Last summer - when the Twin Cities celebrated an historic riverboat journey up the Mississippi - one well-known amenity was missing: the Boom Island paddlewheeler.
A year later, excursion tours have returned to the river as the 80-foot-long Minneapolis Queen makes her maiden voyage Saturday, May 28.
The $1.3 million boat is "paddle assisted," which means a rear paddle provides power, along with an inboard drive and propellers, according to Dave Lawrance, president of Paradise Charter Cruises, the boat operator.
The Minneapolis Queen has room for 145 passengers and seats 112 for dinner. It features a cherry wood interior, white linen and glass plates for private events, full bar service, and indoor and outdoor seating on two decks.
The boat embarks on daily, narrated sightseeing tours ($12.95 per person), weekday evening "cocktail cruises" ($17.95) and a Sunday brunch ($29.90). People over 60 get a 10 percent discount, kids 2-11 can ride for half-price and infants ride free.
Reduced-price educational cruises will continue, as in previous years, and private charters are available.
The boat replaces the Anson and Betsy Northrup excursion boats, which Paddleford Packet Boat company operated for 15 years until 2004 under a no-bid, when the Park Board sought competitive bids. Acrimony between the Park Board and Paddleford left the river boatless.
Don Sigglekow, Park Board general manager, said the new boat - and the new contract - is more attractive. Paradise Charter Cruises will pay the Park Board $35,000 or 5 percent of its combined revenue from the Minneapolis Queen and the Paradise Lady, a modern cruise boat operated out of Bohemian Flats below the University of Minnesota's West Bank campus.
The most the Paddleford contract garnered annually was $36,000; the Paradise Lady alone made $35,000 last year.
"They'll be well above the minimum this year," Sigglekow said.
For more information, call 378-2628 or visit www.minneapolisqueen.com.