Gliding along the Oklahoma River, a 7.2-mile portion of the North Canadian River, Oklahoma River Cruises have three ports: Regatta Park, Exchange Landing and Meridian Landing.
“Everything around here is redeveloping,” said Jeanne Smith, river transit manager for the Central Oklahoma Transit and Parking Authority. “Parking in Bricktown is costly, so why not park at Exchange, take the river boat cruise to the trolley and save money?” Oklahoma River Cruises is owned by COTPA and a part of the Metro Transit.
According to Smith, the river project began in 1953 after the area flooded. The Army Corps of Engineers came in and channelized and reshaped the river. Then in 1993, the first MAPS tax was passed and paid for three dams to create lakes and further shape the river. Three boats were purchased for the cruises, and the service began in April 2008.
On this triple-digit-heat day, cruise riders are in for a surprise: 101.9 The Twister crashed the liner, surprising normal passengers and its contest winners with a free concert from Gloriana.
Inside the air-conditioned cabin, the small group chats while Gloriana sets up, and soon the deep country music resounds through the cabin and on the deck.
Melissa Borchardt and Michelle Bremenkamp took an extended lunch break for the personal concert.
“I never knew there was anything to look at,” Bremenkamp said. “The cruises would be good for a date night or girls’ night out.”
With just those types of nights in mind, Oklahoma River Cruises offers themed cruises.
“We created the theme cruises to add value,” Smith said. “There’s not too much for some people to look at, this gives their experience an added value.”
Historians from the Oklahoma Historical Society come together for the “History Comes Alive” series on Saturdays during the summer. The company re-enacts important scenes of Oklahoma history, like cowboys and the Land Run.
Not enough of a blast from the past? On Sundays through Sept. 4, ride with The Bard for “Shakespeare on the River.” Partnering with Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park, William Shakespeare guides passengers through his time at The Globe, 1500s London and the Thames River. An interactive experience, passengers are quizzed on their Shakespearean knowledge. Smith said it feels like you’re truly riding with Shakespeare.
Captain Mark Andrews’ personal favorite is the sunset cruise each Friday and Saturday because it’s the opportune time of day. After a long day of work, cruisers watch the sunset and unwind on the river. The cruise is 90 minutes long with music, appetizers and soda.
Other themed cruises include a Sunday live entertainment series and cruises with live music from classical guitarist Edgar Cruz.
Private cruises are another option. Smith said many businesses book a cruise for meetings to help seal the deal.
Private cruises get interesting. Last week, there was a dance party.
“When you break it down per person, it’s really not that bad,” Smith said of the cost. Each cruiser fits 35 comfortably, with a maximum capacity of 49.
“Private cruises get interesting,” Andrews said. “We’ve had anything from first birthdays to sweet 16s and 97. Last week, there was a dance party.”
Concessions are available on most cruises, paired with a cash bar.
Passengers can buy tickets online or at the landings. The tickets “cap out” at $15, so you can pay $15 and ride all day, according to Smith. A one-way adult trip is $6 and round trip is $12. Kids tickets are $3 one-way and $6 round-trip.
For more information, visit okrivercruises.com.