Pontoon Saloon’s Guide to Passenger for Hire & Charter Vessel Operations

Welcome to Music City, where the sounds of country music meet the soothing ripples of the Cumberland River. If you’re looking to add a splash of excitement to your visit, a Nashville boat charter might be the perfect solution. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, navigating the waters of Nashville can offer a unique perspective of the city’s charm. Chartering a vessel offers a unique and exciting way to experience the water, and there are various options available to suit different occasions, passengers, and needs. In this guide, we’ll take you through the essential steps to ensure a smooth and enjoyable boat charter experience.

Understanding Your Options and Types of Boats

Nashville offers a variety of boats for charter, from sleek pontoons to luxurious yachts. Determine your preferences, group size, and budget to help narrow down the options. There are generally four methods for you to safely get on a boat this summer in Nashville. At times this can be confusing, so we are here to break down Nashville boat charters for you.

1. Recreational Vessel Rental

For those seeking a hands-on experience as the captain of their adventure, renting a recreational vessel such as a pontoon boat is an excellent choice. Most Nashville boat rental companies have a variety of boats and capacity options ranging from 2-14 total passengers. Consult with the company to better understand the boat’s capability and rules such as fishing, tubing/skiing, and how the boat might handle larger waves. You want to match your capabilities with the vessel you plan to rent.

It is also important to note the body of water you are renting on, many lakes are easier to operate vs others due to traffic, number of vessels, and size of vessels. It’s important to ensure you have enough space on the vessel for the number of people you plan to include on your trip. We usually recommend leaving some wiggle room, so if the capacity of the pontoon boat is 13, you may want to keep it to 12 as you might bring coolers and other gear that will increase the weight and available space on the vessel.

Our Recommendation

Located at Rock Harbor Marina, Boat Rental Nashville offers a range of options, from pontoon boats to double-decker tritons with slides, and fishing pontoons, allowing renters to navigate the waters at their own pace. Situated just 8 miles from Broadway, they’re the closest Pontoon Rentals to downtown Nashville (with convenient, free parking), granting you access to the picturesque Cumberland River and captivating skyline views of Music City. Take the scenic route upriver towards downtown Nashville, followed by anchoring near Ashland City to relish in the stunning landscape and impressive rock cliffs. Conclude your day at Bluemoon Waterfront Grill, conveniently located in the same marina.

Boat Rental Nashville photo of a group

2. Bare Boat Charters

For those seeking more luxury, a bareboat charter could be a great option. This type of charter places the responsibility squarely on the charterer, who assumes control over the vessel, crew selection, and all related liabilities—yes that’s you! To ensure compliance, the charterer must meet seven essential criteria, including crew payment, provision of fuel and stores, and obtaining insurance. It’s crucial to note that a bareboat chartered vessel should carry up to 12 passengers without a Certificate of Inspection (COI). Keep in mind, these can be limited in the capacity of passengers and typically require extra work and costs if you are not familiar with the process.

Our Recommendation

Music City Cruises specializes in providing luxury cruises in Nashville. Enjoy an elevated experience with a yacht party on Old Hickory Lake with access to many great bars/restaurants and the famous 2-foot cove. These upscale cruises cater to a variety of occasions—from boat birthday parties to corporate events. Whatever the nature of your event, have your vision brought to life with a unique and unparalleled luxury cruise experience. Music City Cruises has a recommended list of captains and crew for you to choose from and pay directly making it an easy experience to get on the water with a professional crew.

3. Uninspected Passenger Vessel (UPV) Charter

For a more relaxed experience with a captain and crew at your service, consider an Uninspected Passenger Vessel as your Nashville boat charter. This option includes a captain and crew as part of the charter agreement, making it an ideal choice for those who prefer a hands-off approach. Passenger limits vary, with vessels of at least 100 gross tons accommodating up to 12 passengers and those less than 100 gross tons limited to 6 passengers. This option will make for an easier experience as the company is now responsible for the crew, fuel, insurance, and typically one purchase price for the full experience. If you have a group size of 6 or less this is a great option for you to stay within budget but enjoy the waters of Nashville.

Our Recommendation

Embark on a unique and handcrafted aquatic adventure with Cruisin’ Tiki. Commitment to safety is paramount as each tiki meets all U.S. Coast Guard requirements. The bamboo railings are not just for aesthetics but also provide enhanced stability throughout your journey. Accommodating up to 6 passengers and a captain, every seat is equipped with shade, and under-bar lights ensure visibility during nighttime excursions. Cruise in style and comfort with Cruisin’ Tiki, where quality, safety, and entertainment converge for an unforgettable experience on the water.

