Canyon Lake is one of the few lakes located just outside of the metro Phoenix area perfect for day adventures. Just over an hour drive from the city and you’ll find yourself presented with many opportunities- one of my favorite being The Dolly Steamboat Cruise!
A fun and hassle-free way to get out on the water is to board one of the Dolly Steamboat cruises. You’ll get to view the towering mountains that surround Canyon Lake from the water, and if you’re lucky, you may even spot some big horn sheep.
This is a local business that I am very excited to share with you. I’ve taken 3 of Dolly Steamboat’s cruises now and its been a blast every single time. Not only that, but the customer service has been exceptional and that is why I keep returning!
In this post I am going to share with you the different Dolly Steamboat cruises, what to expect, and my latest cruise experience with them. Let’s get started!
ABOUT DOLLY STEAMBOAT
The Dolly Steamboat is a family run business that provides outstanding cruise experiences on Canyon Lake in Arizona. Dolly first began in 1983 with Dolly and Paul Kennedy as the original owners. Then, in 1987 the Grimh family purchased the steamboat.
Since then, Jeff and Cindi have been running operations with the crew they’ve hired. Together, they have quite the list of credentials. You can find out more here!
This post is sponsored by Dolly Steamboat. All reviews and opinions expressed in this post are my own. I pride myself in being transparent and always sharing honestly with my readers. For more please see my disclaimer page.
TYPES OF CRUISES
The Dolly Steamboat offers 3 different types of cruises on Canyon Lake so you have the option to choose which best suits you. Be sure to pay attention to the operating times for each type of cruise may be different.
The Scenic Nature Cruise typically takes place in the afternoons and delivers exactly what you’d expect- very scenic views! During the cruise you can expect to see a part of the lake you wouldn’t be able to see from shore, learn fun facts about the area, and possibly spot some wildlife!
I’ve taken the Scenic Nature Cruise 3 times now and it never gets old. The cruise lasts 1.5 hours and is perfect for families, girls day out, solo travelers, dates, etc.
If you’d like to add a little romance to your adventure the Twilight Dinner Cruise would be a great option. You can expect the same experience as with the Scenic Nature Cruise, except this time you’re served dinner and get to cruise into the evening. This cruise lasts 2.5 hours so you have plenty of time to eat and relax. I like that they provide both a meat and vegetarian option for your choice!
Every 4th Saturday (Jan-May) a special cruise is available- the Astronomy Dinner Cruise. You’ll receive dinner during this 2.5 hour cruise under the Arizona starry skies. This is a great chance to learn about the solar system since Dolly provides a presentation on it during your time with them. If you want to cruise under the stars, this is the one you’ll want to board!
Dolly Steamboat also offers private charters for weddings, special events, etc. You can learn more here.
WHAT TO EXPECT
First and foremost you can expect exceptional customer service from all team members during your cruise. I am very big on customer service since I’ve worked in it my entire life, so when crew members do a wonderful job at creating a positive experience I greatly appreciate it.
Next, I think it is important to note how the boarding experience is and what amenities the steamboat has for your comfort. I’ve listed these for you below!
Once you’ve parked you’ll want to find your way to the ticket booth to check-in. The check-in times can differ depending which cruise you are taking, but typically you’ll want to plan on being there 30 mins prior to the start time.
During check in all you’ll need to do is stand in line to receive your boarding number. Once it is time to board the steamboat the Captain will call a group of numbers (i.e. 1-20) to board at each time. The process overall is very organized and spaced out for everyone’s safety.
Seats on the Dolly Steamboat are first come first serve but quite honestly I’ve experienced the cruise from just about every different location and it is beautiful no matter where you are. During the cruise you are able to get up and walk around to different viewing points which is nice!
Onboard the Dolly you will find they’ve included all the right things to make your experience comfortable:
- Life jackets for safety
- Tables and chairs spaced 6 feet apart
- Climate controlled lower and upper decks
- Large bottles of hand sanitizer
- 2 Restrooms are available for use
- Drink and snack bar!
PRO TIP: Be sure to have cash on you if you think you may want to purchase snacks and/or beverages during your cruise.
Don’t forget to pack the necessities!
- Masks (required when boarding and walking about)
- Cash for drink and snack purchases
- Layers incase it is chilly (check the weather)
MY DOLLY STEAMBOAT CRUISE EXPERIENCE
Recently I took my boyfriend, Nathan, on a Dolly Steamboat Cruise. He’s born and raised in Arizona but hasn’t taken one before so I figured it was time to show him why I love it so much.
We booked a 12 p.m. Scenic Nature Cruise on a Saturday and arrived roughly 45 minutes early. I’m glad we arrived when we did because the dirt parking lot was almost full!
Once the car was parked we got in line for check-in and chatted with one another until the booth opened. It opened exactly 30 minutes prior to boarding time and we received our tickets- 23 and 24.
