse the listing of local cruise operators included in this article, discover the kinds of cruises that are available:
- Sightseeing tours with narration and discussion
- Sunset Cruises
- Dinner, Dancing
- Pirate Adventure, Arrrrg!
- Party Cruises
- Wildlife, Aquatic Life
- Summer Camps
- Earn Scout Merit Badges
- Snorkeling, Shelling, Swimming
- Places accessible only by boat or plane
- Special Events like birthdays, weddings, corporate entertaining
- Charters are available for parties of six and up depending on the size of the boat.
Lengths of Tours
Day cruises run anywhere from one to three hours, half day, or all day. Evening cruises average two hours. Boats with parlors and cabins might sail rain or shine depending on the weather conditions. An hour or two is great for sightseeing, learning history of the area, spotting wildlife and learning about Southwest Florida’s unique environment. Longer cruises afford opportunities to explore and interact with nature hands-on perhaps shell hunting, swimming and snorkeling.
These ballpark figures are intended to help you estimate costs for the cruises you want. Pricing does not include everything unless specifically stated as an all-in-one package. Even then, there may be related expenses. “The Ticket” usually includes a mandatory port charge and sometimes a small gratuity. Usually they are non-refundable. Tours and activities may be available year-round, seasonal or on-demand. Always call cruise operators direct or visit their Web sites for current packages, pricing and availability of specific tours.
Expenses not included in the ticket price for most local tours are:
- Local and state taxes
- Tolls and Parking
- Food, Beverages
- Bar-Age 21 up
- Souvenirs on Board
- Sports Equipment Rental – Some provide snorkeling gear.
- Event or Attractions Admissions
- Casual clothing is the norm. Wear shoes, avoid tank tops. Feel free to dress up for sunset cruise dinner dates or a pirate adventure cruise!
- Gratuity may or may not be included, so ask. Give cash gratuities without asking for change directly to crew members you wish to thank.
- Arrive at least half an hour before boarding.
- Smoking is not permitted on most cruises or destinations.
- Pets are not usually permitted.
- Children are welcome on most tours, but always ask in case the vessel is not equipped to accommodate babies or young children safely.
Dreamer, observer or doer? Trying to cram lots of different activities on land into your vacation not your style? Then a well-planned raft of local water excursions may be just the ticket you need for both an exciting and relaxing vacation in the Sunshine state’s spectacular Eastern Gulf waters.
Do you love being on the water? Like a multi-vitamin for the senses, Fort Myers offers enough exciting, affordable cruise excursions to sail a different one every day of your stay. This one-stop listing of cruises departing Fort Myers and Southwest Florida will have you cruising to your heart’s content creating once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
1. Adventures in Paradise
Departs: Royal Shell Port Sanibel
Marina Destination: North Captiva
Amenities: Water, soft drinks on board, dockside dining or bring your own cooler.
Cruises: Shelling and lunch excursions, dolphin and wildlife cruises, sunset cruises
2. Banana Bay Tour Company
Departs: Cape Harbor Marina in Cape Coral; Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina
Destinations: Picnic Island, San Carlos Bay, Mangrove Creek Forest, Estero Mound Key, Gulf of Mexico
Amenities: Cushioned seating, music, restrooms, coolers welcome, alcohol okay except no red wine. Shelling, sunning, swimming. Dockside dining. Guided tours led by local archaeologist. See dolphins, manatees.
Cruises: Lunch, picnic, nature and sunset sightseeing cruises and group charters. See stunning estates, luxury yachts, beaches, islands and wildlife.
3. Captiva Cruises
Departs: McCarthy’s Marina and South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island
Destination: Cabbage Key, Useppa
Amenities: Live music, bar on some vessels, snacks. Small parking fee.
Cruises: Lunch and sunset
4. Eco Safari
Departs: Round-trip transportation from greater Fort Myers, Sanibel, and Naples
Destinations: Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve
Amenities: Awarded the Florida Society for Ethical Ecotourism’s Gold Level Certification for Ecotour Operators.
