Condor Express owner and President Hiroko Benko, Haatoa Vainuku, and Joanie Collins | Credit: Gail Arnold


On Saturday night, about 110 guests savored the delightful experience of a Hawaiian cruise aboard the Condor Express, complete with live Hawaiian music, hula dancers, mai tais, appetizers, and complimentary colorful leis. While there were tourists among the group, most seemed to be residents and nearly everyone quickly got into the aloha spirit.  

Condor Express owner and President Hiroko Benko was onboard to warmly welcome guests. Upon departing the harbor at 7 p.m. in warm sunshine, Captain Colton Dykes headed the vessel west, giving guests a perfect vantage point to watch the sun set over the Gaviota Coast with the dramatic Santa Ynez mountains in the backdrop. In the sweet twilight hour, we cruised straight downwind to offshore of the Four Seasons Biltmore and back along the coast. The Condor Express’s exceptionally stable design and Dykes’s experienced hands on the wheel helped ensure a smooth ride the whole way.

Joanie Collins, Haatoa Vainuku, and Tom Towle provided lilting, melodic Hawaiian music throughout the cruise. Collins, a longtime Hawaiian resident, was completing a national tour and was happy to be able to once again play on the Condor Express’s Hawaiian cruise, as she has done each of the past several years. Vainuku, originally from Samoa, now runs Tina’s Ports of Paradise Polynesian Dance Group out of Ventura and Towle is part of the Montecito Jazz Project. The group’s kanikapila style of music set the tone for the fun cruise as did the entertaining hula dancers. In between the professional dance performances, guests filled the aft deck dance floor.  

Guests could view the scenic Santa Barbara coastline and listen to the music in the toasty warm, totally protected main cabin or from the upper deck, raised bow area, aft deck, or wraparound side decks.  

While the Condor Express is best known for its year-round whale watching trips, it offers a few other party cruises each year. Next up is the Opera Cruise on September 14, Blues Cruise on September 26 (sold out), and the Parade of Lights cruise in early December. There’s also a  4th of July Fireworks cruise and a Broadway Musical Cruise later in July.

Whalewatching trips operate year-round (except for January), with different species encountered depending on the season. Soon the majestic blue whales will be passing alongside the Condor Express. 

The vessel is also available for private charter. 

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Lori and Dave Amerson
Amanda Johnston and Jon Hergert
Hula dancer performs.
Deckhand Austin McNeir and Captain Colton Dykes
Alyson Spann, Dan McGuire, and Jan McGuire
Dylan Jones, Michael Brunet, Courtney Phillips, and Tom Brunet
Condor Express owner and President Hiroko Benko, Haatoa Vainuku, and Joanie Collins


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