We Tried This: Hawai‘i Pirate Ship Adventures
Ahoy, matey! 7 things you need to know about becoming a buccaneer.
Editors’ note: The HONOLULU Magazine staff is always excited to try new things. With this web series, we bring you activities we tried for the first time.
Photos: Katrina Valcourt
You may have seen a pirate ship cruising off the coast of Waikīkī and wondered, what’s the deal with that? We did, and were stoked to discover that, while it’s a family-friendly and whale-watching tour ship during the day, Hawai‘i Pirate Ship Adventures also offers BYOB nighttime booze cruises/dance parties aboard the 83-foot Treasure Seeker for the 21-and-older crowd. We knew where our next birthday party was going to be.
The first time we went, we scored a Groupon deal for $29 per person (normally $64, for an hour-and-a-half ride). But, seeing as how it was someone’s birthday (OK, this writer), and we were on a PIRATE SHIP, we may have gotten too into character and had more rum than we can remember. So we went again—this time sipping slowly—to get the full experience. Here’s how it went down.
Just before 7 p.m. on a Friday night, the group of soon-to-be pirate passengers (mostly 20-somethings) hanging around the dock in Kewalo Basin hauled their coolers aboard the Treasure Seeker under the guidance of the ship’s four-person crew. Most people gravitated toward the upper decks at each end of the ship, leaving the main deck open as a dance floor after we set sail.
With summer’s long hours, the view as we pulled out of the harbor was gorgeous: surfers silhouetted by the setting sun, a golden glow cast over Diamond Head. As soon as we were out on open ocean, the first mate called everyone down in a circle to go over basic rules, which included not firing the water cannons unless instructed to, refraining from climbing the ropes and making sure to dance. Yes, it’s a rule.
It wasn’t long before the circle turned into a party, aided by the captain’s dancing scarf (as in, you wear it, you dance in the center, then pass it on). With music blaring from the speakers and at times choppy waters, it was impossible to stand still.
1. Who might be interested?
It’s basically a mobile nightclub. On a BOAT. So, if you like drinking and dancing, watching the sunset and aren’t prone to nausea, climb aboard, matey. The ship can hold up to 47 passengers.
2. What to wear
Stripes, at the very least, but an eyepatch, bandana and puffy sleeves really make the outfit. It’s a theme party, so go with it!
3. When to go
During the day, the ship sails three times a day, five days a week, but the daytime tour is geared toward kids. Friday and Saturday nights at 7 p.m. are the party nights, or you can privately charter the boat for your own event (for $2,500). We went on both a Friday and a Saturday—the Hilton’s fireworks show is on Friday.
4. Where it is
Meet at the Hawai‘i Pirate Ship Adventures booth at Kewalo Basin, across Ala Moana Boulevard from the Ward Warehouse sign. When in doubt, just look for the Spanish galleon with a Jolly Roger flag—it’s easy to spot among cruise ships and fishing boats. The boat sails about halfway to Diamond Head before turning around and coming back. On Friday nights, it stops by the Hilton to catch the fireworks.
There’s onsite parking in the harbor for $1 an hour, but not a lot—Ward Warehouse’s lot across the street has plenty of space and is free, but you risk being towed if you don’t stop to shop there.
5. Would we go again?
Sailing on a pirate ship is more fun than sailing on a regular ship, and the vibe changes each time depending on who else is aboard that night. We loved the first mate and captain’s interactions with the crowd, the views and the swashbuckling conviviality that comes with being on a boat. Even if a good chunk of the passengers are tourists, that just means they’re that much more excited to be there.
6. Speak the lingo
Get into character by using these pirate terms and jokes aboard the Treasure Seeker. If you don’t know what they mean, you just may have to walk the plank:
Shiver me timbers
What’s a pirate’s favorite letter? You’d think it would be R, but his first love is the C.
How much did the pirate pay for his hook and peg? An arm and a leg.
Every pirate carries a bar of soap at all times in case his ship sinks. You know, to wash him ashore.
What comic book characters are even better at finding treasure than pirates? X-Men.
If you go with a big group (which we recommend), show up early to board first and snag seats.
It’s a club night, but it’s still only 7 p.m., so dress accordingly. We suggest pirate attire (check costume shops or second-hand stores). Hook hands may limit your ability to hold your grog.
Heels taller than 3 inches are not recommended.
If you get seasick, bring ginger candy.
You can purchase snacks and apparel (including bandanas, weapons and T-shirts) in the galley.
Bring a camera with a wrist-strap to prevent it from going overboard. You’ll want it for the Friday fireworks show and posing in the stocks.
Loosen up, whether that means bringing booze or just going with the flow, because you will get pulled into a dance circle, or else suffer the consequences (which may or may not include a lighthearted lap dance from the crew).
BYOB, but no glass bottles. Fill some Hydro Flasks with your drink of choice and bring a cooler for any aluminum cans.
When you see another boat, yell Arrr!
1085 Ala Moana Blvd., Slip A, booze cruises range from $64 to $69, 593-2469, hawaiipirateship.com