Wine Dine and Play: August 2016

Yacht Starship

 A Valentine Cruise
Tampa, Florida, USA
Dined in February 2016

By Sean Overpeck (CFE)

Every major city on this earth that sits next to a large body of water, whether it is an ocean, lake, or river has a cruise that focuses on food. Some like the cruise in Dubai’s Creek are really not that good, and other like the Seine River restaurant cruises which are fantastic. In Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida there is another such company that runs dinner and other cruises called Yacht Starship, a three-star dining experience on the bay. I had reserved the Valentine cruise to celebrate my recent proposal of my girlfriend, now fiancé.

Follow Wine, dine, and Play:

Executive Chef:
Richard Hudson

Sous Chef:
Alphonso Poole

From the restaurants home page:
Yacht StarShip, America's First 3-diamond rated Dining Yacht by AAA, ranks in the top 28% of all restaurants. Our exquisite dining cruises offer private seating, table-side service, spectacular views and dancing under the stars.

"Create a Sea of Memories" with group celebrations on the water as well as Weddings, Receptions, Corporate Outings, Holiday Parties, Convention Gatherings, Banquets, Galas, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, Social Events, Birthdays, and Anniversaries. We are conveniently docked in Channel-side in Downtown Tampa between the Florida Aquarium and the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Just minutes from the Tampa Convention Center, Ybor City, Tampa Riverwalk and Downtown Tampa Hotels!

With three yachts to choose from, Yacht StarShip is the perfect special event venue for groups from 2 - 600.

Picture Courtesy of

Main review:
The Yacht Starship Cruise line has many special event meals throughout the year, and in between the special events, they also do normal cruise dinners. The public cruises are typical priced at $70.00 - $80.00 depending if it is a weekday or weekend cruise, and lunch or brunch for $50.00. When making your reservations which are required in advance, they can accommodate most dietary restrictions including gluten free, dairy free, and vegetarian. If you have any food allergies, they request you let them know at the time of the booking versus when you sit down at your table to eat. Unlike Mohammed Khalique Zaman owner of the Indian Garden restaurant in North Yorkshire, United Kingdom who killed a patron who had a nut allergy. The special event meals throughout the year include Valentines, Mother's Day, Rock the Yacht Summer Cruises, July 4th, Thanksgiving, New Year's Eve, and Easter. Prices will be higher, but you get more for your money.

With traffic in downtown Tampa Bay for a dinner cruise, prepare to leave early and expect longer waits, as there are other major events in the city that block the streets with traffic such as concerts or hokey. The Company does have a parking lot that is charged, but only allowed for ticket holders of the cruise. My fiancé and I boarded the boat and were seated at avery nicely decorated table with a rose next to my fiancés seat. The menu was prefixed four course selection listed below:

  • Starter
  • Salads
  • Entrees
  • Desserts

Other menus:
  • Vegetarian
  • Kids Menu

We both started with a few cocktails with my fiancé having a Tequila and cranberry, and for myself a Mcallen 12 year Scotch. Our first course began with a starter trio of smoked Wahoo spread, with a side of andouille sausage stuffed mushrooms, and crostini’s for the spread. The Wahoo fish in the Caribbean is referred to as as peto, but is available in many tropic and subtropic regions around the world. The mushrooms were divine, a small sweet texture followed by the punch of spice from the sausage. As far as the dip it was a reminder of most fish dips that you get in several other restaurants all around central Florida. 

We looked over the wine list, and chose a bottle of Edna Valley Pinot Noir (Scroll down below the main review to see wine tasting notes) and my fiancé enjoyed a Ketel One martini prior to the wine arriving. Our second course for the evening was an organic start of spring salad tossed with some cucumbers, red onion, Florida Grape Tomatoes, and a herbed vinaigrette. Florida tomatoes range from plum, cherry, grape, and heirloom grown in a region that stretches from Gainesville down to fort Myers. Most come into season in early autumn, but with the mild climate can grow all the way into the early spring, depending on if any cold snaps go south like in 2015 where it got below freezing in Miami for the first time in nearly one hundred years.

