For a relaxing and entertaining afternoon mansion-spotting, hop aboard the Miami Island Queen’s “Millionaire Row” Cruise from Downtown Miami! (A review)
I know it probably sounds strange coming from a traveler who doesn’t usually have access to TV and magazines, but I really enjoy celebrity!
For me, I think it’s the glamour of it all — how they’re photographed on the streets of New York looking like they could be shooting an advertisement when they’re really just out for bagels. I would love to look as bagel-glam as Sarah Jessica Parker and Blake Lively do.
Also, I can’t help loving the unapologetic lavishness! I was a huge fan of My Super Sweet 16 when I was young. Watching HGTV’s My Lottery Dream Home marathons when I’m visiting my parents is a delight. And, boy, do I wish MTV Cribs was still a thing!
So when a Groupon landed in my mama’s Inbox for the Miami Island Queen Sightseeing Cruise, a 90-minute tour of celebrity homes on the Miami waterways, I was totally in. It sounded like the perfect family day trip to take after a busy Thanksgiving Weekend.
How To Get There
Because my parents have a vehicle down in Florida, we chose to drive!
Now, the not-so-good thing about driving in South Florida is that it’s… an interesting experience. Somehow Florida missed the whole “Take it easy” vibe you usually find in the South. Therefore driving here feels just like driving up north — loud, rushed and a bit stressful. Because of this (as well as the fact that most of the population down there is made up of Seniors 😉 ) fender benders are a frequent occurrence. Drive defensively.
The good thing about driving is that the highways are VERY well-maintained. So by car, as long as you avoid rush hours, you can expect a pretty smooth ride down to Miami from the West Palm Beach area. Avoid tolls by taking I-95, or take the Florida Turnpike for a small fee.
You can also take the Tri-Rail, South Florida’s popular train route connecting the coastal cities from Magnolia Park to Miami. Get off at the Hialeah stop, ride the Miami Metro-Rail to the Historic Overtown stop, then walk over to the Bayside Marina where the Island Queen is docked.
Or there’s always Uber!
What to Bring
90 minutes is the perfect amount of time to enjoy a a cruise through Millionaire Row, Miami Beach and Biscayne Bay. It’s also the perfect amount of time in which to get burned!! Trust me on this one.
So for an afternoon on the Island Queen Cruise, you’ll want to bring:
1. Sunscreen, SPF 50 (Fine, SPF 30, if you must!)
2. Sunglasses (The breeze will not accommodate your hat, no matter how cute it is.)
3. Comfy shoes (The staff do prefer you to sit, but if you want to run to the other side of the boat for photos you don’t want to be tripping over yourself.)
4. Your camera (Preferably one whose shutter speed you can speed up so you don’t miss any of the action!)
5. Water (Though the drink prices onboard are fair, I personally hate paying for water.)
*Tip: There is a bathroom on board the Island Queen, so no worries. Stay hydrated 😉
What Not to Bring
1. A judge-y ‘tude!
Because YES, it’s clear the owners of these houses are stinkin’ rich. And YES, it could be easy to snark on them and make comments about “compensating for something”… especially when you get to the colossal $58 million mansion owned by the founder of Viagra, Dr. Philip Frost 😉
BUT it’s not super fun for anyone around you.
So instead of airing your one-liners out loud, do everyone a big favor: Keep track of those jokes in a little Note on your phone and save them for your next stand-up routine, mmkay??
What to Expect
I’ll admit the Island Queen’s “Millionaire Row” tour isn’t something I’d normally be able to talk Boyfriend into doing with me. He’s more of a DIY Tour kind of dude, and has absolutely no interest in celebrity (booo).
But even he had a great time on the Island Queen!
The cruise begins at the Bayside Marina, which was all decked out for Christmas when we were there. We all grabbed a quick bite at the food court in the Marketplace before boarding the ship. We were welcomed by a few crew members and our captain before we wandered upstairs to find seats on the spacious upper deck.
The tour was fully narrated by our guide who spoke both English and Spanish fluently. As we passed by a number of manmade islands toward Miami Beach, he pointed out a bunch of houses that (once) belonged to celebrities we knew or were used in movies we’d seen.
Liz Taylor, Shakira, Al Capone, Ricky Martin all used to own mansions along the Island Queen’s route. Gloria Estefan, Shaq, P. Diddy, and Paulina Rubio still do.
We saw the bridge used in the second Fast & the Furious movie, the Addams Family house, and the bright yellow mansion used in Will Smith’s “Welcome to Miami” music video.
AND WE SAW DOLPHINS! On our way back in, just as the sun was beginning to set behind the Miami skyline, we looked down at the water to find two dolphins swimming alongside our boat. I love when wild animals just sneak up and surprise you <3 They were the cherry on top of a lovely afternoon outing.
Tip: During the cruise you’ll be invited to fill out a raffle for a free vacation. But beware: It’s a timeshare thing! So if you don’t want to be getting e-mails and calls from them, politely refuse the raffle form 🙂
What It Costs
Online it seems these millionaire cruises, no matter the tour company, run for between $27-$30. Island Queen Adult tickets cost $27 each, and right now (as of January 2020) if you book online through their website you can get $5 off per Adult (a Child ticket costs $19).
However, when my mom purchased the Groupon deal, Adult tickets cost only $16 each! That’s a huge discount. So if you can wait for the next Groupon to drop, do wait!
To redeem the Groupon we had to go to the kiosk at the Bayside Marina in person and hope the next cruise had space for us (we were a group of six). Luckily it was pretty quiet when we arrived so we had no problem.
Tip: During busier times of the year (like spring/summer) I recommend popping by to book your cruise early, even if you don’t want to take it until sunset. Apparently they often sell out fast in the afternoon.
Honestly, we had a great time! I loved being out for a couple hours on a boat, sun shining, bay sparkling, with my family and my Boy. Florida weather is enviable in the wintertime.
Our guide was entertaining and made us laugh. And I was impressed with how bilingual the cruise was. I often find we don’t do enough in the States to accommodate non-English speakers. This was a pleasant surprise, and a chance for Boyfriend and me to practice our Spanish 😉
I would note that many of the celebrities that used to live in the area don’t anymore. So our guide was pointing out more “former” residences than “current.” It didn’t bother me, but I can see how some people might be expecting more.
Also, full-price the tour ain’t cheap. And I’m more of a moderate-budget traveler. So TBH it would’ve been a no-go for me without the Groupon.
However for the discounted price, I think it’s totally worth it. My whole family and I had a really great afternoon on the water. The views of Miami Beach, Fisher Island, and the Miami skyline are unbeatable from the deck of the boat. And that Florida sunset? Beautiful <3 <3