Rock the Boat

The USS Hornet offers a unique New Year's Eve experience from its home at Alameda's Naval Air Station.

While a majority of New Year’s Eve revelers will party it up at various clubs, bars, or homes, others will take to the waters on any of the handful of yacht cruises scheduled to dep art from East Bay ports. From the Empress Hornblower setting sail from the Berkeley Marina to the Delta Discovery cruiser pushing off from the port in Pittsburg, a handful of year-end options exist for celebratory seafarers. And while most such cruises share a similar classical (and somewhat calculable) schedule of events — champagne, dancing, shipside fireworks, and the like — there’s one on-board soiree that’s unlike all the others: It’s stationary.

The USS Hornet, the historic World War II-era aircraft-carrier-turned-museum stationed at Pier 3 at the former Naval Air Station in Alameda, hasn’t moved from its moorings since it was docked there in 1995 (it opened as a museum in 1998). But for more than a decade, the roughly Titanic-size ship — which, before being decommissioned in 1970, recovered the Apollo 11 and 12 space capsules, helped sink the Japanese battleship Yamato, and ultimately became one of the most decorated ships in the US Navy — has opened its decks each New Year’s Eve for a major fundraising gala replete with live music, dancing, and ample food and drink.

The event, dubbed Dance Like a Star for its emphasis on cutting a rug, is one of four large public fundraisers held annually onboard the Hornet to support the museum’s education programs and maintenance. Organizers say the yearly party typically draws between eight hundred and one thousand people (mostly adults, whom you’re likely to find decked out in 1940s attire and various black-tie ensembles) and has grossed tens of thousands of dollars through auctions and ticket sales.

Hornet CEO Randall Ramian said such fundraisers also raise public awareness about the museum, which, ideally, helps increase attendance throughout the rest of the year. Considering that the ship’s home at Alameda Point is relatively remote and not easily accessible by public transit, that boost would be a definite boon for the naval museum. Ramian explained that while, historically speaking, the museum’s location is fitting (it utilized the Naval Air Station during WWII), the pier is simply not the most economically viable site. “It’s really nobody’s fault. It just is what it is,” he said. “As far as everyday admission goes, when you’re in an area that’s not as accessible you’re not as inclined to pull over to the side of the road and stop by and see the ship. But when we do an event like this, people make a conscious decision to come out.”

Those who do decide to attend this year’s gala can expect three dance floors (and free dance lessons) throughout the ship’s hangar deck, live music by the sixteen-piece big band 3 O’Clock Jump, a silent auction featuring everything from airline tickets to sports memorabilia, a midnight countdown, views of fireworks, and more. 7:30 p.m.-1 a.m.; $45-$85 (no children under 12), $65 for optional dinner buffet. 510-521-8448 or


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