For our main course we both received from the set menu the surf and turf. A center cut filet of beef topped with a red wine bordelaise sauce, two large shrimp, Yukon gold truffle mashed potatoes, and haricot vert. The beef was extremely tender, melting into my mouth cooked to a perfect medium rare. My fiancé prepared hers to a temperature higher so that it wouldn’t “moo.”
Though most times when I have a nice steak like this I drink a deep dark California Cabernet like the Ghost Block Vineyard in Napa or Jonata Winery from further south in Santa Barbara, but this Edna pinot went very well with it. 

Our final course for the prefix was a Berry Brûlée Cheesecake that we each took a small bite of, then packed away the rest to take home. I am a lover of cheesecake and would have to have it on the list if it was my final meal in life. The taste was wonderful, and the burnt texture added to the sharpness of the cheese. 

For the remained of the evening while the boat made its way around the portion of the Tampa Bay, we went up to the top deck where there was another bar and dance floor, slowly dancing to some of my fiancés favorite music, 70’s and 80’s yacht rock. It was fitting since we were having our Valentine dinner on a Yacht to begin with. It wasn’t exactly Valentine’s Day yet, as I had to leave back to work overseas on that day, so though early, it was perfect for us, and the following evening with a Andrea Borcelli concert at the Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa.

Picture Courtesy of Yacht Starship

Wine Tasting Notes:

Wine & Grape:
Nose (Bouquet):
Palette Experience:

Aromatically complex, this wine displays nuances of rose petal, cola, earth and black cherry. 

My Tasting:  
Slight cherry aspects like most pinot’s, this was very light, chalky, and filled with blooming flower aromas.

Our Pinot Noir is a medium-bodied red wine with a full mouthfeel, fine tannins and a long finish

My Tasting: 
With 13.90% alcohol, for a pinot it packs a small punch, with a lingering finish on the pallet.

So, with the meal complete, and our culinary appetites fulfilled, lets see how Yacht Starship rates overall shall we. Here is how my rating system works….

5 stars
 is Extraordinary
4 Stars
 is Outstanding
3 Stars
Exceeded Expectations
2 Stars
is Above the Average
1 Star
is an Average Dining Experience
No Star Rating
The Restaurant is Basic, Poor, or Appalling

Rating Breakdown And Analysis:

Professional Restaurant reviewers like the New York Times, or the San Francisco based Chowhound, and the sophisticated travelers sight Gayot base their reviews on single or multiple experiences, giving their opinion + a specific rating to that restaurant. These reviews and accolades tell the whole story and inform the diner of what to expect. Now social media from places like Facebook, the review and events page Yelp, the International Restaurant focused site called Zomato, and Trip Advisor have started to replace the traditional media readership. A large majority now look at these social ratings and write-ups judging the restaurant on them versus the use of review sites like this mine or the professional ones mentioned above. Social media is now the new make or brake to a Restaurant. Most times instead of being skeptical to a social review, people will see low ratings, and they will likely bypass and go elsewhere. Whether it is here on Wine, Dine, and Play, or the Elite Traveler’s Guide, the one thing I do is give an unbiased opinion, giving you the most information I can. The ratings given here are based on the overall experience, so use this review as another source of information to help make your decision. 

From the tasting of the Chef’s specials to the lists of wines, prices, customer service, property, setup, flow, and cleanliness; these are just a few of the items I look at when giving a rating for a review. Sometimes I visit a place once-or many times-and I base it on the facts, versus a user on social media who writes a bad review because he had a bad day, or has a personnel dislike to an employee. I am one of many thousands of reviewers on this Earth, and my main job is to inform. I do this for fun as it is something I truly enjoy. I don’t not get paid or represent a special interest group. You may end up having a completely opposite experience then the ones I write about, but in the end it is all in the eye of the beholder. I’m just giving you more information then what you see or here on social media.

