Despite possessing all the elements of party boat — bars on two levels and room for live music and dancing on the main deck — Hunter stresses the venue will appeal to passengers of all ages.
The yet-to-be-named boat will drift around the bay day and night from its primary dock at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina. It will offer “regular public programs” in-between private events.
Those opportunities will include a “Mediterranean day club” in the afternoons; two-hour dinners in the early evenings; and lounge periods starting around 8:30 p.m. There will also be champagne brunches on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as a “weekend day club” tailored for guests 21 years of age and older, from 1:30 to 8:30 p.m.
“That’s when we will be more focused on the party aspect. The rest of the time we’re shooting toward a more high-end relaxing yacht-type feel,” said Hunter, adding that “there will be a lot of times when it’s family-oriented, such as when we do audio-visual shows incorporating fleets of drones.”
Hunter also plans on recruiting guest chefs from local restaurants to conduct weekly pop-up dinners and culinary events. As for the boat’s regular bill of fare, “We’re shooting for higher-end organic dishes,” he said, adding that the main chef will soon be announced.
The project has been six years in the making, due mainly to the arduous task of securing approval by the City of San Diego and the U.S. Coast Guard.
“The first meeting I had with the city was in 2013, and final approval was in spring of last year,” noted Hunter, who is a Mission Beach resident and the owner of a local software company.
Hunter embarked on the venture after flirting with the idea of building a “fancy pontoon” to enjoy with his friends. He then realized there weren’t many options for San Diegans to enjoy being on the water in respect to dining and entertainment, so he began creating renderings of vessels that would hold at least 100 people.
“I reached out to the hotels around Mission Bay to see if there was any interest, and I got very good responses,” he recalls. “They were super helpful in getting the project approved.”
He then took his plan to naval architect/designer Michael Dockter of the locally based Marine Design company. Compared to Dockter’s previous projects involving yachts, barges and naval boats, Hunter’s vision was unique.
“This is a very different type of passenger vessel because of the large, open mid-deck,” said Dockter. “Also, the back of the boat has three walls, but no front wall. And the front has three walls and no back wall.”
To alleviate weight while still giving the boat a “five-star hotel look,” Dockter selected faux teak for the deck, vinyl paneling for the walls, and tin-stamped tiles for the ceiling. The vessel’s side panels, however, are glass to give the overall construct a sleek, luxurious look.
In addition, the electrical system will run on a 24-volt DC battery in lieu of a generator, allowing everything to operate noise-free when the boat is sitting still.
“There won’t be any other entertainment boats that look like this,” Dockter added.
Which is exactly what Hunter intended when looking at the area competition, which includes Hornblower, the Bahia Belle, and the historic Ohana.
“Those aren’t really marketed much toward the general public,” said Hunter. “We’re using the term ‘floating day club’ and really want to appeal to the locals.”
Boarding prices, he added, will be stick closely to market costs — about $28 for one-hour cruises and $33 for two hours or more. There will also be brunch and dinner packages as well as membership options.
Hunter says the boat will be ready for business immediately after building is complete in mid to late fall. For more information and updates, visit aqualounge.net.