- by Lisa Monti
Reservations for sightseeing cruises aboard the Betsy Ann Riverboat have been coming in steadily since the owners announced they were moving the attraction to Bay St. Louis after operating for five years in Biloxi.
The boat is scheduled to arrive in the Bay St. Louis Municipal Harbor this week to begin its sightseeing and charter cruises. “I really think we’ll do fantastic in the Bay. The trips already are selling out,” said owner Michael White.
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The 85-foot stern-wheel paddle boat is a replica of the original Betsy Ann built in 1899 and is painted red and white as a tribute to its namesake. According to White, it was one of the first steel-hulled paddlewheelers on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.
White worked as a Mississippi River boat captain before buying the Betsy Ann. He previously owned the amphibious Lucky Duck that transported passengers on land and water tours of the Biloxi coastline. That brief venture ended with Hurricane Katrina.
Bringing the Betsy Ann to the Bay is “a homecoming of sorts,” said White, who is a St. Stanislaus alum. He and his wife, Dayna, are Coast natives and live in Diamondhead. His great- grandfather John Bell built the Bay-Waveland Yacht Club, and his portrait is prominently displayed in the club.
When White brought the boat to the coast from Florida, he docked it in the Bay St. Louis harbor and at the Bay-Waveland Yacht Club to show off his new venture to family, friends and locals.
“I originally wanted to be in the Bay,” White said, but commercial boats weren’t allowed in the harbor at the time.
“My vision when I first got the boat was sailing north into the Bay with people dancing onboard to live music. Five years later, it’s about to come to fruition.”
The Betsy Ann offers seating on the upper deck and inside the air conditioned cabin. Though there’s room for more passengers, only around 80 tickets are sold for each cruise.
The boat will leave out of the harbor and head north under the Bay Bridge toward the Jourdan River. The turnaround point is near Hollywood Casino. The route is all protected waters, White said.
He serves as captain and tour guide on the excursions which are offered five days a week, year-round, weather permitting.
The Hibachi Cruise is offered Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights. A local chef who specializes in hibachi dishes prepares a meal of shrimp, chicken, veggies, egg drop soup and fried rice. Steak is added to the menu on weekend cruises. Tickets are $55 for adults, $52 for seniors and military, $40 for children 4 to 12 and $10 for kids under 4.
The Sunset Cruise will be Thursday and Sunday with a full bar and snacks available for purchase. Entertainment is provided by a local musician who performs hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Tickets are $30 for adults, $27 for seniors and military, $17 for ages 4 to 12 and $10 for 4 and under.
The daytime cruise highlighting the coast’s history and ecology is still in the works as the Whites research and cull interesting details about the area from history books and the Hancock County Historical Society. Tickets will start at $25 for adults.
The Betsy Ann is also available for private events. It is handicapped accessible.
“We are really looking forward to being in the Bay,” White said. “ It’s something exciting and new for residents and visitors to the Bay.”
For more information about cruises or to make reservations on the Betsy Ann, call (228) 229-4270 or visit the Betsy Ann Riverboat Facebook page.
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