Tranquil blue water laps the bow of a Gananoque Boat Line touring vessel, as visitors are surrounded by the stunning beauty of the 1,000 islands. On board, the excitement is mounting as visitors learn about opulent cottages and elaborate castles, while they listen to intriguing stories of pirates on the St. Lawrence River.
The Gananoque Boat Line has been operating for more than 60 years as a premiere way to get among the legendary 1,000 Islands and learn about their history.
When it started, the line provided ferry and mail service along the St. Lawrence. Today, it has grown to include five vessels, which on average, carry 300,000 people annually.
In fact, the business is set to hit its 11 millionth customer next year – and is already planning on celebrating in style.
Kathy MacRae, director of marketing and sales at Gananoque Boat Line, said the tours continue to be popular because they provide a natural way to relax, while delivering a distinctive experience with family or friends.
“The 1,000 Islands is such a unique area; it’s like finding a piece of the Caribbean in Ontario,” she said. “As the world gets more fast-paced, it’s still possible to clear your mind and slow down on our calm water, while appreciating the rich cultural and historical aspects of this region.”
The Gananoque Boat Line offers daily cruises ranging from one-hour to five-hour excursions. The one-hour cruises depart from both Gananoque and Ivy Lea, and feature an intimate look at the 1,000 Islands region. Five-hour jaunts include an island tour as well as a stopover at the famously renovated and romantically tragic Boldt Castle.
Rumrunners, pirates and explorers beware. The latest cruise offering showcases the boat line’s Canadian Signature Tourism Experience, the Lost Ships of the 1,000 Islands.
This two-and-a-half-hour cruise was chosen as one of only 40 experiences from across Canada for the distinguished honour of being a national signature experience and being promoted internationally.
The Lost Ships cruise gives ship wrecks in the St. Lawrence River a voice, by displaying diver video footage coupled with compelling commentary, when the vessel glides over wrecks lying silently on the river bed.
“We’ve all seen what’s above the water, but not what’s below the water,” said MacRae, noting that the Lost Ships cruise adds a new dimension to seeing the islands – even for people who have already ventured on a cruise in the past.
In addition to its day offerings, the boat line also affords participants a one-of-a-kind dinner and music experience, as high-quality entertainment complements sumptuous food aboard its evening cruises. This year, Gananoque Boat Line is planning a pirate cruise, murder mystery cruise, wine and cocktail cruise, and more. These special events throughout the summer take the island experience to a new level.
“A lot of people really enjoy our dinner cruises - it’s a different atmosphere on a boat, with an ever-changing, breathtaking background,” said MacRae. “We only book high-end entertainment. To be on the water as opposed to sitting in a venue is such a great experience.”
She said there are several other factors which also set the Gananoque Boat Line apart.
“We have the most comprehensive cruise of the islands,” she said, noting that due to location, the boat line affords visitors a peek at 80 per cent of the islands. In addition, she said the boat line staff is well trained in multicultural service excellence, even winning awards for customer service.
“We really focus on our customers,” MacRae said, pointing to a recent change in the boat line’s Ivy Lea location, at which visitors can use headsets this year to hear the commentary language they want, whether that be Mandarin, French or other options. “We’re constantly investigating ways to upgrade the experience for our customers.”
New for the 2016 season is a family pass that includes savings for two adults and two children.
A new Beatles tribute will also take to the waters as entertainment on a music cruise.
In addition, July 4 is set to brighten up American Independence Day, as the Gananoque Boat Line is taking in the Boldt Castle fireworks for the first time, allowing visitors to view the colourful splendor from the water.
“Boldt Castle is simply magical,” said MacRae. “It’s so beautiful and its continued restoration is outstanding. You really have to see it to believe it.”
For more information on Gananoque Boat Line events and cruises, please visit www.ganboatline.com or call 1-888-717-4837.
For accommodations suggestions and other things to see and do during your island experience, please visit the 1000 Islands Accommodation Partners at www.1000islandstourism.ca.