COVID be damned! BYOB hot-tub boat rides booming during pandemic
They’re riding the second wave — in a hot tub.
Intrepid party people are pooh-poohing the pandemic and soaking up the season aboard the Hudson River’s latest eye-popping attraction: a hot-tub boat.
“We did a nighttime cruise, and we bundled up until it was time to jump in the tubs,” said Jacqui Wimberly, who got steamy with her husband and three girlfriends (who are all part of one quarantine pod) on the boat.
They splashed out about $100 each for a 90-minute cruise with views of the Statue of Liberty, armed with cans of spiked seltzer and beer in coolers — the boat is BYOB — last month.
“My pod goes to the park and we play games, but this was by far the most fun thing we’ve done,” the 30-year-old South Street Seaport resident said.
The NYC-meets-après ski activity is run by Sea the City, a water sports company that has a fleet of Jet Skis for rent, in addition to their new hot-tub venture.
Rented out by the tub, a plunge starts at $349 for two people on weekdays. Or, dive into the deep end and book the entire boat on a weekend for around $1,800.
“My friend Ashley texted me asking if I wanted to hot tub around Manhattan on a boat with Champagne,” said Jackie Chamberlin, 26, who strapped on a white bikini, a beanie to keep her ears warm and packed a bottle of Veuve Clicquot for her voyage with six other friends. “I was sold immediately. We got the front tub with amazing views, and the other tub had a couple in it that were on a date.”
Owner Adam Schwartz launched the dream boat in September, and boasted that his floating bar was one of the safest drinking spots in the city.
“We fell backwards into roses,” said Schwartz. “We sold out in November and still have tours going out every day even though it’s getting colder.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence that COVID spreads through hot tubs or pools, and chlorine does kill the virus. Regardless, cozying up in a tub is certainly not social distancing, and gathering in groups still presents a risk.
The extra-wide aluminum catamaran was custom-built by a company in Albany and features two 600-gallon tubs, similar to the ones you might see on a cruise ship with special drainage systems so that choppy waters don’t affect the hot tubs’ tides. Separate speaker systems, a changing room and a bathroom are onboard, too.
As far as the legality of a floating, semi-outdoor bar, Sea the City’s dock is in New Jersey, which doesn’t require a special license for BYOB ventures. When it comes to COVID precautions, Schwartz said his staff, which includes two supervisors and a captain, all wear masks and wipe down surfaces in bathrooms and changing rooms between each reservation.
Business is so good that Schwartz is planning on adding another hot-tub boat to his fleet in Miami, and says that so far, none of his staff or customers — including the some 10,000 people who rented Jet Skis over the summer, he said — have come down with the bug on his watch.
But even the most daring drunken sailors seem to be practicing caution.
Said Schwartz, “As we got into higher COVID numbers recently, the number of people in the groups have shrunk.”