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About Our Founders

Our story is one of adventure, family, and a commitment to creating special moments that last a lifetime.Founders of Waterways Cruises and Events

Since 1994, Waterways Cruises and Events has been a key fixture in Seattle’s vibrant lake and Puget Sound cruising scene. What started as a small, family-run operation with just one yacht has blossomed into a fleet of four vessels, each offering unique dining and entertainment experiences. Today, we’re proud to host over 60,000 guests annually to celebrate intimate weddings and rehearsal dinners, unique corporate events, milestone celebrations, and memorable public dining cruises.

Leading Waterways are co-founders Shirley Turnbow and Hilton Smith, whose diverse backgrounds and shared passions have become the heart of our brand.

Before co-founding Waterways, Shirley Turnbow had a multifaceted career that spanned senior paralegal roles, real estate, and ventures in food and antique businesses. Her extensive expertise in law, real estate, and entrepreneurship is matched by a deep commitment to community service and mentorship. Shirley’s leadership at Waterways is defined by her belief in employee development, ensuring our team not only grows professionally but also thrives personally.

Shirley says she is inspired every day by her family, her husband and Co-founder Hilton Smith, and the Waterways team.

Co-founder, Hilton Smith, brings a rich blend of real estate and finance expertise, a passion for boats and history, and an educational background from Princeton and Stanford to Waterways. His mantra, “If you make a mistake… make another decision,” guides our mission towards excellence and innovation, ensuring Waterways remains a leader in creating meaningful experiences on the water.

Hilton shares Shirley’s motivation to make a difference in the lives of others. He has dedicated his time and expertise to several boards and committees, with a particular focus on enhancing educational opportunities, environmental stewardship, and alleviating poverty.

Together, Shirley and Hilton have cultivated much more than a thriving business; they’ve fostered a community grounded in care, excellence, and positive impact. “It is an honor to provide a space for joy, where guests can celebrate, connect, and enjoy the special moments in life,” Shirley and Hilton.

 

Meet The Team

Our small office team, consisting of eight close-knit individuals who are more than just colleagues but a family, brings together diverse backgrounds and skill sets united by a shared passion for quality, adventure, and delivering a one-of-a-kind experience. Working cohesively, we infuse creativity, dedication, and a sense of unity into everything we do. Meanwhile, our onboard team, meticulously trained and equally passionate, tirelessly ensures a seamless and memorable journey for our guests, going the extra mile to anticipate needs, provide personalized services, and foster an atmosphere of warmth and hospitality. Together, we are dedicated to exceeding expectations and leaving a lasting impression on all who choose to adventure with us.

Vendors

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We have preferred relationships with an impressive list of Seattle’s top professional vendors that have been hand selected to match the standards of quality we represent. These vendors are knowledgeable and experienced with each of our yachts.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Visit our FAQ page for any questions you may have about Waterways & our cruises.

If you don’t find what you need, feel free to contact us directly and we will do our best to answer your needs.

Affiliations

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Waterways Cruises is a proud partner with a number of respected organizations in the tourism, travel, and marine communities. Our partners are dedicated to supporting tourism, travel, hospitality, economic development and maritime activities in the Pacific Northwest.

Waterways is also proud to be a participant in the Passenger Vessel Association’s GREEN WATERS program, a voluntary environmental stewardship initiative exclusively for PVA members, focused on following and promoting green business practices in the maritime community.

Careers

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Do you want to work where every day is exciting, challenging, and rewarding; where you can make someone’s day just a little more special? Do you want to work in a fun environment on the water, for owners and managers who genuinely care about you? If you do, and want to be part of a great team of hospitality professionals who value respect, cooperation, and hard work, then Waterways is the place for you.