A memoir of the heritage local icon - Sydney Showboat - the paddlewheeler with a nightly cabaret show. Running Sydney Harbour dinner cruises and special event cruises at present, from humble origins back in the 80s, this is a tale worth telling.
An iconic world-famous dinner cruise on the Sydney Harbour today, this authentic paddlewheeler has humble origins. Cruising since 1987, the Sydney Showboat has been subject to its share of ebbs and swells, much like the cascading waves it cruises on. The journey towards becoming Sydney’s favourite dinner cruise has been anything but smooth, but it has steadily sailed to gradually reach the pinnacle, where it currently stands!
Let’s take a trip back in time to 1954, the scene is set to Manly Ferries where an impressionable 13-year old stands, wide-eyed marveling at the water. His ear picks up on a job going around for a kid to work on the ferries and without a second thought, he applies. The young lolly boy in his uniform, pill-box hat and lolly tray in hand, would spend days on end transfixed at the sight of the steam-driven vessels and Jazz bands playing to entertain crowds.
The young boy was the visionary- Brian Gray whose innocent fascination for all things water and entertainment would soon materialise into Sydney’s most-loved dinner cruise experience!
Soon after school, following a short apprenticeship in plumbing, he goes on to join the Navy. After a short stint in the armed forces, Brain recognises that this isn’t his calling for he wanted to be his own boss. Back to plumbing full-time, particularly in restaurants, fate soon made him the partner of the Boatshed Restaurant. The idea of converting a ferry to a cruising restaurant was born here, however, this came with its fair share of architectural, logistical and financial challenges. Against the odds, in 1978, The Stockton was launched. This thereby allowed Brian to accidentally (and quite miraculously) step into the tourism industry. And boy, was he here to stay!
The Showboat was a dream that he never gave up on, working on tirelessly to sell the concept to anyone who would lend a listening ear. And just like that, over 8 years later, things seemed to fall into place financially. With the mammothian task of hauling the Showboat to Sydney underway, the paddlewheeler finally arrived mid-November 1987, just in time to get ready for the Bicentennial Celebrations in January 1988.
A sullen first year with a crashing stock market and an empty calendar paved the way towards happier days. Almost overnight, things started looking up and then, there was no looking back. On a busy day, the boat played host to over 300 people! So much was its popularity so that in 1994, the Showboat II was introduced to keep up with the unfaltering popularity and demand of the cruise.
At present, Showboat has over 32 years of spectacular cruising experience and a stellar reputation to match! Dining and entertainment has been redefined along the harbour with this dream-come-true of a little boy. The scintillating cabaret show ‘Voyage of Love’ takes you on a journey through the world, allowing you to rediscover the theatrics of dance through captivating costume and choreography! Enjoy the views of Sydney Harbour on your dinner cruise and dig in to a delicious meal.
Join us on our cruise and discover how we’ve made 6 million customers smile for yourself!