When I was young, I remember going to the Wisconsin Dells and seeing these giant boat-looking trucks. I didn't get to ride one of the Dell Ducks that trip (I finally went through the Dells by duck in 2002), but the Ducks stuck in my mind.
So what does Wisconsin have to do with Boston? Well, in this case, ducks! Over the last ten years or so have been touring around Boston and up and down the Charles River.
The tours depart from the back entrance of the Pru Center, by the Huntington Avenue entrance to the mall. Tickets are sold in the mall itself, near the Levi's store. The land part of the tour takes you past many of the sites that trolley tours would. Some sites are Quincy Market, the Commons and Public Garden, and the Museum of Science. Once you pass the museum though, you go where no trolley has gone before.
It is here that the Duck goes down a ramp and into the river. It's a short ride up and down the Charles River along the Esplanade. Some of the drivers will let passengers steer the vehicle at this point, if they wish. There's nothing to hit, so there's little to worry about.
Just as the drivers have different opinions on letting passengers drive, they all have extremely different personalities. They all seem to have their own characters. Some dress as yacht captains, others in military fatigues, and still others as jungle explorers. The drivers are half the fun of the tours. They are humorous, and try to rouse up audience participation. For instance, since they are duck drivers, they try to get the passengers to quack on command, or when quacked at by people on the sidewalks.
The rides and drivers are entertaining. The idea is novel and the water part of the tour takes you where only a handful of the numerous Boston boat tours go (most go from the Long Wharf out east into the harbor, not west down the Charles). On the downside, these are military surplus vehicles and weren't made for comfort. The seats aren't too bad, but they are smelly diesel guzzlers. I also remember a report on WHDH-TV once pointing out that the drivers will often put entertainment ahead of fact. In a comparison between the duck tours and the enduring trolley tours, they found some duck drivers giving misinformation about major Boston area sites. Another major difference between the ducks and the trolleys is that you can get on and off the trolleys at any designated sites. Duck tours are non-stop and last about 90 minutes or so.
The Ducks are unique and offer a tour that no other tour company in Boston can. They are a fun way to kill an hour or so. If you're looking to learn stuff about Boston, or want to get to know Boston on a more intimate level though, it might be better to find a trolley stop.