Another great option on the west side of Nashville is our sister company Boat Rental Nashville with access to downtown Nashville. You can add a captain to any of your rentals for $50 an hour or book one of their 2-hour sunset tours directly on their website. Their experience captains are well-versed in creating a fun guest experience, know the area, and enjoy hosting. These vessels are limited to a total of 6 passengers and operate 7 days a week.

4. Inspected Passenger Vessels

For a full-service and thoroughly vetted experience, chartering an inspected passenger vessel is the way to go. These operations come with a Certificate of Inspection (COI) from the USCG, you can ask the operator to see their COI to better understand the capabilities of their vessel such as total crew and passenger counts. Inspected passenger vessel companies will include items such as captain, crew, fuel, restrooms, insurance, and sometimes food and beverages. An inspected passenger vessel can come in many shapes and sizes, with a capacity ranging from 6 to 1,000+ people. Most tour operators will have a capacity of up to 49 passengers.

Operations like the Pontoon Saloon undergo rigorous USCG safety and training evaluations. The vessel’s design regulates the passenger count, with considerations such as construction and deadweight surveys taken into account. This ensures a safe and enjoyable experience for up to 47 passengers and two crew members on Pontoon Saloon’s cruises.

Party on a river cruise

Our Recommendation

Experience worry-free fun aboard the 50-foot Pontoon Saloon, an experienced licensed captain and deckhand accompany every cruise, allowing you to leave your concerns behind on land! Each cruise is 2 hours and comes with a party host, sound system, restroom, and ample ice with coolers for your preferred beverages—whether you bring your own or choose pre-purchased beer/seltzer buckets. Explore a variety of options, including private river cruises, public riverboat cruises, and all-inclusive bachelorette cruises.

Larger group sizes of 300+ may consider the General Jackson with a capacity of up to 1,000 passengers, with dinner and shows available.

Choosing the Right Charter Company

  • Research and Reviews – Take the time to research local charter companies. Read reviews, check ratings, and ask for recommendations to ensure you choose a reputable and reliable service.
  • Safety First – Prioritize safety by ensuring the charter company adheres to all safety regulations. Confirm that the boats are well-maintained, and the captains are licensed and experienced.
Boat Safety

Planning Your Nashville Boat Charter Itinerary

  • Scenic Routes – Explore the scenic routes along the Cumberland River, taking in iconic landmarks such as the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, Nissan Stadium, and the stunning Nashville skyline.
  • Sunset Cruises – Consider scheduling your Nashville boat charter for a breathtaking sunset cruise during the golden hour. Nashville’s skyline illuminated by the fading sunlight is a sight to behold.
  • Themed Boats – Pick an excursion or boat rental that fits what you’re celebrating! Whether you want to bring fun decorations for a 50th birthday or pick a boat that celebrates the bride, there are many options for more tailored experiences. The Pontoon Saloon offers a tailored bachelor and bachelorette experience with all-inclusive beer and seltzers. Leave the party planning to the professionals.
  • Charter Duration – Decide how long you want to be out on the water. Options range from a few hours to full-day excursions, so plan accordingly for your group’s comfort and interests.
A group of women on a boat on Cumberland river

What to Bring

  • Pack the essentials such as sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and comfortable clothing.
  • Any necessary paperwork provided by the charter company. Always check with the charter company about their policy on bringing food and beverages. Some companies offer catering services, while others allow you to bring your provisions.
  • Bring your camera or smartphone to capture the memories. The riverbanks, cityscape, and your group enjoying the experience are all excellent photo opportunities.
what to bring on your nashville boat rental

Key Questions to Ask Before Purchasing Your Nashville Boat Charter

  • Do you have a Certificate of Inspection (COI)? If so, can I please get a copy?
  • Has your boat been recently inspected by the Coast Guard? If so, when, and can I see the inspection confirmation (on the COI)?
  • What other charges should I expect before and after my charter is completed?
  • How many passengers are safely allowed on the vessel? Does that include the captain I need to hire?
question mark

To charter a vessel in Nashville, start by identifying your preferences and level of involvement. If you crave control and want to be the captain, opt for a recreational vessel rental. Bareboat charters are perfect for yacht owners seeking to share their vessels, while UPV and inspected passenger vessel charters provide varying levels of service and convenience. Always adhere to safety regulations and, if in doubt, consult the Coast Guard Prevention Department for guidance.

Whether cruising the Cumberland River on your own or enjoying a fully serviced experience with a reputable charter company, Nashville has the perfect vessel for your aquatic adventure. So, get ready to set sail and immerse yourself in the unique charm of Music City from a whole new perspective!

Want to verify if a company is properly adhering to local and federal regulations, contact the USCG Marine Safety Detachment in Nashville: (615) 736-5421.

Sources: USCG Documents: PAX For Hire Explanation OUPV Guidebook 16710.2 Bareboat Chartering 101 CG-INV Addendum UPV Over 100 GRT Less Than 300 GRT