Water2Wine Cruises providing lunch, dinner aboard yacht
Cruises depart from Richland’s Columbia Point Marina
When you have more than three decades of experience in the cruise industry, you’re bound to cross paths with the same people more than once.
Jay Denney and Dave Landis did so on several occasions—in different ports and on different boats—over a period of 17 years.
It was only a matter of time before they decided to embark on a business adventure together.
They formed Water2Wine Cruises in October 2015 to provide dinner and lunch cruises along the Columbia River.
“Dave and I met on a cruise in Tahiti. I was a bartender, he was a mate,” Denney said. “He and his wife, Cindy, moved (to the Tri-Cities) 17 years ago, and I stayed in touch with them.”
Denney also moved to Washington but ended up further north with Anthony’s at Spokane Falls restaurant. Two years ago, he transferred to the Richland location and reconnected with his longtime friends.
“And we figured out we’d been thinking about the same thing over the years,” Denney said.
The friends floated the idea of starting a day-boat business and added a fourth partner, Tyler Jorgenson, to the mix.
For the next several months, they searched for a yacht-style boat and finally found what they were looking for in Naples, Florida, for $1.2 million.
“It came with all the tables and chairs. We just had to get dishes, pots and pans,” Denney said.
In fall 2016, customers boarded the motor yacht, Chrysalis, for the first time.
“Despite having one of the worst winters around here, we did well. We’ve gone out all winter long in 10-degree weather and snow,” Denney said. “The only thing that would stop us would be high wind, and we haven’t had that yet.”
The 96-foot yacht has a shallow draft, drawing only three feet of water. It’s 20 feet wide and has two decks for dining and a full bar on the upper deck.
“(The back of the upper deck) can be enclosed or open for heating and air conditioning,” Denney said. “That’s where we do our music and dancing.”
Along with lunch and dinner options, Water2Wine Cruises hosts private and special events, such as a Mother’s Day cruise.
“You name it, we’re doing it,” Denney said. “We haven’t done a wedding yet. Right now usually it’s birthdays and anniversaries. During the holidays, we did quite a few company parties.”
The company employs 15 people. Cruises sail with three to four in the front of the house and two to three in the galley. Water2Wine Cruises can accommodate 100 people for a sit-down dinner and 120 for a cocktail-style reception.
“We make all our own food with our own chefs,” he said. “We use a commercial kitchen for all our prep work, but all of our cooking is done on board.”
Lunch, dinner cruises
All cruises set sail from Columbia Point Marina in Richland.
Lunch cruises are offered Saturday and Sunday and reservations are encouraged. Guests board at noon and the yacht sails at 12:30 p.m. The Chrysalis heads upriver toward the Port of Benton and the cruise lasts about an hour and a half.
Dinner cruises are Friday and Saturday night and last two-and-a-half hours roundtrip. Unlike the lunch cruise, the evening trip takes customers downriver to the cable bridge at about 9.5 knots. Customers board at 6 p.m. for dinner and the Chrysalis sets sail a half hour later.
Lunch cruises include three courses—soup or salad, an entrée and dessert—and run $44 per person. Dinner cruises cost $75 per person and include an appetizer and a glass of champagne in addition to the three courses.
Food choices change seasonally and the summer menu will come out in June. Currently, the dinner cruise options include items such as herb-crusted beef sirloin, red wine braised duck leg, and lemon baked mahi mahi. Vegetarian options are available.
Kids are welcome on day cruises, but the dinner cruises are limited to those 13 and older. If a private party rents the boat, they are welcome to invite younger guests. To rent, a party must consist of 40 or more people. Water2Wine Cruises already has 10 private cruises on the books for this summer.
“We’re doing a wine event with Chandler Reach Vineyards,” said Denney, who explained the business is trying to expand its outreach by holding special event cruises. “And we’re partnering with some local bands to do some concerts on board.”
Water2Wine Cruises has started a Thursday and Friday docked lunch so people can come aboard and learn more about the cruises offered. At some point, Wine2Water Cruises will look to add a trip from Clover Island up the Snake River and through the locks, but for now Denney said they’re still getting their feet wet.
“People are still learning we’re not a private-owned boat. When they do find out, they’re happy we’re here and tell us the Tri-Cities needs it and they support us,” Denney said. “That’s nice feedback to hear from the community.”