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Wine Tasting Afloat

If you love wine and enjoy fine food, Waterways has a new adventure for your taste buds! We have launched a new series of cruises featuring local wines from award-winning Washington wineries. And, unlike the hundreds of wine events in and around the Seattle area, this is not your typical wine tasting experience! Each cruise highlights select premium wines from a featured winery, meticulously paired with plated courses by our Executive Chef, served and accompanied by a winemaker’s presentation while you cruise on Lake Union and Lake Washington.

As you board the yacht for this unique dinner cruise, you will be delighted to see how our elegant Olympic Star is transformed into a tasting room. Burgundy linens, warm candle light and displays of featured wines make our vessel cozy and inviting for a night of gastronomic adventure with a nautical twist. And don’t forget the dramatic evening views of Seattle that will never bore you during this 2.5 hour cruise.

During the evening, your four tasting wines are presented with tasting notes about each wine and details on each paired food course. The wine expert from the represented winery talks about each wine, the history of production, and other fascinating details of wine making, while Executive Chef Bagley serves delicious courses paired with the wines. For a sweet ending to this relaxing and entertaining dining cruise, a refreshing sorbet is served for dessert. All wines are available for sale by the bottle onboard.

Our next cruise in the series is on Friday, January 9, 2015, featuring Hogue Cellars and its award-winning Reserve Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet and Genesis Riesling. Learn more about the menu pairing on this cruise, including Seared Tuna, Grilled Pear and Gorgonzola Salad and New York Striploin, and join us for an unforgettable wine tasting experience!

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Waterways’ 20th Anniversary and TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence Award

Waterways is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year and just in time to mark this exciting milestone, we were awarded the 2014 Certificate of Excellence by TripAdvisor® for our customer and hospitality service! TripAdvisor®’s Certificate of Excellence is awarded to hospitality businesses that have received extraordinary, positive recognition in reviews by TripAdvisor® travelers. To qualify for the Certificate of Excellence, our business had to maintain the highest rating for 12 consecutive months.

Waterways’ 20th Anniversary Showcase

As we look back at the 20-year history of Waterways, we posed a few questions of Shirley Turnbow, CEO and co-founder of Waterways Cruises.

What is the team’s reaction to receiving this award? We are excited to celebrate our 20th year in the hospitality industry with this accolade! It’s a true source of pride for the entire Waterways team.  I really want to thank all our customers who took the time to complete their TripAdvisor® reviews! There is no greater seal of approval than being recognized so positively by our customers.

Waterways wedding in 1997

Why did you decide to start this business 20 years ago? Hilton Smith and I founded Waterways Cruises in 1994. Our love of boating and outdoor adventures led us to our first yacht which we acquired for family use. Within a year or so, our hobby turned from a small family operation of a single yacht chartered for private events into a full-scale event business with three yachts, a fully equipped catering kitchen, and professional event planning services. Our beautiful yachts became popular venues for clients who wanted to have a sense of privacy and a shared adventure – weddings, birthday and anniversary celebrations, and corporate events. The vessels are outfitted with full service bars, state-of-the-art galleys for freshly prepared onboard catering, and individual tables that can be custom-arranged to accommodate small or large groups.

Waterways’ 20th Anniversary Showcase

It has been an exciting business to be part of for the last 20 years. We have had corporate CEO’s, sports stars, the Vice President of the United States, and dignitaries from other countries onboard. If you were to ask what it is that I enjoy most about this business, it would be the people. Not only is it wonderful to see the happy smiles on our guests on departure, but working with the best team of people in the business is a joy every day.

What about public cruises? In 2009, as the company continued to grow, we decided to expand our operations to include public cruises. In years past we had offered a limited number of special event and holiday cruises, but now our year-round dining cruise schedule includes over 300 cruises, accommodating guests of all ages–four-course plated dinners, fun, happy hour cruises, brunch, lunch and BBQ cruises and special event cruises for Blue Angels’ viewing, Halloween dance parties, and all major holidays. We just launched a new Wine Tasting Cruise series featuring local Washington wines, and these cruises are already gaining a lot of attention. Rain or shine, our yachts provide climate-controlled interior salons and spacious open-air decks for the comfort and enjoyment of our guests. Private tables can be custom-arranged to accommodate intimate dining for two or larger group celebrations. Our Executive Chef uses only the finest ingredients so that our guests, both public and private, can enjoy the best of fresh Northwest cuisine as they cruise.

