A new player has joined the fast growing luxury overnight river cruise market with plans to sail on inland waterways both large and small.
Grand Majestic Riverboat Co. is overhauling the 201'x50'x7' former Iowa casino boat Diamond Lady, built in 1991, to take 70 passengers on 7- to 21-night cruises expected to start this September.
The multi-million dollar project includes a complete repowering of the vessel that now has three Caterpillar 3412 engines — one of which drives the paddlewheel, and an interior gutting and refurbishing with cabins, dining area and lounge, according to Capt. Joseph Baer, who with his wife Victoria founded the Cincinnati area company. Work will be done in the New Orleans area, and the boat will be homeported in Covington, Ky.
“This will be the first overnight riverboat cruise company based in the Cincinnati area since the Delta Queen Steamboat Company, formerly Greene Line Steamers, moved from the Cincinnati Riverfront in the early 1980s,” he said.
The newly named Grand Majestic will sail not only the Mississippi and Ohio rivers but also the Cumberland, Tennessee, Arkansas, Illinois and Missouri rivers as well as the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.
Inland river and coastal cruising has become increasingly popular the past few years, and Baer thinks it has room to expand. “There’s still a pretty high demand in the market and not enough inventory around,” he said, and there’s a lot of interest in some of the smaller rivers. “We believe we can successfully start running from St. Louis to Omaha, Neb., opening up the Missouri.”
A shorter air draft — 45' with the stacks down and 65' with them up — and a lighter draft “gives us a distinct advantage” over competitors, Baer said. Reservations have just opened, and “we expect 2017 to be pretty successful.”
Baer also owns the 85'×23'×5', 149-passenger paddlewheeler Magnolia Belle, which is now laid up but which he plans to bring to Cincinnati for day and dinner cruises.