The process seemed to go by pretty fast because not long after and the Captain was giving boarding directions from down on the dock. He called tickets 1-20 to board first so that way the dock wasn’t too packed and people could social distance while finding their seat.
Nathan and I were in the next group called to board. It seemed like everyone wanted to sit on the upper deck so we chose to sit on the lower deck in the back of the steamboat. This area is covered, shaded, and was less populated so to us it seemed like we had our own space!
We found a table that had 2 chairs and made ourselves comfortable. Once everyone was boarded, the steamboat left the dock and took us out onto the lake. That’s when the fun really began!
The first thing I like to do once the cruise begins is beat the line to the drink and snack bar! So I did just that. I ordered us drinks and a bucket of freshly popped popcorn so we could kick back and relax.
It was in the high 60’s and sunny when we began the cruise. Luckily our table got some good sun so it kept us warm despite the chilly breeze that was blowing that day. I suggested to Nathan to bring top layers, but of course he didn’t listen to me…so maybe you will!
I do suggest bringing something to cover your arms if it is spring or fall and you plan on sitting in the open. Summer is very hot so you probably won’t need layers but sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat are very necessary!
Our Scenic Nature Cruise with Dolly Steamboat lasted 1.5 hours and brought us to a very beautiful part of the lake I never would have guessed existed.
The mountains surrounding Canyon Lake closed in on us and we got close enough to spot some big horn sheep that were scaling the mountainside. It was super helpful that the Captain was telling us fun facts about the area and exactly where to look when wildlife was spotted.
After our popcorn was devoured we decided to get up and check out the upper deck views. Dolly has two sets of stairs, one from each end of the steamboat. We climbed the set closest to us and took a moment to stand out on the landing and look out.
When touring the upper deck we came across a couple groups we had been conversating with prior. Nathan and I stopped to chat some more with the wonderful people. It was such good conversation that we didn’t realize 20 minutes had past and the cruise was almost over!
We said goodbye to our new friends and went back down to our table on the lower deck. Once Dolly returned to the dock all passengers aboard exited and parted their ways. I took a moment to snap a few photos of the empty boat so we were the last ones off!
I made sure to say goodbye to the crew and thank them for the wonderful service, and then we went on our way to Tortilla Flat for the rest of the afternoon!
THINGS TO DO AFTER YOUR DOLLY STEAMBOAT CRUISE
WELL DONE GRILL
Right next to Dolly Steamboat is a restaurant and lounge called the Well Done Grill. They share the same large, dirt parking lot so you can conveniently walk over for lunch after your Scenic Cruise!
I’ve eaten here once and enjoyed my experience. I love how it sits right on the edge of Canyon Lake so if you’re lucky you’ll get a great view here too!
LOCAL TIP: Don’t forget to look up all business hours and coordinate it with your Dolly Steamboat tour so you’re sure to not miss anything!
TORTILLA FLAT, ARIZONA
Tortilla Flat is definitely worth a visit while you’re at Canyon Lake. If you take the Scenic Nature Cruise you’ll have plenty of time to grab lunch and explore after, or, you can arrive a couple hours before your Twilight/Astronomy Cruise!
You’ll drive about 5 minutes past where the Dolly Steamboat is and find yourself at the end of Canyon lake where the old western town of Tortilla Flat sits. According to their website they currently hold a population of 6 people!
There are several things to do at Tortilla Flat:
- Grab lunch at the Superstition Saloon.
- Shop the gift shop.
- Grab drinks and listen to live music.
- Tour the small museum to learn the history.
- Try their famous Gelato—- my favorite!!
LOCAL TIP: If you think you might want to visit Tortilla Flat be sure to have CASH on you. Some places take cash only. There is an ATM in the Saloon but you’ll have to pay a fee.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON TAKING A CRUISE WITH DOLLY STEAMBOAT
We had a blast on our Scenic Nature Cruise together! Nathan said his favorite part was hearing all of the history and facts that the Captain shared during it. It really added to the overall experience. Plus he loved the popcorn!
When I’m traveling I love taking tours / cruises such as the Dolly Steamboat cruise. I feel it is a great way to get outside, experience new things, and see some epic views.
I love that we’re able to walk about the steamboat and take in the views from both lower and upper decks. Being surrounded by mountains while out on the lake makes for beautiful views that will never got old. Having drinks and snacks available is nice plus the crew is always enthusiastic and kind which makes the overall experience that much better.
I’d 100% suggest taking a cruise with Dolly Steamboat if you’re local or if you’ll be visiting the area. Any time I have family or friends visit I take them to cruise on Canyon Lake paired with an afternoon at Tortilla Flat because I know they’ll enjoy it and get a great taste of the West!
If you’d like to book your own cruise you can do so here! And be sure to tell the crew I say hi!
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