Tag archives: Condor Express

Learning Through Lyrics
By James Buckley   |   September 12, 2023

I recently enjoyed a Sunday evening Broadway Cruise onboard Hiroko Benko’s Condor Express whale-watching vessel here in Santa Barbara. The event featured two young singers – soprano Anikka Abbott and baritone Nicholas Ehlen – who sang classic numbers (accompanied by pianist Renée Hamaty) from a variety of Broadway musicals. The songs featured were such hits […]

Drinks on the High Cs
By Richard Mineards   |   September 5, 2023

The Santa Barbara Channel, better known for its population of Great White sharks, made way for the Great White Way when Hiroko Benko, bubbly owner of the popular whale watching vessel, Condor Express, hosted her 8th annual Broadway Cruise, a two-hour delight featuring music from New York and London’s finest musicals. KEYT-TV chief meteorologist and […]

Opera on the Ocean
By Richard Mineards   |   October 4, 2022

It was a case of high Cs on the high seas when Hiroko Benko, owner of the popular whale-watching vessel Condor Express, hosted a two-hour opera cruise for 70 music lovers, the first in three years. Featuring new Chrisman Studio tenor artist Kyle Rudolph from San Diego, and soprano Chelsea Chaves from Orange County accompanied […]

Broadway on the Condor
By James Buckley   |   August 30, 2022

It wasn’t all Montecito all the time, but there were plenty of Montecito folks who joined a grab bag of Santa Barbarans, Carpinterians, Goletans, Noletans, Mesa denizens, and adventurous tourists, on owner Hiroko Benko’s seventh annual “Broadway Cruise” that took us from Santa Barbara Landing on West Beach – home port of Condor Express – […]

Sunset Soirée
By Richard Mineards   |   November 30, 2021

Condor Express owner Hiroko Benko made sure everyone had a whale of a time when she hosted a sunset cruise for her good friend Dolores Johnson, organizer of the Montecito Motor Classic at the Santa Barbara Polo Club, which attracted more than 200 exotic and luxury cars.  “It was a truly wonderful event,” gushed Hiroko, […]

Whale of a Time
By Richard Mineards   |   September 7, 2021

It was a case of High Cs on the high seas when bubbly Condor Express owner Hiroko Benko hosted her fifth annual opera cruise on the popular 75-foot whale watching vessel. Given the pandemic uptick, guest numbers were kept to around 50 instead of the normal 145 for the two-hour maritime recital by soprano Chelsea […]

Whale of a Show
By Nick Masuda   |   July 22, 2021

“I’ve never seen it like this. Business has never been better.” That’s quite the statement from Hiroko Benko, the CEO of the Condor Express, the booming whale-watching outfit that takes daily trips into the Santa Barbara Channel to give locals and tourists a glimpse at nearly every species of whale, as well as dolphins, seals, […]

Return of the Condor
By Richard Mineards   |   January 21, 2021

To the Ventura Harbor Boat Yard with my trusty shutterbug Priscilla, where the beloved Santa Barbara whale watching vessel, Condor Express, owned by Hiroko Benko, has been undergoing a major transformation. The 100-ton, 74-foot catamaran, which was rebuilt in 2011, still had the original engines from its 2002 launch, and had to meet new environmental […]

Half-Century on the Sea
By Erin Graffy   |   July 30, 2020

Condor Express Celebrates its Roots Early on, local legend Fred “Captain Fred” Benko, developed a keen interest in what was in the Santa Barbara Channel: the fish, the birds, the oceanic wildlife. A half century ago, that interest led Fred to buy sports fishing operation located in the harbor across from the Navy Pier beneath […]

Kardboard Kayak Races
By Lynda Millner   |   July 25, 2019

If you want to have some fun and laughs, go to West Beach when the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (SBMM) hold its annual Kardboard Kayak Races. This 17th year 32 teams entered the competition (three divisions of family fun and one division of the paddling pros (adult). Each team could have up to four people […]

Regards to Broadway
By James Buckley   |   July 11, 2019

Here’s one you don’t want to miss if you can help it: The Broadway Musical Cruise aboard the Condor Express. Owner Hiroko Benko invites one and all to come aboard and enjoy the best of Broadway on a smooth Saturday evening cruise with live and on-deck performers Deborah Bertling and Carol Ann Manzi, accompanied by […]

All for One in Land of the Rising Sun
By Richard Mineards   |   November 22, 2018

Condor Express owner Hiroko Benko has been having a whale of a time visiting her native Japan with friends, including Montecito’s Anne Towbes and her sister, Suzy Farbman. The eclectic itinerary included the Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto, which had particular meaning for Hiroko, given a relative, Kobori Enshu, designed the garden in the Edo […]

Whale of a Time
By Richard Mineards   |   August 23, 2018

It was certainly cheaper than flying to Honolulu, when Hiroko Benko, the ubiquitous owner of the popular whale-watching vessel, the Condor Express, hosted a sold-out, two-hour Hawaiian themed cruise for 127 guests for the fifth year. For a mere $40, the guests – many in colorful Polynesian shirts and leis – enjoyed the hula dancing […]

Oh, Mamma Mia!
By Steven Libowitz   |   July 26, 2018

Director Brad Carroll said it was just a coincidence that the sequel to the movie version of Broadway smash-hit musical Mamma Mia opened just days before PCPA Theaterfest’s production opens at the Solvang Festival Theater this Friday night, July 27. But there’s no accident that the long-standing conservatory booked the show as the centerpiece of […]

Making Waves
By Richard Mineards   |   July 2, 2018

It was a case of High Cs on the high seas when bubbly Condor Express owner Hiroko Benko hosted her fourth annual two-hour opera cruise on the popular whale-watching vessel. The sell-out floating fest had 127 guests, with Hiroko putting it down to the growing popularity of opera and the need to get out on […]

Channeling In
By James Buckley   |   February 8, 2018

In its heyday, Santa Barbara’s Channel City Club hosted some of the biggest names in the country. Senator Fred Thompson, for example, then considering a run for president of the United States, addressed a crowd of some 400 or so at the old Miramar. The event was memorable in that “Mr. Santa Barbara,” the late […]