Toms River Stories and Tips

My Dinner Cruise on the River Lady

The River Lady Cruise Photo, Toms River, New Jersey

River Lady
One Robbins Parkway
Toms River, NJ 08753

I attended a surprise retirement party for a friend this week on the River Lady. It was a lovely evening to be out on the water for a couple of hours. While the air was humid, I knew it would be quite comfortable on the authentic replica (oxymoron??) of a paddleboat.

Meeting the rest of the party at the dock prior to climbing aboard, we all reminisced about our friend who was getting ready to retire from our company and begin spending more time with her husband. We were advised to arrive approximately 30 minutes before our trusty vessel was scheduled to leave port at 6pm for our 2.5-hour-long dinner cruise up and down the Toms River.

Toms River received its moniker from a gentleman named Thomas Luker, who used to operate a ferry service across "Goose Creek" in the late 1700s. That creek eventually was called Toms River and became a river that serviced a community of the same name.

Not long after we set sail from the dock, we were served our drinks and salads. The dinner followed not long after and consisted of a choice of chicken franchaise, filet of salmon, or penne vodka. I chose the chicken. It was prepared prior to our sailing by a local caterer called Café Italia. Considering that the food was probably a few hours old, it was pretty good. I had a nice-sized piece of chicken, a couple of seasoned red potatoes, and a mixture of green beans and carrots. There was a bar dedicated to our floor. Beer and wine were the only alcoholic beverages available and could only be served after we set sail. Soda and water were plentiful and always available. The cost of drinks was about $3 to $4 a pop. Water was no cost. Dessert was a slice of delicious cheesecake and coffee or tea. Dinner, dessert, and tip were all included in our price of $30 per person for this event.

Seating was such that our party of approximately 50 people had the whole upper floor. There were about 10 tables of five people per table. Downstairs consists of regular dinner customers, with cabaret seating for six to eight people per table, with a dance floor in the center of the room. The upper floor had an opening looking down onto the first floor, but was covered with a large hard plastic bubble to keep people from falling and a handrail to help keep you steady.

During our cruise, we were presented with a historical commentary from the captain of the seaside towns we passed, including Ocean Gate, Beachwood, and Island Heights. Unfortunately, due to the table we choose near the rear of the boat, we did not hear too much due to the low rumbling of the paddle wheel and the celebratory din of the partiers.

Although I could hear very little of what the captain had to say, the views were wonderful and very relaxing. Who could ask for more than a dinner on the water with friends? Some of the homes we saw were beautiful and ranged from older Victorian styles to the modern monsters of the day. I would guess all were in the multimillion-dollar ranges. While I would not want to swim in the Toms River, as the water is extremely brackish, it is a popular place for boaters, wave runners, and sea kayakers. We passed sailboats, yachts, and cigarette boats.

A view of one of the local golf courses in the ritzy area of Toms River NJ

I was concerned, as the weather was in the upper 80s, even at 6pm, with high humidity, but with the wind blowing through the open floor plan, it was actually very comfortable. There are no windows on the top floor, just an open-floor plan with hand and foot rails to keep you from falling over the sides. If the weather did get very blustery, the crew was prepared with clear covering that rolled from the ceiling and created a see-thru wall so none of the views were sacrificed. This also protects in case of rain, which does not cancel a cruise, unless it is dangerous weather.

There are bathroom facilities located on the ground floor, and smoking was allowed only on the forward deck away from the eating area.

The company does offer dinner cruises from May through November on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday evenings. Price is $30 per adult and $25 for seniors over 65. They also provide historical cruises every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday afternoons. Advance ticket purchase is required. I can only suggest that you choose a seat away from the rear of the boat and the paddlewheel, where you will be better able to hear the captain and his comments.

The location is very easy to get to from the Garden State Parkway. Just get off at Exit 81 and follow Water Street east to the third light and make a right on Robbins Parkway about 5 minutes from the exit.

For more information, check out the River Lady website for any questions you may have. This is a very nice place to go on date or to spend an afternoon doing something a little different while not spending a lot of money.

Check out my overview of Toms River for more things to do and additional photos of the River Lady and the surrounding area.

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