East Central

A Sternwheeler Cruise on The St. Johns River aboard the Barbara-Lee – Sanford, Florida

The Barbara-Lee is an authentic Sternwheeler that sets sail from her port at Lake Monroe in Sanford, Florida. She measures 105 feet from stem to stern and is 5 stories tall, and she is a wonderful and comfortable way to do some Florida exploring.

The ship begins her voyage from her port in Sanford on Lake Monroe and embarks onto the journey into the St. Johns River, giving her passengers an outstanding view of natural Florida.

John and I were accompanied on this trip by friends, a couple that we met through our View From Florida Facebook Group who like discovering Florida gems just like we do, and what a great discovery this was.

There are different cruises available depending on the day of the week you choose to cruise, and we selected the Thursday 4 hour lunch cruise. We boarded the ship at 10:30 am and were directed to our table in one of the two dining rooms. Before you even leave the port, you are served your drinks and make your lunch entree selection from the menu. The menu has something for everyone, salmon, prime rib, and a couple of different chicken dishes, to name a few. As we set sail, each table was served a plate of sticky buns and an appetizer plate of fruit & veggies.

After making your lunch selection and enjoying your appetizer, you have about an hour to explore the ship and go out on deck to enjoy the beautiful view. There are umbrellas on the upper deck to get in out of the sun if you choose to do so. The paddle deck on the back of the ship is covered, and seating is available on both the paddle deck and upper deck. All dining rooms are airconditioned, and restrooms are located in each of the two dining rooms.

A video View of our Cruise

At first, I was disappointed because, as it was, we got the last reservation available for that particular sailing, and there was no window seating left available; however, that disappointment quickly faded. We had a view of the river from our table even without being seated by the window, and in fact, we were only at the table when eating anyway. The rest of the time, we spent up on deck taking in the sights of the river.

I have to say that I was not expecting much when it came to the food. Usually, on these types of cruises, the food is just ok, but boy, I was pleasantly surprised when I took my first bite. All of us could not get over how good our meal actually was. With the exception of dessert, all the food is prepared right there onboard the Barbara-Lee, in the ship’s galley. I also must mention how impressed I was with the friendly staff, speedy service, and how well organized the whole operation was.

After lunch, we enjoyed a scrumptious dessert, and all throughout the cruise, we had fun listening to some awesome oldies being played by the onboard entertainer. We had the best time singing along and remembering the words to songs and who originally recorded them.

After dessert, we returned back to the decks to take in more sights of the St. Johns. After spending quite a bit of time on deck, we were surprised to find out that we were in for one more delicious treat; an afternoon snack of shrimp cocktail.

As I mentioned before, there are different cruise lengths with lunch or dinner options. The price of the cruise depends on the cruise you select. We took the Thursday 4 hour lunch cruise, and with tax, etc., our cruise was about $70 per person. This is not bad considering that it is a 4-hour cruise with a generous portion of food served. I found the pricing to be comparable, if not better, than other similar Florida cruise attractions. (Alcoholic beverages are separate charge)

I could find nothing to complain about on this adventure; however, I do need to mention that this cruise would be difficult for anyone who can not climb a few steps. There is no elevator on board, and to get to the upper open decks, you must be able to climb stairs. If you are unable to climb stairs, you can still enjoy the view from the 1st-floor dining room; however, I would recommend you call the St. Johns Rivership Co. and discuss seating options for a window with a good view. 321.441.3030 

For your convenience here is a link that will direct you the St. Johns Rivership Company’s official website.

St. Johns Rivership Company is located at 433 N. Palmetto Ave. in Sanford, Florida 32771. If you are unfamiliar with where Sanford is in Florida, it is about 30 minutes north and a little east of Orlando.


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