Maui Dinner Cruises + VIDEO

A decade ago, dining on Maui’s tour boats meant chowing down on some pretty plain eats: processed ham and turkey sandwiches with American cheese; a side platter of lettuce, tomatoes and pasta salad, and a bag of chips. It quelled the hunger, but it lacked culinary creativity. Today’s catering chefs have upped the ante, offering signature plated and buffet fare. Add the occasional sighting of a whale’s tail or two during whale season, and you’ve got an unforgettable dinner show.

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Teralani Sailing Adventures | Pacific Whale Foundation | Kai Kanani Sailing Tours | Four Winds II

Triple Whale Tales

Pacific Whale Foundation

Captain Dave Himle, a seven-year veteran with Pacific Whale Foundation, tells us he has an inkling that whales will perform a predinner show. He guesses correctly: before the sun sets, three humpbacks raise their tails in a synchronized water ballet. As we cheer and toast the departing cetaceans with soft drinks, wine, and craft beer, Chef Kai Lacno of Three’s Catering appears with an appetizer of warm spinach-artichoke dip and focaccia. The plated salad is fresh and fruity, and its organic, locally grown greens are napped in a mango-passionfruit vinaigrette that adds a touch of tartness to balance flavors.

Earlier, as we boarded the ship, we had encountered Chef Kai manning the grills. Cooked à la minute: Kaua‘i shrimp marinated in lemongrass curry, chimichurri flat iron steak, teriyaki-soaked chicken breast, and a vegetarian entrée of grilled honey-miso tofu. Now Chef plates our selections with grilled vegetables drizzled with macadamia-nut pesto, and a savory-sweet Okinawan (purple) sweet potato whipped with coconut cream. My favorite is the shrimp, served with a liliko‘i butter sauce. The flat iron steak, garnished with a rich wild-mushroom demi-glace, is a close second; it’s tender and perfectly cooked to my order of medium rare. Bar service includes a choice of four Maui Brewing Company craft beers, wine and cocktails. Dessert is a generous triple-chocolate brownie with fresh Kula strawberries. It pairs surprisingly (and deliciously) with Maui Brewing’s Belgian ale. A cup of Maui-grown coffee caps off the dinner cruise as we enter the harbor in the waning sunlight. Premium seating (members): adults $112.95, children 3–12 $76.95. Regular seating (members): adults $74.36, children 3–12 $45.56. Regular seating (nonmembers):  $92.95, children 3–12 $56.95, plus tax & gratuity. Children 3 & under free. 249-8811, ext. 1; PacWhale.com

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