Hornblower Cruises

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Hornblower Cruises & Events is a San Francisco-based charter yacht, dining cruise and ferry service company.

Hornblower Cruises & Events
Hornblower logo.gif
LocaleMost major US waterways including Lower Niagara River (Canada)
WaterwayNear Coastal and Lakes, Bays & Sounds,
Transit typeCharter Yachts, Dining Cruises, Ferry Service, Tourist Attractions, Commuter Ferry (beginning in 2017)
OwnerTerry MacRae
OperatorHornblower Yachts, Inc.
Began operation1980


The company began in 1974 in Berkeley, CA with two ships. In 1980 the original owner, Ward Proescher, sold the business to Terry MacRae and P. Michael Watson. Proescher later went on to start a competing charter yacht company in the Bay Area, Commodore Cruises.

By acquiring existing charter yacht companies, Hornblower was able to expand into San Diego in 1984, followed by Newport Beach in 1987. Shortly thereafter the company acquired the Marina del Rey-based Marina Cruise Lines.

By 1989 the company operated in Berkeley, San Francisco, San Diego, Newport Beach and Marina del Rey. The corporate headquarters were (and continue to be) located on the historic ferry Santa Rosa, which is moored at Pier 3 in San Francisco.

In 1992 Terry MacRae became the sole owner of Hornblower Yachts, Inc, which was rebranded as Hornblower Cruises & Events to more accurately reflect the products and services offered.

In 1996 Hornblower Marine Services (HMS) was created to fill a need as a consultant to the booming riverboat casino and ferry service operations industry. By 2003, HMS grew to 80 employees, with offices in San Francisco, New London, Boston and Jacksonville. Three year later, HMS had become the leading worldwide provider of high-speed ferry services.

Today, Hornblower operates out of eight different ports, including: San Francisco, Berkeley, Sacramento, Marina Del Rey, Long Beach, Newport Beach, San Diego, and Port of New York and New Jersey. The company's entire fleet now includes more than 30 ships.

Cruises and ferry services[edit]

Niagara Falls Cruises[edit]

In February 2012 it was announced that Hornblower Canada Company, a Canadian subsidiary of Hornblower, was awarded the 30-year contract to operate the Niagara Falls Gorge Boat Tour from the Canadian side of the river. Hornblower Canada Co. was selected following a competitive bid process. Maid of the Mist continues to operate cruises out of Niagara Falls, N.Y. Hornblower has two ships, Niagara Wonder and Niagara Thunder, which carries 700 passenger each. The boats are based on Elliot Bay Design Group design and built by Hike Metal Products of Wheatley, Ontario.

  • Niagara Wonder
    • Years of service: 2013-present
    • Type: double-stack catamaran tour boat
    • Engine: 2 x 450 BHP @1800RPM Scania DI13
  • Niagara Thunder
    • Years of service: 2013-present
    • Type: double-stack catamaran tour boat
    • Engine: 2 x 450 BHP @1800RPM Scania DI13

Lake Tahoe Cruises[edit]

Between 1997 and 2002 Hornblower operated in Lake Tahoe, beginning with the acquisition of Lake Tahoe Cruises Inc. and the vessels Tahoe Queen and Tahoe Princess. Business expanded to include ferry service across Lake Tahoe and land shuttle services between South Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley Ski Resort. Lake Link ferry service was launched across Lake Tahoe, and was the fastest passenger boat on the lake. In 2002 the Lake Tahoe port was sold to Aramark - the owner and operator of the MS Dixie - the primary long-standing competition for the Tahoe Queen.

Alcatraz Cruises[edit]

Alcatraz Island

In 2006 Hornblower won the National Park Service concession for ferry service to Alcatraz Island when the contract with the Blue and Gold fleet expired. Under the name Alcatraz Cruises, the company provides ticketing service and transportation to the one and a half million visitors to the island every year.

In 2008, Alcatraz Cruises introduced the Hornblower Hybrid to the fleet—the first hybrid ferry in the United States. The Hybrid runs off of solar power, wind power, and low-emission diesel fuel.

Statue Cruises[edit]

Statue Cruises - Lady Liberty

In 2007 the company was awarded a concession from the National Park Service to operate ferries to Liberty Island and Ellis Island, the only public access to the national historic sites in the Port of New York and New Jersey. Under the name Statue Cruises, the company provides ticketing service and transportation for visitors to the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island Immigration Museum.[1] Boats depart from either Communipaw Terminal, Liberty State Park in Jersey City or Castle Clinton, Battery Park in Lower Manhattan. The affiliated Liberty Water Taxi operates between Liberty State Park and the Battery Park City Ferry Terminal.

Hornblower New York Cruises[edit]

Separately from its Statue of Liberty service, Hornblower operates a fleet of six New York-based yachts operating from Pier 15 on the East River and Pier 40 on the Hudson River, offering scheduled sighteeing cruises and special-event charter excursions. Its vessels are the Hornblower Infinity, the Hornblower Serenity, the Hornblower Sensation, the Hornblower Hybrid, the Hornblower Esprit and the John James Audubon.[2]

NYC Ferry[edit]

In 2015, Hornblower Cruises was selected to operate New York City's NYC Ferry service, which started operations on May 1, 2017.[3][4] It is the company's first commuter ferry operation.[5] One route connects Lower Manhattan and Midtown Manhattan with nearby points across the East River in northern Brooklyn and in Queens, while a second route connects Lower Manhattan with Rockaway Park in Queens.[6] A third route, which began on June 1, 2017,[7] connects Lower Manhattan with riverfront communities in southern Brooklyn.[6] A fourth route, connecting Manhattan with Astoria, Queens,[6] began operating on August 19, 2017.[8][9]

Notable yachts[edit]

San Francisco Belle
  • The M/V Zumbrota, built for circus magnate Charles Ringling and named for the then-largest elephant in captivity, was acquired to serve guests in San Diego. It is now based in Marina del Rey.
  • The M/V Wild Goose (USS YMS-328) formerly John Wayne’s private yacht, joined the fleet in 1995. The vintage 1942 restored minesweeper continues to operate in Newport Beach.
  • The ferryboat Santa Rosa, which ferried passengers between San Francisco and the East Bay, now serves at the company’s corporate office.
  • The M/V San Francisco Belle, a paddlewheel style vessel, joined the fleet in 2001. The Belle, with a capacity of 2,200 is the largest dining yacht on the West Coast.
  • The Hornblower Hybrid, the first hybrid ferry in the United States, was completed in 2008 and serves visitors to Alcatraz Island and Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.


  1. ^ Circle Line Downtown
  2. ^ https://hornblowernewyork.com/fleet/
  3. ^ "NYC launches ferry service with Queens, East River routes". NY Daily News. Associated Press. May 1, 2017. Archived from the original on May 1, 2017. Retrieved May 1, 2017.
  4. ^ Levine, Alexandra S.; Wolfe, Jonathan (May 1, 2017). "New York Today: Our City's New Ferry". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 1, 2017.
  5. ^ "New York City's Ferry Service Set to Launch in 2017". NBC New York. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  6. ^ a b c "Route Map" (PDF). NYC Ferry. 2017. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
  7. ^ Barone, Vin (June 1, 2017). "NYC Ferry launches South Brooklyn route". am New York. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  8. ^ Barone, Vin (August 28, 2017). "Astoria's NYC Ferry route launches Tuesday". am New York. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  9. ^ Evelly, Jeanmarie (August 29, 2017). "SEE IT: NYC Ferry Service Launches New Astoria Route". DNAinfo New York. Archived from the original on 2017-08-30. Retrieved 2017-08-29.


External links[edit]