ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (AP) — Since it made its first splash on St. Patrick’s Day back in March, the Boo-yah has become known as one of the most unusual sights on the water around Bird Island and Robinson Island in Orange Beach.
“The first reaction is usually, ‘What is that?’” says Haley Blaise, who, along with her husband, Ian, owns the Orange Beach franchise of Cruisin’ Tikis.
The boat is certainly odd-looking. It’s octagonal-shaped, 16 feet by 16 feet, with a bar and barstools around the perimeter and a thatched roof, giving it a tropical feel that goes well with Orange Beach’s island vibe.
Cruisin’ Tikis started when CEO Greg Darby built the first floating tiki bar in his backyard in Fort Lauderdale after retiring from civil engineering, internet technology and data center operations, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Haley’s brother-in-law first saw the unusual boats in Key West. The concept was so unique and so much fun that it was “a no-brainer” to get involved, says Haley. She, Ian and her brother-in-law started the Destin franchise three seasons ago.
Based in Destin, Ian works offshore as a ship captain, and Haley teaches ballet. They are the parents of three daughters. “My husband is always trying to find ways to be home a lot more,” she says.
After Cruisin’ Tikis took off in Destin, the Blaises decided Orange Beach would make another great location. The timing might not have been perfect – the COVID-19 pandemic would soon close the beaches – but the tiki had the advantage of being an outdoor activity limited to six passengers, with room for social distancing.
Based at Caribe Marina, in front of Cobalt the Restaurant at Perdido Pass, the tiki boat has been popular with locals and tourists alike – especially for bachelorette parties and girls’ trips, says Haley. The boat has also been the romantic site of proposals and vow renewals.
Guests bring their own drinks and snacks – coolers, cups, shot glasses and bottled water are provided. A professional captain – positioned in the center of the octagonal bar, in the bartender’s spot – drives the tiki boat. The “shot paddle” is also provided and has become one of the most popular photo ops. The boat is also equipped with bluetooth speakers and a karaoke machine.
The most popular cruise is the three-hour island excursion (offered from March to October), which anchors at Bird Island, where passengers can float or snorkel for a while. Other options include one-and-a-half-hour sunset cruises and a harbor cruise.
The tiki boat runs seven days a week, year-round. And plans are already in the works to add a second vessel next year. “We’re super excited about Orange Beach,” says Haley.
“This little tiki boat has made such an impression. It’s a unique way to get out on the water and do something different.”