By John Lawrence
Imagine going to an outside bar that can carry you to an offshore sandbar or beach shallows where you can drink and swim or dangle your feet over the side while having a drink.
Thanks to local businessmen Mike Cerio and Derek Adams, Clearwater has “Cruisin’ Tikis Clearwater,” which they took before the Clearwater City Commission for approval in February.
The boat combines two great aspects of Florida vacation life: drinking in bars and boating, but with a plus: There’s a sober, licensed boat captain driving the round tiki hut so guests can relax on the water and be safe.
If you think last February wasn’t the best time to launch a new venture in America, much less a tourist-centric business like a floating tiki bar concession, you would be right. Along with a pedal pub business the city commission approved in January, bars, hotels, restaurants, and other venues had to close suddenly to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
“It was a tough time to open a business,” Cerio told Colorful Clearwater. “But since things started to open up, we’ve been doing quite well.”
The setup is perfect for social distancing during Covid 19, so passengers are safe.
“Tiki boats hold up to six passengers while cruising, and we social distance by sitting on opposite sides of the boat, which is 15 feet wide,” Cerio said.
Here’s how a tour works: Customers pay as little as $50 each to board the hexagonal bars, complete with stationary stools, straw roofs, hanging Hawaiian lanterns and music. According to Cerio, the standard tour takes in views of Clearwater Beach from the Gulf of Mexico and other locations so guests can enjoy the views while drinking and hanging out.
Packages include a Sunset Tour, a Clearwater Harbor Night Cruise, Island Sandbar Cruise, and a Clearwater Beach Tour, a Dolphin Tour, and custom tours.
Oh, of course there is the wildlife, the bottlenose dolphins in the intracoastal, sea turtles, manatees and a million different kinds of birds, from oystercatchers to nesting skimmers. Another plus: the tours last 90 minutes, so one doesn’t have to spend too much time on the water.
Customers, however, can arrange tours as long as six hours, the owner said.
“It’s just a unique experience, floating just above the water, having a good time,” he said. “With your feet dangling in the water. Some of the cruises stop at a sand bar so they don’t have to stay on it all the time.”
We thought it was a fun activity to bring to the Clearwater area,” he said. “We have a Coast Guard-certified captain who drives you around. It’s ‘bring your own booze’, whatever you want to drink or eat with you.”
The floating bars are octagonal, with rails around all sides with openings for guests to get in and out of the water to swim. Being on the water is awesome at sunset, to say the least. For larger groups, such as seven or larger, guests can arrange a tandem cruise so two floating bars can cruise to a sandbar next to each other and tie up for an hour and a half of fun and laughs.
“It creates one big party barge, with island music —but passengers can play their own music though our Bluetooth kicker speaker,” Cerio said.
Though most customers come to Slip No. 40 in Clearwater Beach Marina to board, the company will send the floating tiki bars to dockside homes to pickup guests, but that should be arranged in advance.
“It can come to wherever and pick up at people’s houses,” he said, “though 95 percent of our guests board at our location in Clearwater Beach Marina. From bachelorette and bachelor parties, corporate meetings, birthday parties, weddings … you name it and we will try to make it work,” he said.
Cruisin’ Tikis Clearwater has done so well that Cerio and Adams plan to run two more floating tiki concessions: a Tampa location in mid-October and a St. Pete location after that.
“It is the most fun thing you can do out on the water,” he said.
One woman who took the tour out said she had a great time.
Barbara G., who rode the tour in August, “The sunset cruise with Captain Patrick was amazing. We celebrated a birthday and the atmosphere made memories which will last a lifetime.”
A man identifying himself as Larry said he decided to book the floating tiki bar after seeing it sail past his hotel in Clearwater.
“We needed something to do with our adult children and their significant others,” Larry wrote. “We saw the tiki bar float past our hotel and booked it. We spent 90 minutes floating around.”
Cruisin’ Tikis Clearwater
25 Causeway Blvd #40, Clearwater, FL 33767
Photos courtesy of Cruisin’ Tikis
John Lawrence is a free-lance writer who has covered Florida events for decades. He enjoys covering the people and places of Clearwater. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.