Lake Mead Cruises offers several different cruises on its Desert Princess, a three-level paddlewheeler that holds up to 275 guests. We decided to take the “Midday Sightseeing Cruise,” mostly because we wanted something to do with the kids, and didn’t think they’d enjoy the champagne brunch or dinner cruises.
There are two sightseeing cruises daily, leaving at noon and 2pm (note: in the winter, the 2pm cruise is only offered 3 days a week, and there are no cruises in December and January). I put some thought into which one would suit us best; I thought that having a nice lunch in Boulder City would settle everyone nicely for the fun, so we opted for the 2pm cruise. We had said nice lunch at the Little City Grille (I’m a fan of the slaw burger) and headed over to The Landing, where we would board the Desert Princess.
Give yourself plenty of time to get there; after you hit the Lake Mead National Recreation Area checkpoint, you’ve still got some driving to do. Note: you must pay $10 per car to enter the area, and that $10 covers you for the week.
When you get to the landing, you’ll have to park far away (relatively, as these things go in Vegas). It’s a dirt lot, and fun to explore for kids, because it is the shoreline of Lake Mead. All sorts of fun things can be found.
As you get to the walkway to the landing, you’ll find one of them: a school of carp that swims around the walkway, waiting for cruisers just like you to throw some food in. Luckily or not, the concession area at the landing sells popcorn, which the carp seem to enjoy, though I’m not sure how good it is for them. There are also plentiful ducks to be found, if you’d like to feed something that can fly.
Boarding is prompt; you line up and get shuffled efficiently on board; you are quasi-pressured into getting your picture taken before boarding, but you don’t have to pose or buy them.
Once you get on board, there is plenty of room to roam. You might want to start out on the top, outdoor deck, where you can enjoy a 360 degree view of the lake. There’s a recorded narration that plays. It starts out by talking about geography and then goes into history, but I couldn’t recall anything that was said 30 seconds after it was said, so don’t expect this to make too much of an impression. Your kids will probably want to explore the boat. You will go up stairs and down stairs and inside the first floor lounge and out of the first floor lounge and inside the second floor lounge and out of the second floor lounge and back down to the first floor lounge, then up to the third floor deck, then back down…you get the point.
There is some food for sale, even if you’re not taking a meal cruise, and the staff seems OK with small amount of outside snacks coming aboard, particularly if it keep your kids quiet, I’m guessing. The boat cruises out to Hoover Dam, which you see for about 5 minutes, then comes back. The time kind of flies, especially if you’re chasing your kids around and occasionally losing them (if you have to chase after two or more simultaneously, which happens).
All in all, this is a fun trip for kids. It’s a really nice ride out on the lake, and the kind of thing that breaks the day up nicely but isn’t an all-day excursion. You could leave the Strip after an early lunch, do the cruise, and be back by 5-ish. Highly recommended.