On Wine, Dine, and Play, I have an overall star rating scale of six levels with the lowest being a poor or appalling experience (zero stars), up to an extraordinary experience (five stars). This rating scale is formulated by braking down individual experiences such as (1) wine, (2) plate presentation, (3) ambiance, (4) wow factor, (5) customer service, plus (6) food quality and combines them on a separate scale of zero to ten, with ten being the best. In the next paragraph, I brake down how and why I come to the conclusion of the rating numbers listed in the overall review chart below.

The overall star rating from Wine, Dine, and Play that I give to Yacht Starship is a four, meaning that it not only met, but exceeded my expectations, and my expectations are set at a high standard compared to other reviewers out there. I came to this conclusion based on all the other factors listed above and how they rated.

Overall Star rating by Wine, Dine, & Play:
4 of 5
Exceeded Expectations
6  of 10
Quality of the Food:
7  of 10
Plate Presentation:
5  of 10
Customer Service:
6  of 10
Wow Factor:
5  of 10
Wine Selection:
 (See the full list under the review basics section below)
? of 10

I rate ambiance on several factors from the most important being cleanliness of the dining room and restrooms, to organization and flow. I look at the atmosphere, character, the tones, artwork, and the design styles to see if they match the themes of the food. During the daylight hours natural lighting versus electric is also a strong enhancer of enjoying a meal, and of course the styles of furniture, or if it is inviting and comfortable.

Being a nice mini cruise ship to go around the bay, it did have a musky odor do to the ocean, but otherwise was well set up, and took on a formal style atmosphere for which I gave a rating of 6 out of 10 points.

The quality rating bases the essential or distinctive characteristics that the food offers, or if I see that it is of a higher grade, superiority, or excellence. Also important is the taste. Did the chef pair or match distinctive ingredients together, and did he send my palette on an adventure?

Organic vegetables, wonderful mushrooms and sausage, a nice juicy steak, and a very tasty cheesecake gives a bravo to the chef and a rating of 7 out of 10 points.

The plate presentation is based on the art of how the food is put together and displayed as it is brought out. Does it look unique, or have interesting garnishments, or built action style at the table? Does it make you look twice and go “wow”? All of these attributes help add to this rating.

The plate presentation was common to most other restaurants, not heavy on special displays or garnish. The food itself was to be the celebration through the taste, so I gave the rating for this at the midway point with a 5 our of 10 points.

Customer service can make or break a restaurant. You can have the best quality of foods, and plate presentations that put Escoffier to shame, or the most beautiful ambiance, and fantastic wine or bar list. However if you have a service staff that is not attentive to the needs of the guest, or has an unclean uniform, smells like a cigarette after returning from a break, does not act professionally, or lacks knowledge on the menu, food, and restaurant, then you have a major problem. On the other hand a great server can bring a customer back over and over again even if the food is mediocre. People go to restaurants for the show. They think they are experts because they watched a reality tv show on the Food Network, but what needs to be understood is that as amazing as a kitchen staff and Chef’s may be, the front of house is just as great.

Our server was from a foreign country, and from what I picked up on, possibly the Balkan region. he may have told us, but honestly I don’t remember. The wine service was a little slow, even the bar tender had it ready to go. Though I’m not sure how many other tables the server is assigned, either way, the customer service only let down was this issue, otherwise he did a wonderful job. So I rate the service at a 6 out 10 points.

The “wow” factor as I like to call it is a quality or feature that is extremely impressive. It can be something that is seen or done that is funky, surprising, or pleasing. It is something that just makes me go “wow”. This rating is also the hardest to get high marks for. The wow factor is a combination of ambiance, quality, plate presentation, customer service, and wine or mixology that goes above and beyond what you would expect from a restaurant.

