Answers to BBQ Pontoon's most commonly asked questions
- Are the boats difficult to drive?
No, they are very easy and fun to drive. Many people say driving a pontoon boat is a lot like driving a golf cart.
- Do I need a special license?
You need a valid driver’s license and credit card, and must be 21 or older.
- Do you provide a captain?
No, at BBQ Pontoon you’re the captain. That’s part of the fun of renting with us. You get to drive the boat yourself with just your friends and family.
- Can we take the boat onto Lake Michigan?
No, our boats are not equipped to handle the conditions on Lake Michigan and are therefore not allowed on the lake. This is non-negotiable. For one thing, you do not have enough time to pass through the lock twice and make it back on time. Not only that, traversing the lock can be dangerous for inexperienced crew members. It is also very easy to cause damage to your boat that could cost you a lot of money to repair. Please do not attempt to take your boat onto Lake Michigan.
- Where can we take the boats?
You are allowed to take your boat anywhere on the Chicago River. Our boats are not equipped to handle the conditions on Lake Michigan and therefore are not allowed on the lake. During your on-boat orientation, a staff member will suggest the best route for your cruise taking into account the weather, your time frame, and your interests. Each boat is supplied with a Chicago River map for easy navigation. A good rule of thumb is to go as far as you want for 55 minutes and then turn around to ensure a timely return.
- Can we stop and dock at other places on the river?
No, you are not allowed to dock the boat anywhere except its home dock, except in the event of an emergency. Docking can be dangerous for inexperienced crew members. It is also very easy to cause damage to your boat that could cost you a lot of money to repair. Unless you have an emergency, please do not attempt to dock the boat anywhere except at its home dock.
- How much to add an extra hour?
We do not rent boats by the hour. Our two-hour cruises offer the perfect amount of time to take in all of Chicago’s glorious architecture from Chinatown to Downtown. Anything beyond two hours tends to be too much for most guests, especially considering that docking the boat anywhere else and venturing onto Lake Michigan is strictly prohibited—and the boats do not have restrooms!
- Can we bring our own food?
Yes, you are welcome to bring your own food. We recommend you keep it simple, though. Finger foods and prepared sandwiches or wraps work best. Dips, salsas, or anything that requires prep work does not work well on a boat and can get very messy. Please remember that you are responsible for cleaning up after yourselves before you leave the boat. A cleaning fee will be assessed for boats that are left excessively messy.
- Can we bring beer, wine, or spirits on our cruise?
Yes, you are welcome to bring alcohol on your cruise. However, the skipper (driver) must refrain from drinking prior to and during your cruise. This is not only a BBQ Pontoon rule, but it is also a Coast Guard and Chicago Police Department rule. Be aware that both agencies take drinking while driving a boat very seriously, and they won’t hesitate to board you if they believe your skipper has been drinking. Please note that we do not give refunds if you are boarded by either agency.
- How many people fit on the boat?
The 8-passenger pontoon can accommodate up to 8 people and has a weight limit of 1,145 lbs. The 9-passenger pontoon can accommodate up to 9 people and has a weight limit of 1,290 lbs. Please note that the Coast Guard counts infants and children toward your passenger count.
It is important that while scheduling your cruise you take into consideration the weight limit of the boat you are booking. Overloading your boat can be dangerous. If you are planning a cruise for a team of heavy football players or wrestlers, you may want to consider leaving one spot open or scheduling a second boat and distributing your passengers equally among the two boats.
- Are there restrooms on board?
No, there are no restrooms (heads) on board the boat. Please plan accordingly, because you are not allowed to dock anywhere during your cruise, even to use the restroom. We do have a restroom located on the dock for your convenience.
- Do you provide parking?
There is a free parking lot located adjacent to Lawrence’s Fish and Shrimp, just to the south of their parking lot. It’s big so you can’t miss it. DO NOT PARK IN LAWRENCE’S LOT, THEY WILL TOW YOUR CAR. Parking fills up quickly, so if possible, try to have your guests arrive in one car.
- What is your cancellation policy?
We cannot provide refunds for any reason. If you wish to reschedule you may do so for a fee of $30, and you must do so no less than 48 hours prior to your scheduled cruise.
If at the time of your cruise the dock manager deems the weather to be unsafe, we will issue a rain check and you can reschedule at no cost. Please note that we do not issue rain checks for light, spotty rain. We only issue rain checks when there is heavy, sustained rain and/or thunderstorm. We do not make determinations on rain checks until two hours prior to your scheduled cruise.
- The weather forecast predicts rain during my cruise. Can I reschedule?
We cannot reschedule or provide refunds based on weather forecasts. The weather in Chicago is notoriously unpredictable. It can be cloudy and rainy on one end of the city but bright and sunny on the other. It is very common for forecasts to predict a 100% chance of rain only to have the entire day be cloud-free and pleasant.
Nevertheless, if you insist on rescheduling your cruise you may do so for a rescheduling fee of $30, and you must do so no less than 48 hours prior to your scheduled cruise. If at the time of your cruise the dock manager deems the weather to be unsafe, we will issue a rain check and you can reschedule at no cost.
- Do you accept tips?
Yes, tipping is allowed. Our dock hands work hard to ensure you have a safe and fun cruise. If you are happy with their service, feel free to give them a tip.