In the summer of 2014, Hornblower Tours began daily operation in Niagara Falls to become the exclusive boats to traverse the waters of the Niagara River on the Canadian side. Over $25 million was invested to build two new 700-passenger state-of-the-art boats that began daily operation in May.
Hornblower, which has been in business since 1980, is responsible for boat tours of San Diego, San Francisco and New York City. The contract in Niagara Falls allows them to be the only boats you can take from Niagara into the Falls via Canada.
The Niagara Thunder and Niagara Wonder depart every 15 minutes from their spiffy new dock. I recently got a chance to experience the Hornblower Cruise for myself on a recent trip to Niagara Falls.
Coming from an operations background in theme parks, I can tell you I was incredibly impressed with how smooth the process is to board the boats. Once you acquire your ticket near Table Rock, you proceed down a small set or ramps where your ticket is scanned by a crew member.
From there, four elevators are timed to bring 15 guests at a time from the upper level to the dock level. These babies depart about every 20 seconds and are extremely fast and efficient.
Aside from that elevator ride, my feet never stopped moving as I proceeded through their gift shop where you can buy a sturdier poncho, if you’ve got the dough. Personally, I stuck with the free one that was handed to me as I proceeded down the final ramp and on to the boat.
From the time I had a ticket in hand till the time I was actually on the boat, it was less than 10 minutes.
The boats are extremely impressive with 360 degree viewing from the top deck, where you’re guaranteed to get fairly damp, despite having a plastic poncho provided to you. If you choose the bottom deck, you can stand behind glass walls so you don’t get wet or even sit down on a bench and watch the Falls from there.
I waited about seven minutes for them to load up more passengers as the sister ship pulled back into dock. The next thing I knew, we were off and headed towards Horseshoe Falls.
Before that, the boat passes by the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. The views are seriously stunning and considering the boat is going through some seriously choppy water, the ride is incredibly smooth thanks in part to a 350 horsepower motor.
Once I was in the heart of Horseshoe Falls, it’s everything I hoped it would be: Wet, incredibly loud, powerful and jaw dropingly gorgeous. You have to see this for yourself. No pictures or video could possibly describe what it’s like to be that close to the most powerful waterfalls in the world.