As we were planning our winter vacation to South Padre Island, a number of people told us that we need to sign up for a cruise on a pirate ship on Laguna Madre Bay. A pirate ship! How touristy and hokey does that sound – maybe a 3 year old would enjoy it but how about the us adults and kids at heart? Against my better judgment, we signed up to board The Black Dragon and sail with some pirates – and we all, young and old, loved it and the grandkids are still talking about their sword fight, treasure hunt, squirt gun battle, and attack on Pier 19! And looking at all the pictures to add to this article, it brought back some smiles and memorable moments. A great time and a must do if you’re anywhere near Port Isabel.

First Experience

We got our first taste of what the Black Dragon experience might be like when we were having a great lunch at Pier 19 on South Padre Island. All of a sudden a rowdy and funny “fire-at” came charging through the restaurant, outfitting and rounding up some kids to help him fight a pirate ship that was about to attack the pier.

The Black Dragon on Laguna Madre Bay
Pirate climbing the mast
Pirates on the Black Dragon
Firing the cannon to annouce the Black Dragon departure

A Black Dragon Pirate

Christy the pirate on Black Dragon

With smiles on our faces, a lot of the kids and plenty of us adults followed him out to his cannon on the pier where for the next 20 minutes we battled (with cannons blasting and plenty of verbal abuse, and several Aaaarrrrgggghhhhs) with the Black Dragon pirate ship loaded with pirates yelling and 10 cannons firing at us. It was a mighty battle, but much to our chagrin, we were badly out numbered and out gunned and forced to surrender and take some pictures with our “fire-at”! Well, maybe this cruise with Black Dragon wouldn’t be so bad – the people and pirates on the Black Dragon looked like they were having a blast. And the grandkids, who are 2 and 5, keep asking us every 20 minutes “is it time to go on the pirate ship?”

The Black Dragon getting ready to attack Pier 19

Our pirate on Pier 19 shortly after he surrendered!

Just For Kids?

But us adults were still a little skeptical when we showed up at Pirate’s Landing for our departure. Pirate’s Landing in Port Isabel is well worth a visit even if you don’t go on the cruise with the pirates. It’s home to a fantastic restaurant (Pirate’s Landing), a couple small vendors selling wares and one with talking parrots (a great photo opportunity for a small donation), an historical lighthouse, The Thriller high speed boat ride, Dolphin Research Center, Osprey fishing charters, and more – before or after your cruise you should spend some time exploring Port Isabel. And make sure that you buy some pirate stuff (scarf, hat, sword, etc.) in the gift shop where you sign up for the cruise.

To get you in the mood for your cruise and before you set sail as you wait for the stragglers, the “fire-at” took the stage and for 20 minutes or so entertained us with jokes, sarcastic comments, and some fire breathing.

Fire breathing pirate

Teaching us to speak pirate
Talk and act like a pirate

Boarding The Ship

We boarded the ship and were quickly overtaken and entertained by a rowdy and fun gathering of thieves, brigands, cutthroats and back-stabbing blackguards the likes of which have not been seen since the days of Blackbeard! I quickly assumed the role of Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean – albeit a little older, fatter, and not nearly as good looking, but so what, I was having fun. And for the next couple hours we had a blast – lots of laughs, all smiles, and plenty of activity to keep young and old entertained. Everyone on board seemed to really be enjoying themselves. And the scenery as you cruise Laguna Madre Bay from Port Isabel, under the Causeway, and over to South Padre Island is impressive.

Getting us to look like a pirate
And look like a pirate

On The Journey

Once we boarded and pulled away from the dock, the pirates immediately started entertaining us and getting most of the passengers and every single one of the kids involved in a variety of fun and lively activities that lasted through out the cruise on Black Dragon. It started with learning how to speak and act like a rowdy pirate – it didn’t take long for all of us to start Aaaarrrrgggghhhhing. If we know how to speak and act like a pirate, we should also look like one – so we all, kids and adults, got a pirate mustache and goatee! After the cruise, we spotted several adult and kid pirates still sporting their pirate moustache in the restaurant and exploring Port Isabel.

The battle raged for what seemed like hours
Pirate with what he called "a Mexican Water Pistol"

Sword Fights

If you’re on a pirate ship, there is bound to be a sword fight, so our pirates started with a sword duel and then let each of the kids pick a pirate who they wanted to have a sword fight with!

Our 2 year old grandson won this duel
Swordfights on the Black Dragon
Learning how to fight with a sword

Once the sword fights were over and everyone was hot and sweaty, the water pistol fights began – all of the kids, pirates, and several of us kids at heart had one of the best water pistol fights ever as we cruised Laguna Madre Bay. Everyone on board got into it!

The winner of the water pistol duel
Learning a pirate song

Now that we were accomplished with the swords and pistols, it was time to attack the “fire-at” on Pier 19. The cannons roared, the bantering back and forth was loud, and cheers of victory soon swept over the Black Dragon as the white flag of surrender was raised on the pier.

Firing on Pier 19

And then the kids got to share the riches from our victory. The kids were led up to the upper poop deck to view the treasure chest loaded with valuables while the rest of the pirates hid gold medallions all over the boat. And treasure hunt started to see who could collect the most medallions. After which the celebration and singing started as the kids grabbed instruments and started parading around the boat. Only to find out that prior to departure, they all needed to swab the deck. Which they joyfully agreed to and started mopping – never happen at home!

Parading and singing on the Black Dragon
Even the youngest got a mop to swab the deck
Swabbing the deck

All too soon, we were docking and saying good bye (with some hugs and handshakes) to our fun and rowdy crew of pirates. They really made our cruise a non stop bundle of laughs and a lot of fun! If you’ve got kids you need to go out of your way to take this cruise and the prices are reasonable and well worth it!

Our skipper
Our leader of the pirates
Our skelton crew

About The Black Dragon

The Black Dragon is a modern day replica of a 17th Century Galleon and measures 75 feet in length and 20 feet wide – and weighs in at 80 gross tons! She has four masts the tallest of which is 57 feet above the waterline, or roughly the height of a five story building! And when we attack the “fire-at” on Pier 19, 10 cannons are fired by computer with a full range of visual and audio effects. When her cannons roar, you’ll think you’re in the middle of a 17th century naval battle and you can’t help but cheer as the white flag is raised by the “fire-at” on Pier 19.

All the mates of the Black Dragon

Black Dragon cruising Laguna Madre Bay

On our trip the wind was really blowing and the bay was awash with whitecaps, but the Black Dragon handled it with ease and sailed smoothly through the chop – so don’t let your fear of getting sea sick stop you from going, that will be the farthest thing from your mind, or is it your stomach – either way, don’t worry about it. During your cruise you’re free to roam and will want to explore the Black Dragon from stem to stern and make sure you check out the views from each of her four decks. Take a sunset cruise – the sunsets are unbelievable. And most likely during your cruise you’ll spot several dolphin frolicking in the bay. Don’t worry, the Black Dragon is equipped with modern men’s and women’s heads (restrooms) and a grog shop located on the poop deck with drinks, snacks, and grog (beer and wine) for purchase!

Read more about our South Padre Island vacation trip.

Mike Sharp
Author: Mike Sharp

I have a passion for travel and outdoor activities, and now I'm enjoying retired life. I will continue my traveling, golfing, boating, and enjoying life all across the great state of Texas.

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