Partygoers danced the night away while cruising around Tampa Bay.
BY JEFFREY ZANKER, Contributor
TAMPA BAY – “We are bringing in the old-school with the new-school tonight!” DJ DarknLovely shouted to the crowd, from behind his turntables aboard a three-story cruise ship drifting through Tampa Bay last Friday night.
The moonlit waters of Tampa Bay and the St. Petersburg skyline set the scene for the first Fantastic Voyage yacht party produced and organized by William Walker and Skyway Tours and Charters, and hosted by Starship Cruises. As owner of the local tour company, Walker has been giving bus tours throughout the St. Pete area since last year.
The party turned out to be a huge success. According to Walker, more than 540 guests attended, exceeding his expectations. Around 500 tickets were sold in advance, while additional tickets were purchased at the gangway.
“We didn’t expect a big draw,” Walker said. “We sold 300 tickets in the past three or four weeks and I was afraid it wasn’t going to be a sellout. But sales went up at the last minute. That’s how business always turns out.”
Residents from across Pinellas, Hillsborough and other neighboring counties set sail Friday evening, returning past the magic hour, tired, hot, with excitement lingering from the evening’s maritime adventure.
“Overall, it went as smooth as the ride over the water,” Walker said of the party.
Loud music roared throughout the ship, each floor exposed its guests to different eras and atmospheres.
Guests were introduced to old-school mix provided by DJ Abraham when entering the first floor.
The second floor had local singer Cleo Heart with her band performing along with a private area for VIP members and the third floor on the upper deck got down to line dancing with groups such as Line Dance Connection and United Soul Line Dancers of Florida.
Julie Jackson, a teacher at Legacy Prep in Tampa, found the party very exciting with the heat turned up by the choreographed rhythms of the line dancers.
“It is an exciting night and it’s very hot,” Jackson, 54, said of the party. “I’m loving this boat because it has an elevator and you don’t have to worry about taking the stairs.”
Sheila McFadden came aboard to lead her group, Line Dance Connection of Tampa. She sees line dancing as a way for socializing and exercising.
“They keep you healthy,” McFadden said.
Markis Christopher got his groove on the dance floor as part of the United Soul Line Dancers of Florida. Dancing on a yacht for the first time, he felt like he was grooving all by himself.
“Anytime I get the chance to express line dancing, I take the opportunity,” Christopher, 33, said.
Nikki Capehart, St. Petersburg’s director of Urban Affairs, came to support Skyway Tours as part of the city’s recent resurgence.
“What is important is…making sure that all small businesses are taking part of what is available downtown.”
“The spirit of the crowd was amazing,” said Marcina Dowdell-Williams, owner of Loving My Hair Natural Hair Studio and sister to DJ Abraham.
Before boarding, guests could take self-portraits, but unfortunately the printer was not working, leaving many guests asking for their pictures.
“I wish they had a station so we can get them,” said guest Kathy White.
But the problem was resolved by the party’s end. Guests will be able to receive their portrait pictures this week either through e-mail or by snail mail.
“Little hiccups like this are to be expected,” Walker said of managing a party.
The ship returned back to port at 1 a.m. As guests packed the first floor, the party ended with line dancing.
“Let’s end this summer groovy-style,” DJ DarknLovely said as the remaining guests danced to the music.
Walker immediately received requests for another groovy yacht party. The next party lined up is the “End of Winter Groove” party scheduled for March 2017.
“In Florida, there is only two temperatures: hot to cool,” Walker said.