Don’t feel like getting drenched on the Maid of the Mist?
Not a big fan of the idea of speeding through the rapids in a roaring jet boat?
Then perhaps the thought of a leisurely cruise on the Lower Niagara River while sipping a glass of wine or enjoying a locally sourced meal will float your boat.
There’s a new attraction coming to the Lower Niagara River and Lake Ontario in less than two weeks.
Niagara Sunset Cruises, launching from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., will offer lunch, brunch, dinner and scenic cruises to the public starting Aug. 3. The cruises will take place aboard the Niagara Belle, a three-deck paddle wheel boat that can fit 149 passengers.
The venture comes from John Kinney, the same entrepreneur who runs the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours from Niagara-on-the-Lake and Lewiston. The company hopes to, at some point, operate paddle boat cruises from the American side of the river, too.
The company hopes to offer an experience that’s different from the other water-related attractions in the area.
“It’s one of those things that everybody said was missing from Niagara,” cruise manager Andrea Miele said. “It’s a calmer way to still be able to see, to take in the beauty of the Niagara River.”
The investment in this new business shows the region as a tourist destination is healthy and moving in the right direction, said John H. Percy Jr., president and chief executive officer of the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp., Niagara County’s destination marketing organization.
From the falls to the lake to the Niagara River to the Erie Canal, water features help set the Niagara region apart as the NTCC works to lure visitors from across the globe, Percy said.
“Taking advantage of the water resources that surround us, I think, is the ideal positioning for our destination,” he said.
Cruises will depart from Navy Hall, 305 Ricardo St., just below Fort George. Public cruises will run Friday through Monday, and the boat may be reserved for private events.
The company wanted to open earlier this summer, but has run into issues with its liquor license due to some community opposition. Previously announced launch dates on the company’s website have included July 1 and July 18.
“We are still currently involved in the legal process required to handle those objections appropriately and obtain our license,” Miele said.
Kinney purchased the boat from a Toronto-area cruise company in February, and the boat has been redesigned and refurbished, including new engines, she said. Though its paddle wheel is functional, the boat’s propulsion comes from its engines.
The nighttime cruises are three hours long, while the daytime cruises run two hours.
Upon departure, cruises will head out about a mile onto Lake Ontario, then maneuver back down the Lower Niagara River to about Queenston before heading back to dock.
Ticket prices for the lunch, brunch and dinner cruises range from $53.95 to $72.95 plus tax for adults, and $38.95 to $49.95 plus tax for children ages 4 to 12. Tickets for the sunset cruises are $38.
The menu will feature local food and wine, with ingredients coming from local farmers, Miele said.
Reservations for brunch, lunch and dinner cruises close 48 hours before departure. Food may be purchased on the scenic cruises, as well, though it’s not built into the ticket price. The company offers discounts for groups of 10 or more on the scenic tours only.
While reservations are recommended for the scenic cruises, they are not required.
Reservations may be made online at www.niagarasunsetcruises.com or by calling 1 (888) 438-4444.