(Want to see the other party boat in Port Canaveral? Click here for our review)
After a test run when I was 5 to make sure I didn’t get seasick like my mom (I didn’t), I started going deep sea fishing with my dad during the summer that I was 6. For about a decade or so, we’d go once or twice a year, usually for fluke and other bottom feeders.
I think my dad was a little disappointed when I stopped going fishing with him in my mid-teen years because I didn’t want to wake up that early anymore. Truth be told, I’m still not a morning person and I still hate waking up at 5 in the morning to go fishing ;-). But for the past decade or so, I’ve forced myself to do so because I finally appreciate how much fun fishing actually is.
As a Central Florida resident, I have a choice to go fishing on the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico – they’re both about 60-75 minutes away from where we live. I’ve chosen to fish out of the Atlantic/Cape Canaveral area, simply because traffic to/from is a little better than what I might find on I-4 on the way home from Tampa.
Anyway, I don’t remember how I discovered the Orlando Princess and Canaveral Princess – knowing me, it was probably via Google search – but they’re owned by the same person and, until 2021, were the party boats I used ever since I “rediscovered” deep sea fishing in the early 2010s or so (here’s the party boat I go on nowadays).
Their website actually touts 3 boats:
- Orlando Princess (half day fishing trips)
- Canaveral Princess (full day fishing trips)
- Starfish (for private charters, up to 12 people)
I’ve been on the Orlando Princess once and the Canaveral Princess a half dozen or so times. They’re virtually the same, save for the amount of time you’re on the boat.
Anyway, their website, OrlandoPrincess.com, is easy to navigate when getting info and making a reservation, and they take most major credit cards. You do have to do some digging to figure out how much they charge. They’re also excellent with their precise directions regarding where the boat was at the dock, with specific driving directions for Orlando/Kissimmee, Melbourne, Daytona Beach, etc..
When you reserve your spot, you pay half upfront. They call to confirm the night before, and you pay the balance in the on-site office before you go on the boat. Your payment includes:
- Breakfast or lunch (depending on selected trip)
- Rod & reel (unless you bring your own)
- Bait (previously frozen squid & sardines) & tackle
- Fishing license (1-day version. You’re required to have a fishing license in order to fish in the state of FL)
They ask that you arrive about 30 to 45 minutes before they set sail, so you can settle your bill and so the mates have time to go over (A) safety and (B) how to fish (for the newbies).
Each time I’ve gone fishing on either boat, there have been about 40 of us. I pick my spot and they asked that anything you brought with you (I usually have a cooler with a sandwich, snacks and drinks) stay under your seat or inside the (air conditioned) cabin.
Staff on the boat each time has included the captain, two to three mates and someone at the grill. Obviously, I don’t know all of their “official” responsibilities, but as someone “looking in,” this is what it looks like each of them do:
- The captain’s main job is to drive the boat – figure out where the fish are, and get us there. If there aren’t fish in one spot, it’s up to the captain to decide it’s time to leave and try somewhere else.
- The mates are there to help us with whatever we need while fishing – dole out fishing poles and bait, put bait on hooks, take fish off hooks, unknot lines that get tangled on each other, fix the “bird’s nest” you get if you don’t lock your reel when you’re supposed to, replace hooks and sinkers that are lost, let you know if that grouper is too early to catch (not until after May 1), or that mangrove snapper was too small (10″ minimum), filet fish that had been caught, etc. (some fishing people can do all of that, some can’t do any. I’m somewhere in the middle – I have no issues baiting my hook [my dad would be so proud! There were years that I was too squeamish to do that!] but I’m not very talented with untangling or getting a fish off the hook).
All of the mates I’ve ever encountered on the Orlando Princess and Canaveral Princess have been polite, helpful and timely. As a female, some have tried to call me “Sweetie” or “Honey” (while calling the male passengers “Bro” or “Dude”) but, being me, I put them in their place and get them to use a less patronizing moniker.
It’s been years since I did a half-day trip out of Orlando, but on the full-day of fishing, the cook in the galley has been a guy named Mike (nicknamed “Smiley”). He’s a nice guy, with a good sense of humor. Breakfast is a sandwich of bacon, egg and cheese (although you can ask him to omit any of the ingredients) on 2 slices of white toast. There’s more of a choice for lunch – hot dogs, hamburgers or cheeseburgers. Coffee and soda are free, but you had to pay for chips, beer, etc.
They ask that you abstain from using alcohol (asides from beer) and tobacco while on the boat.
Other people on the boat
The people fishing on the Canaveral Princess and Orlando Princess usually come from a large variety of demographics. Ages tend to range from kids to seniors. Some are native English speakers, some not. Some come with their own fishing gear, others look as if they’ve never fished in their lives.
The mates occasionally ask where people are from, which is what residents of tourist towns say when they tend to get a lot of tourists. They do ;-).
As is the case with almost every fishing boat I’ve ever been on, everyone is usually pretty friendly.
There are 2 restrooms (they’re actually called “heads”) – one for men, one for women (although that isn’t always followed; if one is in use and you had to go, you use the other one if it’s not occupied). They’re clean but if you’ve never been on a boat before, heads up – they’re VERY basic amenities.
What you catch
The running joke is that the sport is called “fishing,” not “catching.” There’s never a guarantee that you’ll catch anything (although if you follow the directions the mates give you, your chances are better). But IF you do, you can expect to catch cobia, sea bass, grouper, mahi-mahi, mangrove snapper, lane snapper, triggerfish, flounder, grunts (you can eat them but they’re also good as bait), etc.
Was it worth it?
As of this writing, the full day fishing (9 hours, 8 am to 5 pm) costs $90 ($75 for 15 and under), and the half day (6 hours, 10:30 am to 4:30 pm) costs $70 ($60 for 15 and under) plus taxes and fees (i.e., your 1-day saltwater fishing license). They charge extra if you want a “special” assigned spot, such as a stern position (those are the spots along the back).
If you want to be in the “pool,” that’s another upcharge (person in the pool with the biggest fish wins all the money).
If you catch anything, the mates will filet the fish for you at the end of the day.
Of course, have a cash gratuity ready for the mates (figure 20-25%. More if you ask them to filet your fish for you).
So minus the optional stuff, I pay about $100, plus $25 for a tip, for a 9-hour fishing trip. A half-day trip would run a little less. Definitely worth it for me. As the good blog says, Your Mileage May Vary.
Feature Image: Orlando Princess & Canaveral Princess / Facebook
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary