Niagara Falls, Ontario (WKBW) Hornblower Niagara Cruises will begin operation of boat tours on the Canadian-side of the border in April, but crews have already been hard at work preparing support buildings, launch equipment, and the first specially designed 700-passenger catamaran boat.
For decades, the Maid of the Mist Corporation from Niagara County USA handled boat tours to the base of Niagara and Horseshoe Falls on both sides of the border.
Beginning this year, Maid of the Mist will only operate two boats on the American side, while Hornblower Niagara Cruises will operate three vessels on the Canadian side.
When the Niagara Parks Commission in Ontario announced that it was signing a new 30-year contract with California-based Hornblower, it created controversy as the Maid of the Mist stored its boats in Canada for the winter months.
The Maid of the Mist has since built a new multi-million dollar storage facility on the U.S. side.
During a morning press briefing and tour, officials from Hornblower showed off one the new catamarans that is shipped to Niagara Falls, Ontario in pieces then assembled at the bottom of the gorge.
Frigid, wintry weather delayed the arrival of the hull for a second catamaran that was constructed by Hike Metal in Wheatley, Ontario.
Officials hope the hull can be delivered within a week to ten days.
Regardless of the weather, Hornblower officials are confident that the fleet will be ready to sail by April.
Hornblower in investing more than 16 million dollars to upgrade passenger facilities and the boats in Canada.
The new boats will include washrooms, snack concessions, dry-viewing areas, and will operate in early morning and evening hours to allow passengers to view the lights on the falls and fireworks displays.
The company is also using a smaller boat for private charters.
In 2015, Hornblower plans to open a new special events building that will be located along the water's edge and will cater to weddings, meetings, and conferences.
A new website will become operational in early February that will allow people to purchase tickets in advance for specific dates and times.
More information is available at www.niagaracruises.com