Waterways yachts on Lake Union

What makes a Waterways’ Captain special? Our Captains are an integral part of the Waterways cruise experience, from personally greeting each customer, presenting flowers to guests of honor, and entertaining diners with a narrative of sights and interesting landmarks during each cruise. Our captains are very interactive, they have been in this area a long time, and know it well. Parents can bring their children into the wheelhouse and have their pictures taken with the Captain. For private cruises, guests often request a specific Captain with whom they have cruised before. Some of our Captains specialize in weddings. Our Captains are an important part of the Waterways’ team, which also includes our outstanding service crew, kitchen and office staff.

Waterways Captains

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Take a Royal Wedding, Add Horse Races and Beer, and You Get Oktoberfest!

What comes to mind when you think about Oktoberfest? Oktoberfest is most famous for its beer, which was probably your first thought. You may also think about lederhosen, brats, Volkswagens, the harvest season and all the delicious things that you can cook and brew from the fall bounty. But that’s not how Oktoberfest started.

Originally, Oktoberfest was a celebration of a royal wedding between the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. All the citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities, which were held over five days on the fields in front of the city gates.

The horse races, not beer, were the highlight of the wedding event. And the Royal family loved the horse races so much, it was decreed that they were to be repeated at all anniversary celebrations held thereafter.  However, what’s a celebration without food, music and drink? Carnival booths and parades to celebrate the Bavarian culture were added and the festival quickly became an annual tradition.

Oktoberfest has changed substantially since its origins in 1810; the horse races ended in 1960 and the beer halls became elaborate tents, one tent holding 12,000 people. Oktoberfest has become the world’s largest fair (also known as the world’s largest beer festival), now attracting over six and half million visitors each year.

So what does Seattle have to do with Oktoberfest? There is a large representation of people with German ancestry in Seattle and, of course, Seattleites do love their beer, particularly the local specialty beers. The most well-known Oktoberfest celebration in Seattle is the Fremont Oktoberfest where Seattle’s funky culture collides with the love of dog contests, 5K competition with contestants dressed in outrageous costumes, and a Beer Tasting Garden overflowing with local brews. In addition to the annual Fremont Oktoberfest, Kirkland Oktoberfest is coming back to Kirkland Marina Park for the second year! Kirkland Oktoberfest runs over the course of 3 days from September 26 through 28 and takes place on the waterfront in downtown Kirkland. Enjoy German and local craft beers, traditional German fare, music, wiener dog racing and costume contests.

Waterways Cruises will have its own Oktoberfest celebration this year.  We will pull on our lederhosen and add a nautical twist to a Seattle Oktoberfest celebration. We invite you to join us aboard the Oktoberfest Cruise from Kirkland on September 27 at 7:30 pm. We will have plenty of specialty Oktoberfest beers (you can even buy a Beer Bucket) and a buffet full of German delicacies from Bratwurst to Wiener Schnitzel to Apple Strudel. Top it off with toe-tapping polka music from our fabulous onboard accordion player and you won’t have to fly to Bavaria to experience a fun Oktoberfest. We hope to see you aboard with your mug full of beer!

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Jeff Corter—Waterways’ Sous Chef Extraordinaire!

Meet Jeff Corter, Waterways Cruises’ Sous Chef, who is always in action—cooking, ordering, teaching, tasting and feeding our on-site ducks.

