Chicago Line Cruises Evening Architectural/ Cocktail Cruise
Available: 6 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; 8 p.m. Mon.-Sat. except Wed.
Departs: Just east of 465 N. McClurg Ct., from the docks on the promenade behind River East Art Center.
Features: Part-guided architectural tour, part-pleasure cruise along the lake, this one is the best of both worlds. Chicago Line also partners with the Chicago History Museum for one-off themed cruises in the summer.
Refreshments: Complimentary non-alcoholic beverages and light snacks (mine had cookies and pretzels), with an optional $18 all-you-can-drink bar package.
Best for: Architecture fans with short attention spans ... who like to drink. Once the docent's off the mike, you're on your own for entertainment.
For tickets: 312-527-2002, Chicago Line ticket office or chicagoline.com/ cocktailarch.php.
Wendella Chicago at Sunset cruise
The basics: 2-hour river and lake cruise, $25.
Available: 7:45 p.m. daily.
Departs: From Wendella's tiny dock wedged between the northeast corner of Wrigley Building and the Michigan Avenue bridge.
Features: Historical, architectural and minor cultural commentary dominate the guided tour, with breaks along the lake for self-reflection ... at the bar.
Refreshments: Soft drinks and hot chocolate run $1, beer is $4 and cocktails average $7; snacks are limited to chips and pretzels.
Best for: Tourists looking for a crash course on the city's floating history, and locals who want to float along while brushing up.
For tickets: 312-337-1446, Wendella ticket office or wendellaboats.com/sunset.htm.
Shoreline Sightseeing Sunset Cruise
The basics: 45-minute lake cruise, $14.
Available: 8 p.m. daily.
Departs: Navy Pier, West Boat Dock.
Features: The instruction "remain seated at all times" seems more Disneyland than pleasure cruise. Guided narration is done via a voiceover that far predates Millennium Park. Its campy tone evokes a 1950s Chicago.
Refreshments: Soft drinks, cheap wine and Budweiser. Or Bud Light.
Best for: Tourists only, who unfortunately will leave Chicago believing that the city's last great boon was Grant Park.
For tickets: 312-222-9328, Shoreline Sightseeing ticket office or shorelinesightseeing.com.