Cruises: Half-day, full-day, or all-in-one Everglades adventure packages that include two-night accommodations and tours in Fort Myers for under $500. Everglades Day Safari, 7:15 a.m.-5:30-ish p.m., includes guided nature walk, 90-minute cruise, one-hour airboat ride, wildlife drive, and lunch. Captain Bob’s Excellent Adventure includes interactive reptile show designed with children in mind. Departs Fort Myers 8:15 a.m., returns 1:30-ish p.m.
5. Estero Bay Express Dolphin Tours
Departs: Fish Tale Marina on south part of Fort Myers Beach
Destination: Estero Bay
Amenities: Coolers welcome or dine in marina restaurants before or after tour.
Cruises: Dolphin tours aboard 40-foot catamaran departing 10 a.m., noon and sunset.
6. Fort Myers Boat Tour and 7. Slidey Cat Boat Tours and Rentals
Departs: Salty Sams Marina, Parrot Key
Destinations: Sanibel, Captiva, Lovers Key State Park, Cabbage Key, Estero Island, Ussepa Island, Fort Myers Beach/Back Bay, Caper Coral
Amenities: Accommodates 4-6 people. Sundeck, lounge area, lower cabin, restroom. Coolers welcome. Caters special occasions and corporate entertaining.
Cruises: Private 1 1/2 to six-hour luxury cruises aboard 40 foot yacht. Shelling, gondola and beach tours. 15+ restaurant destination cruises. Day cruises and island cruises start 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Two-hour sunset cruise.
8. Fort Myers Princess
Departs: Snug Harbor Marina
Destination: Gulf of Mexico
Amenities: Full bar, light snacks. Dockside dining.
Cruises: 75-foot double decker. Party cruises, dolphin tours, special events, sunset cruise. Sunday Brunch and holiday-themed dinner cruises November-April.
9. JC Boat Cruises
Departs: Downtown Fort Myers
Destinations: Caloosahatchee River; Intracoastal Waterway, Cape Coral, Shell Point Village, Punta Rassa, Gulf of Mexico; Through the Franklin Locks into Lake Okeechobee; Intracoastal Waterway through two locks to Moor Haven
Amenities: Climate-controlled salons, open upper deck, all-you-can-eat-buffet, cash bar, music, dancing. Very affordable. Sing-alongs, sunbathing, plant and marine animals. Reservations required. 10-hour meter parking free on weekends and after 5 p.m. weekdays. Smoking permitted on outside decks.
Cruises: Sail aboard 600-passenger, triple-deck paddlewheeler! Three or four-hour, half-day and full day lunch and dinner excursions, weekend dinner and dancing, holiday luncheons. Historical sites, homes, wildlife, dolphins, manatees.
10. Naples Princess
Departs: Port of Naples Marina
Destination: Naples Bay, Port Royal into the Gulf of Mexico
Amenities: Outdoor seating, air-conditioned indoor salons, special seating available. Full-service bars, freshly prepared meals. Accepts reservations. Advance purchase ticket group discounts. Event Planners available.
Cruises: New, tri-level, 105-foot luxury yacht. Public and private sightseeing, lunch and dinner cruises, themed excursions.
11. Pieces of Eight Pirate Cruise
Departs: Salty Sam’s Marina
Destination: Fort Myers Waterways
Amenities: Full bar, snack food. Dockside dining. Dress in costume if you like!
Cruises: Departures 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. for family-friendly, swashbuckling excitement aboard a 65-foot Spanish Galleon. 90-minute adult cruise on Friday nights.
12. Sanibel Harbor Princess Yacht
Departs: Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort and Spa
Destination: San Carlos Bay Amenities: Outdoor observation deck, indoor air-conditioned salons, hot buffet. Reservations required. On-site parking available for fee.
Cruises: Two-hour cruises, dolphin excursions, traditional dinner cruises, Sunday brunch aboard 100-foot private luxury yacht.