The unseasonably mild winter has paved the way for what cruise operators are calling the earliest-ever launch of boat excursions at Niagara Falls.
Boats started making test runs Friday on the Canadian Side of the falls. Hornblower Niagara Cruises plans an April Fool's Day start to the official season. setting up for their April Fool’s Day opening. Last year's
harsh winter prevented the operator from starting cruises until April 30th. General Manager Mory DiMaurizio said the new start date is “historic.”
“April 1 is the earliest that any boat tour operation has begun in the gorge and obviously this season has really afforded us the ability to do that," he told WBFO. "So getting out there on April 1 is really a benefit to everyone. Canadian, U.S. the entire tourism industry that centers around this natural wonder of the Falls.”
Despite the later start last year, Hornblower Cruises served over 1.8 million passengers. DiMaurizio said certain factors could make for an even better year this season.
“Last year’s season was spectacular. This year we are expected to exceed those numbers based on the fact
that it is a perfect storm as I said earlier with tourism being the way it is, the exchange rate, travel costs, and because we are becoming a little bit more lean as an operator. We’re getting better at what we do and we are trying to constantly figure out ways of better serving our guests and elevating the brand standard.”
Pending approval, Hornblower Cruises plans to extend services until December 31st. What was once a six month boating season could now run as long as nine months for a cruise line, that is entering its third year of service in Niagara Falls. What does this mean for overall tourism?
“So long as the boats are running, tourism is running -- which is good for all of the major stakeholders in town.” DiMaurizio said. “It’s something that is a draw, we know people love it. It’s a way of getting up close and personal to the Falls. It’s a great experience.”
Hornblower’s U.S. counterpart, Maid of the Mist, plans to begin its cruise services on April 2nd, according to its website. WBFO reached out to Maid of the Mist, but a spokesman declined to contribute to this report.