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NORTH TONAWANDA – Tourists will have a new way to travel between Niagara Falls, North Tonawanda and Grand Island as Niagara River Cruises embarks on its maiden voyage Saturday.

The 42-foot Queen of Peace tour boat has bench seating and will transport up to 45 passengers four times a week – on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays – for tours along the Erie Canal and upper Niagara River.

A number of tours are coordinated with upcoming events in North Tonawanda and a docking site on Sweeney Street at North Tonawanda Gateway Harbor, across from the Remington Tavern. The site is one of three pickup locations for the new business that was initiated by fellow Grand Island residents and boating enthusiasts Robin Hoch and Tom Hauser.

“We are excited to welcome Niagara River Cruises to North Tonawanda,” said Mayor Robert G. Ortt. “This is a great opportunity for people to come to North Tonawanda and enjoy the sights and sounds of our great community by visiting our downtown business corridor and surrounding area during the summer season.”

Hoch said on his business’s website that he and Hauser have been avid boaters for a number of years and developed their friendship as members of the Sandy Beach Yacht Club on Grand Island. He said they have taken people on their own boats a number of times and always heard the same response: “We never knew all of this existed.”

Hoch said, “Tom and I noticed an opportunity to have tours along the Erie Canal and Niagara River, and wanted to have people enjoy the view from the water’s perspective.”

North Tonawanda-area cruises include: Canal Music Cruises spotlighting concerts at Gratwick Park and Gateway Harbor, cruises to the city for Canal Fest, Taste of the Tonawandas, and Hooked on the Tonawandas Fishing Tournament, as well as a Fourth of July Fireworks Cruise, a History Cruise and a Labor Day Cruise.

“People spend a day at the Falls. They spend a day at the casino, and then they’re, like, ‘OK, what do we do next?’ ” Hoch said as he presented his plan to the North Tonawanda Common Council in April.

Council President Richard L. Andres Jr. praised the plan, saying that the city has been good at getting Western New Yorkers to come to North Tonawanda and that the new boat ride will also bring in tourists from Niagara Falls.

The boat rides will begin at Four Points Sheraton, 7001 Buffalo Ave., Niagara Falls, with a one-hour ride to North Tonawanda, before heading to the Byblos Niagara Resort and Spa, formerly the Holiday Inn, 100 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island. The boat will travel in a 2½-hour loop four times throughout the day, from noon to 10 p.m, May through September. Special daylong, four-hour pricing is available.

Private charters can be reserved for birthdays, weddings, showers, corporate events, groups and reunions. Tour schedules, pricing and reservations are available on Niagara River Cruises’ website at www.niagararivercruises.org.

email: nfischer@buffnews.com