A cruise boat that has been a downtown Wilmington attraction for 15 years is embarking on a new course.
Pleasure Boat Cruises Corp. of Fort Meyers, Florida, bought The Henrietta III on Wednesday from Cape Fear Riverboats for an undisclosed amount, according to a news release.
Capt. Carl Marshburn, president and owner of Cape Fear Riverboats, said he plans to replace the 156-foot, 600-passenger Henrietta III with a smaller riverboat suited for private charters, sightseeing and nature cruises.
“This wasn’t a distress sale. We were doing very well. We had our own galley; we did our own food. We had three functions at the same time on that boat – all that’s a tremendous amount of work, takes a tremendous amount of support,” Marshburn said Wednesday. “And even though we were enjoying it, we wanted to step back to a simpler style of life.”
In addition to looking for a smaller boat to replace the Henrietta III, Marshburn said his company will continue to operate the smaller boats in its fleet, the Captain J.N. Maffitt and John Knox, from its Water Street dock.
The Henrietta III’s last Wilmington cruise was on New Year’s Eve, and the ship will be departing its downtown dock before March 1, the release said. In 2000, The Henrietta III replaced The Henrietta II, which Marshburn brought to the Port City's downtown riverfront 28 years ago.
Since then, Marshburn has been lauded by the N.C. Travel Industry Association and other groups for promoting and supporting the growth of tourism in downtown Wilmington.
“When we came here in 1988, there was very little tourism downtown. There were very few of us here that were actually in the tourism business in ’88,” Marshburn said. “But Wilmington has aged well in the tourist business. We think we helped it happen.”
Connie Nelson, spokeswoman for the Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau, said Cape Fear Riverboats, as well as Interstate 40 opening, film industry activity, downtown preservation efforts and other attractions, “really set the stage for tourism growth” in the downtown area.
“We’re still here. We’re still running our small boats. We hope some time in the near future to be able to make an announcement that we’re bringing another boat back in here,” Marshburn said.