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Times of the Islands Magazine


Mar 08, 2023 08:00AM ● By EMILY BENSON

Excursions aboard Captiva Cruises’ 49-foot catamaran, Santiva, let passengers encounter true Florida, visiting destinations that can be reached only by boat.

Family owned and operated since 1986, Captiva Cruises has helped Southwest Florida locals and guests experience the region’s waters for nearly four decades, exploring unique destinations and hidden gems that are often reached only by boat.
When Hurricane Ian brought operations to a grinding halt September 28, 2022, Captiva Cruises shifted its focus to its staff and the community. The first priority was the staff, who came together immediately after the storm to help one another clear debris and salvage their homes.
“Many of our team members have worked together for over 10 years, and we’re family,” says Brad Junghans, who co-owns Captiva Cruises with his wife, Leslie, and partners Bob and Jenny Rando. “We’ve weathered many storms together, although none were quite like this one. All of us suffered some sort of loss or damage, and many welcomed each other into their homes when it wasn’t safe to stay in their own.”
After the storm, with the Sanibel Causeway compromised, Captiva Cruises put its vessels to work as a ferry service to support island recovery. Its boats transported food and supplies to the islands in addition to relief workers and employees who were critical in helping hotels and businesses recover.

Captiva Cruises co-owners Brad Junghans and Bob Rando

“We have worked on Sanibel and Captiva for the entirety of our adult lives,” says co-owner Bob Rando. “Our team was dedicated to helping our island community recover.”
The Junghans and Randos—who were employees of Captiva Cruises from the early ’90s until they took over ownership in 2018—recalled the lessons learned from company founder Paul McCarthy and kept all full-time staff employed and maintained their benefits while the business was closed.
“Paul guided us through Hurricane Charley in 2004 and continued to pay us as employees, even when we couldn’t operate,” Rando says. “We learned from the best and were proud to carry on his legacy during this challenging time to ensure our team could get back—and stay—on their feet.”
The company reopened in December 2022 with limited operations. Cruises departed out of McCarthy’s Marina on Captiva and from the Pink Elephant Dock in Boca Grande, accommodating passengers on the company’s popular 45-foot catamarans, Playtime and Santiva. It soon expanded its offerings and cruise schedules as island recovery continued.
Captiva Cruises has long been known for its sunset/wildlife and dolphin cruises that share a firsthand look at the beauty of Southwest Florida. All cruises are led by U.S. Coast Guard-licensed captains, providing educational insights on the region’s unique ecosystems and native wildlife. The excursions are designed to help passengers encounter true Florida.
One of its popular destinations is Cabbage Key, a small island nestled between Pine Island and Cayo Costa. A rare experience for those who don’t own a boat, Cabbage Key is a classic Old Florida hideaway believed to be the inspiration behind Jimmy Buffett’s song, “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”
The island has an inn and restaurant, built in the 1930s by the family of American novelist and playwright Mary Roberts Rinehart. The restaurant, which sits on top of a Calusa Indian shell mound, offers panoramic views of the island and Pine Island Sound, as well as delicious seafood, cheeseburgers, and desserts. A short nature trail and climbable water tower offer further opportunities to explore.
Captiva Cruises also offers private charters for those interested in having their own personal look at the company’s cruise destinations, as well as for sunset, wildlife, and sightseeing cruises. The charters are also available for special events, including weddings, rehearsal dinners, graduations, birthdays, corporate outings, and more.
For owners and staff of Captiva Cruises, it feels incredible to help others once again experience these scenic regions of Southwest Florida. “It has meant a lot to our team to share our love of Sanibel and Captiva islands with the community over the years,” Junghans says. “Southwest Florida is—and has always been—a beautiful place to be.”
For more information, visit or call 239-472-5300.

Emily Benson is a native Southwest Floridian and enjoys writing about the people and organizations who call this region home.