"I Do" on DeckDec 31, 2020 09:00AM ● By Linda Roller
“Won’t you let me take you on a sea cruise?” ~ sung by Frankie Ford in 1959.
There’s something romantic about a boat on the water, whether it’s a canoe paddled by someone who is attracted to you, or you’re rowing your love to a secluded spot for sweet kisses. But the boats can be bigger—my memory holds a special evening on a sea ferry coming back from Catalina Island with a longtime love. And the commitment can be bigger, too. For that, several boats in our area can provide those magic spots for not only falling in love, but for engagements and even weddings.
One of the longest running cruise ships in the area is Captain Bill’s, berthed at the southern tip of Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen. The Simiele family bought the sightseeing boat and business in 1963. It’s since then expanded to two boats, a restaurant in the old train station, and the marina. The larger of the boats, the Seneca Legacy, is a perfect spot for a wedding on the water. According to Mark Simiele, owner, president, and son of the original Captain Bill, a wedding charter goes up to Hector Falls, on the east side of the lake, for the ceremony and wedding photos with the falls as a backdrop. The trip can be as long as three hours, but the Legacy can also do an afternoon one-hour cruise with ceremony and cocktails. Of course, the boat can be chartered not only for weddings but for other special events. “One gentleman chartered our entire 150-passenger vessel for two people—where he proposed to his future wife, complete with a special menu for the proposal,” says Mark. With a restaurant owned by the same family near the dock, the possibilities for a wedding party are many. Both the boat and the restaurant have full-service bars and two separate kitchens. Up to 270 guests can board, but Mark suggests that 215 guests can be seated comfortably for dinner, which can be either a sit-down or a buffet.
The boat usually hosts about a dozen weddings a year, with more weddings in the winter months at the Seneca Harbor Station restaurant, located in the old railroad station at the tip of the lake. The beachfront patio is also a popular venue for weddings and can be rented separately. It is also a very popular place for a wedding rehearsal dinner, with the restaurant hosting two or three wedding parties every Friday night.
Just one lake to the east, Discover Cayuga Lake and the MV Teal offer another type of wedding on the water. Director of Tourism and Outreach Astrid Jirka says that the Teal, which can accommodate eighty people, can be chartered for many private events, including weddings. They have run public cruises and private charters for about a dozen years, and two years ago bought a new boat for touring.
For this cruise, people planning the wedding choose their own caterer, and the staff on board will work with the caterer and any entertainment to make the wedding a reflection of the couple. The Teal does have a license to allow alcohol on board, though they do not provide a full-service bar.
Private events on the Teal support the larger vision of Discover Cayuga Lake. As a non-profit organization, the mission is to educate people on the ecology and history of Cayuga Lake and its watershed. As Astrid explains, “It’s a floating classroom, where the community can learn about their lake and the ecosystem.” Along with grants, private charters like wedding cruises support the educational trips for young people and the community at large.
But not all watery weddings happen on lakes. The Hiawatha Paddlewheel Riverboat, docked at the Susquehanna State Park in Williamsport, is a beloved summer attraction and is available for private rental. It’s a lovely location for a wedding, as the boat holds one hundred people, with fifty on the upper deck. According to Kim Cillo, operations manager for the Hiawatha, wedding charters can be made for one to three hours, and with the pavilion at the state park available for rentals, there is a lot of flexibility for the wedding ceremony and reception. Couples provide their own caterer, and the Hiawatha can suggest companies that have worked with the boat in the past. The Hiawatha retains a Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board License and provides full bar service on board. Kim reminds people looking to have an event both on and off the boat that “bar service is only available on board. The pavilion is in a state park and alcohol is prohibited there.”
The boat has been a popular wedding spot for locals for years. “It’s a lovely venue. Last July, we had a proposal on a public cruise. That couple then married in a private charter on the Susquehanna in August,” she recalls. Kim says that they often set up the upper deck so that the bride can have a procession down the steps to an archway at the back of the boat.
It’s a wonderful spot for creating lifelong memories: “One older gentleman makes a trip with us every year and remembers his late wife in a special way on this trip,” Kim relates. “They were married on the boat.”
For more information and to make reservations, contact Captain Bill’s and Seneca Harbor Station at senecaharborstation.com. For cruise reservations call (607) 535-4541, and for restaurant reservations call (607) 535-6101.
For Discover Cayuga Lake reservations or information, visit discovercayugalake.org or call (607) 327- 5253. The MV Teal’s home dock May through October is at the Allan H. Treman Marine State Park at 1000 Allan H. Treman Park Road, Ithaca.
For Hiawatha Paddlewheel Riverboat reservations or information, visit ridehiawatha.com or call (570) 326-2500. The Hiawatha docks at 2205 Hiawatha Boulevard, Williamsport. The administrative office is at 1500 W. Third Street, Williamsport.