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John's Journal... Entry 98, Day 1

Caribiana Island Cruises

click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: Former T.V. producer Joanne McDonough and her videographer husband Lynn Rabren of Orange Beach, Alabama, live their dreams by conducting private nature tours for visitors to the Gulf Shores area and by selling their custom-built Caribiana boats as fast as they can build them. This week, we'll talk to Joanne and learn how they've started their businesses, why they've chosen to design and build their own boats, and what passengers can expect to see and do on their island cruises.

Question: What is a Caribiana Island Cruise?
Answer: Caribiana Island Cruises focus on the beauty and wonderment of nature here in the Orange Beach/Gulf Shores, Alabama, part of the South. We encourage our passengers to learn about and interact with the various natural habitats, birds, fish, reptiles and sand island crustaceans. We also explore the many diverse locations we have here and encourage people to learn about the make-up of these ecosystems and their importance to the environment.

Question: What will visitors learn on a Caribiana cruise?
Answer: They'll learn about the many species that live in our sand island community. We like to focus on the great blue herons and the egrets and share how the sand islands have been formed and their purposes.

click to enlargeQuestion: What else can people do on a Caribiana cruise?
Answer: We have an assortment of tools for the naturalists, and we always carry binoculars for the children and adults to use. We also have a discovery box onboard. If we're unable to see a variety of species along the beaches -- depending on the tidal flow -- we have representations of those creatures in the box for the children to investigate. I also bring natural guide books, birding books and a magnifying glass with me.

Question: How long do your tours last?
Answer: The tours are a minimum of 1 hour, but I've had people stay on board for 5 hours. Walk-on tours depart from Tacky Jack's -- a popular waterfront breakfast spot in Orange Beach -- -- Friday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Private tours are by reservation only and are charged by the hour.

Question: How much is the tour per hour?
Answer: We charge $75 for the first hour and $60 for each hour after that -- but that's not a per-person charge. Walk-on tours are $5 per adult and no cost for the kids.

click to enlargeQuestion: Passengers brings their own food if they want to eat, right?
Answer: Yes, we have a cooler onboard with water. However, if people want to bring their own coolers with food and/or drinks, that's fine with us. We also can prepare food for our passengers if they like. We also can provide lunch boxes or snacks for the children.

Question: Tell us about one of your best tours.
Answer: I really enjoy cruises where the passengers have fun with nature. I started out one morning with a family with three children. They loved taking the naturalist tours and using the binoculars and the magnifying scopes. The kids especially enjoyed foraging on the beach and finding crabs and shells. Then later that same day, I did an anniversary cruise for a couple's 50th anniversary. We served them a three-course meal, and they said the atmosphere of the cruise and eating aboard the boat made them feel so young and so romantic. That's the kind of diversity we get on our cruises -- from children of all ages to scientists to groups of birders. We cater to every walk of life.

Question: Can people tell you what they'd like to see or do on a cruise?
Answer: Sure. We love personalizing the cruises and focusing on the things in which our passengers are the most interested. If they want to learn about nesting birds, we have a variety of locations to view everything from wading birds to peregrine falcons to raptors. If a group is interested in marine life, we can go to the feeding grounds of the bottle-nosed dolphins or see the turtle grass habitats of blue crabs, stone crabs and hermit crabs. We've even had couples who want to cruise around the islands and go house shopping. We try to serve people and let them decide what they want to do instead of making them do what the tours dictate.

click to enlargeQuestion: You also have the information on Caribiana's tours on your webpage, right?
Answer: Yes. There's an island cruise section on our website so people can see what the tours are and how much they are.

For more information about Caribiana, visit the website at www.caribiana.com, or, call (888) 203-4883 or (334) 981-4442.

To learn more about the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area -- restaurants, attractions, birding opportunities, hotels, condos, fishing captains -- call the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau (AGCCVB) at (800) 745-7263, or visit the website at www.gulfshores.com.

TOMORROW: How Caribiana Island Cruises Began




Check back each day this week for more about Caribiana Island Cruises ...

Day 1 -Caribiana Island Cruises
Day 2 -How Caribiana Island Cruises Began
Day 3 -The Caribiana Boats
Day 4 -Orange Beach's Flora and Fauna
Day 5 -The Sand Islands

John's Journal