At Waterways, Jeff refers to himself as “the hands for the Chef’s vision.” He enjoys coming up with ideas and developing new recipes, coordinating the logistics and teaching the kitchen staff the step-by-step process on executing that vision. Remembering his own years as a beginner cook, he prefers to mentor by acting as a teacher, asking questions on what would make a recipe better and explaining what to look for while tasting the food. For example, when creating a new recipe for soup, he will taste the stock and ask the staff whether it needs more herbs, or beef flavor, or spices, instead of just telling them how to fix it.

Executive Chef, David Bagley, has said that “Jeff’s attitude and knowledge are top notch. I know I can always rely on him and his outstanding performance and experience”.

One of Jeff’s recipes became a popular dish on the Sunday Brunch Cruise—and earned recognition as “Jeff’s Signature Potatoes”. His magic touch to the roasted potatoes? Adding chimichurri—a blend of oil, parsley, oregano, salt and chili flakes.

Jeff has been working in the hospitality industry since the mid-80’s, initially starting at the Seattle Sheraton Hotel as a bus boy. A hardworking employee, Jeff was quickly promoted to become a steward and learned all the necessary tricks of the trade by working side by side with talented chefs in the kitchen. Jeff’s experience includes working in four-star restaurants such as Palisade, Magnolia, and Arctic Club, and as a banquet chef at the Hyatt and other hotels.

In addition to taking care of food orders and kitchen prep, Jeff also oversees the well-being of our ducks, Fred and Ethel. He feeds them several times a day and makes sure that they have plenty of water.

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Happy Hour Unlimited

A refreshing breeze, sunny decks and amazing views that never stay the same…where can you find all of that? Look no further than a Waterways Happy Hour Cruise! And who says this happiness should only last an hour? Our Happy Hour Cruise is an hour and a half long, offering a perfect time frame to indulge in mouth-watering appetizers, sip on delicious drinks served by smiling bartenders, and to learn some fun facts about Seattle from the Captain. It is a great way to relax with friends or make new friends while cruising on a Waterways yacht.

We are lucky to live in Washington, where we can enjoy our freedom of unrestricted Happy Hours. Did you know that Happy Hour is illegal in several states, including Massachusetts, North Carolina and Utah? In some states, such as New York, it is illegal to offer drinks that are less than half price during the designated time of “Happy Hour.” Our neighbors in Ontario, Canada, have to be careful about advertising discounted prices “in a manner that may promote immoderate consumption.” Restaurants and bars can’t even use the phrase “happy hour.”

But here at Waterways, we are happy to serve you unlimited happiness and drinks while cruising on Lake Union and Lake Washington. At the buffet you will find all the Happy Hour favorites from house-made chips and salsa to sweet potato fries, BBQ wings with assorted dips, and many other sweet and savory treats. We are not shy about offering discounts and specials on popular cocktails, wines and beers and you can even get unexpected prizes if you pay attention to the Captain’s trivia and answer his questions correctly! Or come into the Pilot House to hang out with the Captain and try your hand at the wheel!

Remember Hawkeye’s famous line from M*A*S*H (the 70’s hit TV series)—“Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happy Hour?” Come and pursue Happy Hour with us!

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Weddings with Waterways

Romance is still in the air even though Valentine’s Day is over, so let’s take a walk down memory lane and remember unique weddings that happened aboard our yachts. Veronica and Edwin were married on the Emerald Star in 2000. It was a beautiful wedding in every way, just as they imagined it.  Fourteen years later, they still love talking about their special day and they return when they can to celebrate their anniversary. They were guests aboard the Emerald Star on our Valentine’s Day cruise this year and had a great time, even witnessing a proposal—how special is that?

Veronica and Edwin have graciously shared some of their photos and tell their story in their own words.

“Waterways went above and beyond to make our wedding day truly unforgettable. They were especially accommodating with our many special requests. What a unique treat to be on the water especially for those who came from out of state! Even the locals got to experience Seattle from a different, beautiful perspective.”

“The photos were priceless during the ceremony with the skyline and Space Needle in the background as we floated in the middle of the lake.  The bonus was going by the famous sites like the Sleepless in Seattle floating home, or seeing Bill Gate’s home from a distance.  Every time I see the Emerald Star now, it brings back wonderful memories.  You’re just not going to get all these experiences with any building venue.  We highly recommend Waterways.”

