Thursday, 29 December 2011

A Holiday Boat Cruise on Newport Harbor, Southern California

The month of December is set aside for seasonal tours, and one of them is to go on a holiday boat cruise around Newport Harbor. Except for some blocked-off dates for the Newport Beach Boat Parade from December 14 - 18, boat rides are scheduled for the holiday fun seekers who are delighted with a sort of festival of lights, or a "parade of lights" as it is commonly referred to, when Newport Harbor is brightly illuminated with decorated boats, yachts, and homes that dot the coastlines of the different islands.
The Newport Harbor holiday boat cruise has been a tradition for over a 100 years, and it has become a popular Christmas holiday attraction for the locals and tourists. With several companies offering this thrilling boat ride at this time of the year, there is room for over a million people to come to see the themed Christmas lights all around Newport harbor.

This year, my friends and family were among those who took this cruise.
A view of the Balboa Pavilion which is next to the Fun Zone

Without checking how to get to the take off point, I drove through Balboa Island, from the mainland, only to realize that we had to take the Balboa Island Ferry to get to the other side. The Balboa Island Ferry provides the people and car ferry service across the harbor to the southern end which is the Balboa Peninsula, where the Fun Zone area is. 

It was a 5 minute, scenic ride in a three-car ferryboat, and then we rushed and  parked and hurried to the ticket counter to present our pre-bought coupon vouchers in the nick of  time, for the 5:30 schedule. A second boat was added as there was an overflow of people in the first one, maybe, because there were  discounted coupon deals offered by several daily-deal companies that brought in a much bigger crowd.

We departed from the Fun Zone near the Newport Beach Nautical Museum to start our holiday cruise around the harbor, on Newport Bay.
The night was perfect - with a full moon, clear skies, and just a bit chilly in Newport Bay. 
From a distance, we could see the homes decorated with Christmas lights along the coast of Balboa Island.

This area of Newport Beach is actually comprised of three islands in Newport Harbor, with Balboa Island being the largest one, and to the east is Little Balboa Island which is smaller, and these two are joined by a two-lane bridge. Collins Island, which is a private, residential  property, is the smallest one, situated northwest of Balboa Island, joined to it by a very short and gated one-lane bridge. The island grouping is connected to the mainland via Jamboree Road, by way of a two-lane bridge, on the northeast side of Balboa Island. 
The moon seemed to show up all around us.

The Gingerbread House

The round white images in some of my pictures are "orbs."

I clean my camera lens each time I go out to take pictures. For sure, these white spots are all part of the scene I am shooting. "Orbs" is the term for them. There is a bit of controversy as to what these mysterious images are. The usual definition for an orb is "a spherical body, a globe." With the appearance of these mysterious forms in photos taken with digital cameras, they are identified as spirits in paranormal circles.
This is the two-lane bridge that connects Balboa Island to the mainland, straight from Jamboree Road.

Today, Balboa Island is very densely populated, even more than San Francisco. The real state values rank among the highest in the nation. It's a quaint town with a European flavor, with easy access to the bay. Homes located on the island's perimeter have their own docks. Its mixed population of retirees, professionals, celebrities, and students is augmented by the influx of tourists during the holiday and summer months. Much of the action after spending time in water activities takes place on the main street, where many restaurants, fashion and craft stores will get your attention.
Our tour of the lit-up homes on Lido Isle was next. 

Across from Balboa Island and Collins Island is Lido Isle, a man-made island that was made a part of Newport Beach in 1906. Originally "part sandbar and part mudflat," it is now a residential area for about 1,800 people. Some of  the "Who's Who" among the rich and famous call this place home. Included in the roster of residents are big business owners, sports figures, and celebrities.

This is one of several yacths already decorated with lights, moored in front of the owner's house.

The parade of gaily decorated boats began in the 1920s when a man named J. Scarpa decorated his gondola with lights. He inspired other boat owners to do the same thing. This has led to the annual "Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade."

Boat owners who take part in the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade spend $50,000.00 and up, to dress up their vessels in Christmas holiday lights and decorations. This event has become so popular and has become the biggest harbor boat parade in the whole world, and it can be seen from as far as Catalina Island. It is a popular holiday event to watch, especially for tourists who come to visit Southern California during the mildly, cold winter season. In a seasonal tour scheduled for four days only, dubbed as  the "Newport Beach Harbor Christmas Parade of Lights," the boat ride will take you up-close to the participants cruising up-and-down and around Newport Harbor.

The former location of John Wayne's residence

One of the Newport Beach old timers was John Wayne. His real name was Marion Morrison and he was a football player for USC. His sports career was waylaid by an injury while he was bodysurfing near the Balboa pier. One of his football fans was a cowboy star, Tom Mix, who got him a job as a prop man at Fox Studios. His good looks were soon discovered by John Ford, while he was loading some articles onto a truck at the Fox lot.

In 1966, he left Beverly HIlls to move back to Newport Beach. With his failing health, he found the fresh and sea air of Newport Beach more suitable for him. He settled down in a waterfront location, in a one-story, ten-bedroom, seven-bathroom house. His ranch-style residence, at the tip of Bayshore Drive, had a swimming pool. Right in front of his house, his yacth "The Wild Goose" was moored, which he continued to sail until his death in 1979.

Pilar Wayne, John Wayne's Peruvian-born wife - the mother of his three children and an accomplished woman as an author, artist, restauranteur, and interior decorator - continued to live in their home after his passing. When the residence was sold, the property was bought by a couple - the owners of the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. It was torn down and a brand-new house was built in modern style. This property is now valued at six million dollars.

The Snoopy-themed decorated house

Some of the interiors of the homes are visible to the onlookers.

The residence of singer, songwriter, and actress, Cyndi Lauper, who achieved fame in the 1980s

Residential and business establishments on Coast Highway
We are almost back at the Fun Zone. This was a family and friends thing to do this Christmas season, and we are sure glad we got to do it. At other times of the year, there are other guided, harbor tours to take and enjoyable things to do in this part of town.

As this year comes to an end, I wish you a very happy new year. 


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