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On A Dime

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Vacation and budget are two words that aren't normally found in the same sentence. Vacations are normally pricey and can be an easy way to drop a lot of money without even realizing it. Giving your kitchen a rest while you're away means giving your wallet a work out. While some vacation expenses are inevitable (face it, we have all got to eat), some are negotiable.

SignFor my vacation this year I headed down to the Jersey Shore and the town of Wildwood, New Jersey. It's a place I've visited since I was a child and it holds a special place in my heart. The boardwalk is legendary. It's historic, iconic, and, for some people, a two-mile spending spree. My best advice for saving cash on a trip down the shore is avoid the siren song of the boardwalk (more rides than Disneyland, more arcades than bathrooms!) and take a trip off the beaten path. So, rather than spending a fortune at arcades and chotchkie shops, I chose to spend my money on something that really makes a memory.

Captain Schumann's Big Blue Sightseer Cruiser is a whale and dolphin watching ship that sails daily from Wildwood's Otten Harbor in the back bay. The ship itself is unmistakable with it's bright blue paint and colorful statues of a sea horse and merman. It was once a World War II era PT boat and it's a certified DooWop landmark. The captain is a nice man who greets all of his guests as they get on board. He's full of knowledge about the area and local wildlife as well. The 2 ½ hour trip takes you down the Intercoastal Waterway, through Jarvis Sound, and into the Atlantic. During the cruise to the ocean, Captain Schumann talks about the bird sanctuaries that surround the waterway and the fishing industry that thrives in the area.

Whales are a rare find on these trips but dolphins are virtually guaranteed. Various pods of Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins live, feed, and play all along the shores of Wildwood and Cape May. Most surprising was how close these animals get to the shoreline. Along my trip we found a few splashing in the waves only fifteen feet from curious tourists and watchful lifeguards. Captain Schumann will make several stops for cruisers to take pictures and spot the beautiful animals. You may even spot a few dolphins jumping and surfing in the wake of the boat.

In addition to the dolphin watching, the cruise sails past the historic Victorian hotels of Cape May and gives guests a new view of the incredible Wildwood boardwalk. Captain Schumann and his crew make the trip kid-friendly, but not kid-centric. It's a perfect a trip for all ages. My recommendations: take high SPF sunscreen and a camera. Cruises are generally daily at 10:00, 1:30, and 6:30, but you should call ahead to make reservations and confirm times because they change based on sea conditions and weather. The price for adults is $28 and parking is free. Visit their website for more information and directions.