An Ohio River cruise allows travelers to take a step back in time while touring one of America’s most picturesque waterways.
Cruising the Ohio River
The Ohio River is nearly 1000 miles long and is known for its awe-inspiring scenery, quaint towns and numerous islands, which boast peaceful rural vistas. The extraordinary waterway is also historically significant in that it once carried explorers seeking fame and fortune on the world’s first steamboats. In the 1800s these brave pioneers navigated the river’s uncharted waters on their journey to New Orleans. Today, the Ohio River is still home to magnificently crafted steamboats. However, instead of carrying the nations first voyagers, the riverboats are now filled with cruisers, who want to enjoy an intimate look at one of Ohio’s lifelines.
The most popular gateway to the Ohio River is the bustling city of Cincinnati. Behind the Newport Aquarium sits several well-respected Ohio River tour companies. The waterfront businesses offer a variety of cruise options including:
- Brunch cruises
- Lunch cruises
- Dinner cruises
- Happy hour cruises
- Dance cruises
- Sunset cruises
- Harbor tours
- Fall foliage tours
- Holiday cruises (e.g. Mother’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve)
- Festival cruises
- Bluegrass and other live entertainment specialty cruises
- Narrated history tours
Each cruise takes place on historic steamboats that have been refurbished to their original glory. One of the largest is the quadruple decked sternwheeler, which takes up to 1,000 guests on sightseeing tours on the magnificent Ohio River. Other popular vessels include The Belle of Cincinnati, which has three levels that feature restrooms, decks, dance floors and a dining area. In addition, The River Queen boasts two levels and has one main level dance floor, restrooms, a buffet and observation decks.
Popular Ohio River Cruises
Ohio River cruise companies offer visitors a chance to see the historic waterway and its noteworthy attractions while enjoying gourmet food and live music. Among the most popular Ohio River cruise options are:
BB Riverboats, located in Newport, Kentucky (home of Riverboat Row), gets its name from the initials of the people who were instrumental in getting the business started, Ben Bernstein and Betty Blake. The owners coined the motto, “The Romance of Riverboat Dining” and used a converted steamboat for their first dinner cruise in 1980. Today, the cruise company uses the Ohio River as the base for its popular sailings.
BB Riverboats offers cruisers an assortment of traditional and specialty trips, including:
- Romantic dinner and dance cruises
- Special holiday bunch cruises on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Easter
- River excursions for school groups
- Narrated history cruises
- River Hop festival cruises
- Thanksgiving feast cruises
- BBQ cruise
The Steamer Belle of Louisville
The Steamer Belle of Louisville is a huge draw for cruisers. The awesome vessel is the only remaining operating steamboat in the United States. She was built as a day packet boat back in the early 1800s when the first steamboats came down the Ohio River. Today, the Belle is designated as a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Fortunately, for cruisers the Belle continues to operate on the Ohio River. With her endearing calliope she beckons one and all to join her on a journey back to the time. The Belle of Louisville and her companion vessel The Spirit of Jefferson are used as charter venues for:
- Corporate events
- Family, class and military reunions
- Holiday parties
- Special events, such as Kentucky Derby parties, Thunder Over Louisville and The Great Steamboat Race
Celebrations Riverboats caters corporate and personal functions. The company owns and operates a 400-passenger excursion ship along with a fleet of smaller sightseeing vessels. Daily cruises are available as are specialty cruises for parties of 30 or more.
Celebrations Riverboats is located in Ludlow, Kentucky, which is a quick seven-minute drive from downtown Louisville. The cruise line offers multiple tours, most of which include a gourmet meal and live entertainment.
Queen City Riverboats
Queen City Riverboats provides visitors with relaxing tours of the mighty Ohio River. The company specializes in narrated tours that explain how the Ohio River has developed into a major link between the bustling cities of the East Coast and the Mississippi River. The waterway, which was instrumental in shaping the cities of Cincinnati and Louisville, serves as the backdrop to the company’s breakfast, lunch and formal dinner cruises as well.