There are a few things that every first-time visitor should do while at Tahoe. Drive all the way around the lake, enjoy one of Tahoe’s great beaches, dine along the shore, take a hike or a mountain bike ride into the forest and, most importantly, get out on the lake.

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While Tahoe is magnificent from any angle, to capture its true essence, you need to be on the water. I fulfill that need by paddleboarding or kayaking, but it’s always nice to see a big chunk of the lake from up high on the deck of one of Tahoe’s cruise boats, such as the “MS Dixie II.”

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“The highlight of the tour, of course, is Emerald Bay.
Heading into the wind and sun as you sit some 30 feet off the water
gives a perspective of the bay that you can’t get anywhere else.”

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Not only is the “MS Dixie II” the largest boat on Lake Tahoe, it is said to be the largest craft ever to ply the waters of the lake. What that means is that it has a daytime cruise capacity of up to 500 people, with a dinner cruise maximum of 300. The two outdoor decks and indoor seating provide enough room for everyone. There are also two bars that provide drinks and lunches on the scenic day cruises and a full-dinner service on the sunset dinner cruise.

I recently hopped aboard the “MS Dixie II” and soon discovered its size has one advantage. The sun was glorious and the temperature was perfectly situated in the high 70s, but the wind was howling, creating a steady stream of white caps. In those conditions, small crafts are better off staying ashore. On the “MS Dixie II,” however, the boat wasn’t rocking a bit. The ride was smooth and comfortable.

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I strongly recommend taking an “MS Dixie II” cruise. Arrive early, as the prime seats get grabbed quickly. I found myself in a ticket snafu, which involved a bit of sprinting back and forth between lodge and the ticket booth as employees tried to locate my boarding pass. By the time they worked it out I was just about the last person on board, which meant there was not an outdoor seat to be had. No worries, I enjoyed the view standing up and had the freedom to roam. But if you want a seat, don’t dilly-dally.

The “MS Dixie II” provides commentary on the natural and human history of the lake as you cruise. It is informative and well written. Mark Twain performer McAvoy Layne is a frequent visitor on the cruise, but he didn’t make an appearance on my trip. Tahoe information is just the icing on the cake, what this tour is really about is relaxing for 2½ hours and enjoying amazing and unique views of Lake Tahoe.

Departing from Zephyr Cove, which is about 4 miles north of Stateline, has several benefits. If you are used to being on the North or South shores, you see the terrain from a different angle, and the long trek directly across the lake allows you to truly appreciate the immense size of Lake Tahoe.

The highlight of the tour, of course, is Emerald Bay. Heading into the wind and sun as you sit some 30 feet off the water gives a perspective of the bay that you can’t get anywhere else. It makes this trip worth the price of admission.

The “MS Dixie II” departs at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. for Emerald Bay cruises. At 6 p.m. there is a sunset dinner cruise. (See the Web site for current schedules.)

If you want to skip the drive and the $8 parking fee at the Zephyr Cove Resort, you can catch a shuttle from some locations. Be sure to arrive about one-half hour before cruise time to get your boarding pass. If you are hungry before or after the cruise, you can dine at the Zephyr Cove Lodge or eat outside at the Sunset Bar and Grille.

 

For information on cruises and to make reservations, visit zephyrcove.com.

 

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Tim Hauserman
Tim Hauserman wrote the official guidebook to the Tahoe Rim Trail, as well as “Monsters in the Woods: Backpacking with Children” and the children’s book “Gertrude’s Tahoe Adventures in Time.” Most of the year he writes on a variety of topics, but you will find him in the winter teaching cross-country skiing and running the Strider Gliders program at Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area. He has lived in Tahoe since he was a wee lad and loves to be outdoors road and mountain biking, hiking, paddleboarding, kayaking and cross-country skiing.