Most restaurants in Tampa or St. Pete get a three or a four, and with this category you really have to wow me. i give them a 5 out of 10, higher than most places I review simply because of the atmosphere of the boat and the romantic factor, otherwise if it was based as a normal restaurant it would be four. 

The wine selection can vary from place to place, and I base the ratings not just on the quality of the wines offered but also the selections. Wine is grown everywhere around the world these days and the demand for it has increased ten fold. Distributors in every major city whether they work for a large named company like Empire or a small boutique company can provide any restaurant any wine if they want it. Some restaurants will choose to have brand name wines only and that to me will lower a rating faster than a plane nose diving. If they make an effort to have even a small selection with variety such as a wines from Napa California, Willamette Oregon, Bordeaux France, Stellenbosch South Africa, the Yarra Valley near Melbourne Australia, or the Piemonte in Italy, to name a few, then that rating will shoot up higher on my review list.

I did request a copy of the wine list when I sent them some email enquires and spoke about the writing of this review, however, I did not receive one, so I cannot give a rating for this section. 

This rounds up the review and rating for Yacht Starship, and from this experience, I would compare our experiences here tonight to a few other places either I or my fiancé and I have been to in the past such as the Moshulu in Philadelphia, which is an older turn of the century ship docked along the river, with a three star experience, that I enjoyed with my daughter back in 2014. Also with unique food with an all around adventure, the Leopard Hills Lodge in South Africa.

Other Tampa restaurant reviews on Wine, Dine, and Play:
(coming soon) 
First Flight Wine Bar
Kona Grill
Rock 'n Raw

Review basics: 

Wine selections by region:

? of 10

New World: 

California: Edna Valley
Restaurant style:
Semi-formal dining
Accepted, but not guaranteed
Dress code:
Semi-formal, Business casual, or Conservative attire
Child policy:

The Restaurants reviewed on this site may have a child’s menu or cater to them; however for full enjoyment of food and wine, it is recommended for children not to be in attendance, unless they have been trained in proper etiquette
Hire a Babysitter. 
Cuisine style:
Contemporary, Modern, Lounge, Seafood, American, & Vegetarian
Lounge, Business parties, Romantic, Great bar, Good for special occasions, Scenic views, Intimate, Classy, Trendsetting, and a Neighborhood gem.
Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express
Public lot with charge
The restaurants reviewed on this site may have Wi-Fi, but do not require you to go online, because the excitement of the food and wine alone will keep you too entertained instead of checking your social media and emails.
Noise level:
Low to Medium
Nonsmoking restaurant
Yes (Upper Deck)

Yacht Starship:
603 Channelside Drive
Tampa, Florida 

GPS Coordinates: 

Contact Information: 

Maître d, Reservations:
+1 813 223 7999
Restaurant Website:
Yacht Starship
Serving Hours:
Eastern Standard Time (GMT - 5:00)

6:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Contact Restaurant
Show Me The Deals

Social Media 

Facebook Link                
Twitter @YachtStarShip

The worlds best restaurants, based on the  
That have been visited and reviewed on this site…

Chicago, Illinois, USA
Sydney, Australia
The Test Kitchen
Cape Town, South Africa
Vue de Monde
Melbourne, Australia
Qui Restaurant 
Austin, Texas, USA
5A5 Steak Lounge
San Francisco, California, USA
The French Laundry 
Yountville, Napa, California, USA
LA TABLE de Joël Robuchon
Paris, France
Sydney, Australia
The Tasting room at Le Quartier Français
Franschhoek, South Africa
Dubai, UAE
Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud
Dublin, Ireland
Ripponlea, Melbourne, Australia
Grill 225 
 Charleston, South Carolina, USA
Mr. Todiwala’s Kitchen 
London, United Kingdom
Denver, Colorado, USA
Charleston, South Carolina, USA
Cook'n' With Gas Bistro
Christchurch, New Zealand
Cape Town, South Africa
Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire 
Dubai, UAE
Dubai, UAE
Commanders Palace
New Orlean’s, Louisiana, USA