“At that time, the Emerald Star didn’t have a freezer (they have a full kitchen now) but we really wanted ice cream. The staff didn’t hesitate to let us know they would make it happen for us. Little did we expect to be so blown away with what they did. During the reception, another boat from their fleet was circling around us.  At one point, the two boats majestically came together bow to bow, and both crews helped rope over a tub of ice cream to us!  Guests on both vessels were so thrilled, we all broke into applause. What a memorable experience!  We’re so happy to have caught on video and in photographs! “

What an unforgettable story! Over the last 20 years, Waterways has hosted over 2,000 weddings for  happy couples, so we consider ourselves somewhat of an expert when it comes to making dreams come true.

For your planning convenience, we have designed wedding packages that can be easily customized to make your event just perfect. We take care of the details, creating easy and flexible options for your unique occasion.  Make an appointment with one of our wedding event specialists for a tour of the yachts, and don’t forget that a captain can officiate at your wedding ceremony–it’s pretty special to be married by a captain in uniform! Maybe someday you can walk down memory lane and share your remarkable wedding story with us too.

Thank you, Veronica and Edwin, for letting us share your story!

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Chef Udo and his Mother’s Pot Roast Recipe

Meet Udo Belew, our own artist-in-residence, musician and Executive Chef. “I grew up in an artistic family—my mother is a talented oil painter and my father is a well- known guitar player and solo performer. They both taught me so much and inspired my artistic interests. I am a chef and an artist because of both of them influencing me in my very lucky childhood.

At a very young age I got my first drum set and began learning the basics of music from my father, the best teacher I could ask for! If you have any idea how loud drums are, you would understand how amazing and patient my parents were putting up with all that noise. But my father was often away on tour for months at a time, and my mother insisted that the kids help around the house. I was the second oldest of four, so when I was “old enough”, she began to show me around the kitchen. I didn’t realize it at the time, but we share a lot of the same passions, one of them being food! Not only could I eat 20 pancakes in one sitting, but I knew how to cook them too! She taught me knife skills, the complex ways of cooking and handling eggs, chicken curry with rice, and many other delicious dishes. Later in life, she explained the politics of a kitchen. I don’t think I will ever be old enough for that lesson!

Back then, at four, I was the king of two things—the swing set and pancakes. Now I run a very unique kitchen and execute complex events on three yachts.

I owe my start as a chef to my mother, so I thought I would share a recipe for one of my favorite comfort foods from my childhood—Maggie’s Pot Roast. I can taste it just by closing my eyes and going back in time…


3-4 lb chuck roast
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp onion powder
2 tbsp olive oil
1 diced yellow onion
2 cups diced carrot
15 baby potatoes
8 garlic cloves
2 cups dice celery
2 bay leaves
1/2 lb unsalted butter
2 strips bacon (optional)

Start with a dry rub of salt, pepper and onion powder, poke many holes in the meat, and push slivers of fresh garlic all the way into the holes. Sear the meat in a bit of olive oil, put it in a baking dish with enough room left to hold carrots, onions, celery and thyme. Salt and pepper the vegetables, cover with foil or lid, and roast at 325 until you can easily put a fork in it and twist. This should take a couple hours, depending on the meat. You can add small potatoes and even whole butter to the mix or cumin and chili pepper if you like it on the spicy side.

When he is not busy designing menus, cooking and tending to his garden at Waterways for fresh herbs and vegetables, Chef Udo can be found at his home recording studio, composing, arranging, and playing with his band.

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Apple Cup Sailgating Cruise

The exciting Apple Cup game between the University of Washington Huskies and the Washington State University Cougars is returning to Seattle this year for a showdown in the new Husky Stadium! The Apple Cup brings together some of the most talented college football players in the NCAA football league.

Whether your color is purple or red, we have entertainment planned for you!

The teams played for the “Governor’s Trophy” until 1962, when it was renamed the Apple Cup after Washington’s famous apple crop. A trophy has passed back and forth between the teams since 1900, the year the first rivalry game was held between the schools.  The Cougars won in overtime last year and with the Huskies holding a 67-32-6 advantage going into this year’s game, anything can happen. Both teams will be fighting for dominance, and the fans are just as fierce in their loyalty to their team.

Join us aboard the Apple Cup Sailgating Cruise and experience tailgating in style aboard a beautiful yacht! Avoid traffic jams and parking hassles at the stadium and enjoy a delicious lunch buffet, beautiful views of Seattle and a full service bar available during the cruise and at half-time! We will be serving specialty Apple Cup cocktails, red or purple, your choice!

Cruise to the UW Husky Stadium aboard the Emerald Star to view this historic game!

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New Fall Dinner Menu

Another beautiful autumn has arrived in Seattle, bringing with it brilliant colors and cooler temperatures. It is a perfect time to relax and get cozy on a Waterways yacht. Sip on a warm drink from our full service bar and enjoy shoreline views and city lights as you cruise the calm waters of Seattle’s lakes. Chef Udo’s fall dinner menu includes four new entrees offering the ultimate in comfort food with a Pacific Northwest touch, and featuring fresh seasonal ingredients with a beautiful presentation.

Pan-seared French-cut Chicken Breast is served with roasted root vegetables, roasted butternut squash, tarragon potatoes and chicken demi-glace.

Pan-seared French-cut Chicken Breast

Pan-seared Bistro-cut Hanger Steak is served with young potatoes, pearl onions, carrots, beets, arugula oil, and black mission fig demi-glace.

Pan-seared Bistro-cut Hanger Steak

Citrus-seared Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon is served with roasted beets, winter vegetables, and turnip puree.

Citrus-seared Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon

Winter Harvest Sauté features braised kale and rainbow chard served over herbed quinoa and tomato jus drizzled with arugula oil and topped with almonds.

Winter Harvest Sauté

No matter the season, you are always invited to dinner aboard a Waterways yacht! Your boarding toast of champagne, private table, friendly and professional service and waterfront views create the perfect setting for you and your guests.

Check our Sunset Dinner Cruise schedule for delicious fall dining afloat!

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Chef Udo’s White Balsamic Vinaigrette

This amazing dressing is used on many salads that Chef Udo prepares and goes particularly well with blue cheese, goat cheese, almonds and berries. You can also add some fresh pears or apples.


  • ¾ cup canola and extra virgin olive oil blend
  • ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. stone-ground mustard
  • 1 Tsp. of minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tsp. of minced fresh shallot
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large mixing bowl add the mustard, garlic, shallot and vinegar. Slowly whisk in the oil to emulsify (see below). Whisk in the honey and lemon and add salt and pepper to taste. Use kosher salt and fresh ground pepper for the best results in all cooking.


Definition of Emulsification

Emulsify means combining two liquids together which normally don’t mix easily. The ingredients are usually oil or a fat like olive oil or egg yolks, and another liquid like water or broth. Acidic liquids like lemon juice help the process by changing the pH of the mixture. The liquids are combined very slowly, usually drop by drop, while beating vigorously, which suspends drops of liquid throughout each other. Béarnaise, hollandaise, and mayonnaise are examples of emulsified foods.

Tips on Mixing the Vinaigrette

The most effective way of combining the oil and the vinegar is in a blender. If you don’t have a blender, you can combine everything in a glass or stainless steel bowl and whisk thoroughly. (Just don’t use an aluminum bowl — the acid in the vinegar can react with the aluminum, producing a metallic flavor.) You could even seal the ingredients in a clean glass jar or bottle and shake to combine. For best results, all your ingredients should be at room temperature when you begin. The cooler the oil, the more difficult it is to make an emulsion.

Once you have mixed the ingredients, let the flavors meld for a while, especially when you go beyond the basic formula and introduce additional ingredients such as minced onion, garlic, herbs, etc. Ideally you would prepare the vinaigrette in advance and then let it sit for a few hours. Just don’t refrigerate it during this time!

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