You can also use these sites for reference on the top restaurant categories:

All of these guides are helpful to find what you're looking for, starting with The Best Restaurants Near Me by the Trip Advisor Restaurant Finder, followed by my favorite, the top 100 in the world Elite Traveler’s List, also its competitor and more recognized the San Pellegrino Top 50+. For the individual continents, start your adventures in North America with the Best of Canada, then for the United States with the100 Best New York Restaurants try Hope to the west coast for the Los Angeles Times top 101list. The enjoy meat and potatoes with the Top 100 Steakhouses in the USA. For social media lists you can view theYelp Top 100 In USA, the OAD Guide 100 in USA, the OpenTable Top 100 and finally The EATER 38 Top Places to Eat. For Central and South America you have the Latin America top 50. Across the pond focusing on Europe you have the Michelin Guides, and the top 50 Best. Move south to explore the wilds of Africa’s Top Restaurants from Cape Town to Cairo, then enjoy desserts of the desert in the 10 best Middle East guide, with an even greater focus on the top 7 Best in Dubai. Head north to explore the Best of Russia, then the far east with the 101 Best in Asia which includes India and the island nations. The trip around the world is nearly complete with the final continent’s best Down Under Australia top 100,  and its island neighbor New Zealand’s Best 15 Restaurants. There are many more guides out their, but these are a start.

So many great wines in this world, here are a few of my favorite tastings:

Meerlust Wine Estate Rubicon
Stellenbosch, South Africa
Hoopes Vineyard
Napa, California, USA
Jonata Winery
Santa Barbara, California, USA
La Motte
Franschhoek, South Africa
Penner Ash Wine Cellars
Willamette, Oregon
Yarra Yering
Yarra Valley, Australia
Biltmore Estate Winery
Asheville, North Carolina, USA
Bergström Wines
Willamette, Oregon
Silver Oak
Alexander Valley, California, USA
Eagles Nest Winery
Constantia, South Africa
Ghost Block Vineyards
Yountville, California
Pahlmeyer “Jayson Wines”
Napa, California, USA

Reviewed by:
Sean Overpeck (CFE)
Picture below was taken in Basra, Iraq in 2015

About Sean:

I am based out of St. Petersburg, Florida working in the food service industry for the past twenty years, and am currently with the American Embassy as the Executive Chef in Basra, Iraq. Formally I have worked with groups contracting in Afghanistan, and Antarctica, also working in restaurants in and around Atlanta, Georgia prior to the wars. I have also owned a catering company and served proudly in the United States Army Food Service Program. The idea for Wine, Dine, and Play started in late 2012 after a trip to Jordan, when I was asked by friends to write down the experiences from a few Jordanian restaurants, plus the wine from the region that I tasted, and locations of interest such as Petra. Since that time, over 200 articles have been written on restaurants, including fifteen from the worlds top 100 lists of San Pellegrino and the Elite Travelers Guide. There are articles on exotic world locations such as Victoria Falls, and South African Safari’s; food recipes & Grand Food Dictionaries; country cuisines such as Afghan, and Peruvian; tasting tours of world cities like Charleston, Cape Town, and Dubai; and of course wine from vineyards in California, Oregon, the Carolina’s, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia, with much more to see and write about.

Who is John Galt?

“Culinary perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, 
But in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.”
-Angelique Arnauld (1591-1661)

Other articles of interest on Wine, dine, and Play:

Shark Cage Diving in South Africa
Fugitives Drift Lodge in Kwa-Zulu-Natal
Leopard Hills Lodge in South Africa
United States Marine Corps Birthday 2013 in Herat, Afghanistan
A Taste of McMurdo, Antarctica
Netflix Movie Codes, search for your favorites
Burj Khalifa Tower Dubai, UAE
Red Hills Market in Willamette, Oregon

(coming soon) 
Petra, Jordan
A Taste of Dubai 
Wine, Dine, And Play’s Best Of List

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