HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The majesty of a bygone age graced the shore of the Ohio River at Huntington’s Harris Riverfront Park on Sunday, as the Belle of Cincinnati arrived for three river cruises offering a relaxing cap to a weekend of nonstop action in the city from the Classic Regatta to the West Virginia Hot Dog Festival.
The sternwheeler boat, resplendent in white with red trim and black steam stacks, took passengers out for a noon brunch cruise, an afternoon sightseeing cruise and an evening dinner cruise.
Touted as the flagship vessel of BB Riverboats, which operates a fleet of similar vessels that offer cruises and dining, the Belle of Cincinnati has been a major draw in Huntington in recent years, and Sunday was no exception.
Crowds lined up to board the boat, and just as many came simply to get a glimpse or snag a few photos of the vessel.
“I’m absolutely looking forward to it,” said Nan Crenshaw Sadler of Denver, who was in town visiting family.
“I was born and raised here, and we enjoy this beautiful, wonderful river.”
Julia and Eric Colliflower of Barboursville said they were looking forward to traveling on the Belle of Cincinnati, as neither had been on a sternwheel boat since the West Virginia Belle was making runs out of Huntington.
“I had my prom on the West Virginia Belle,” Eric Colliflower said with a smile. “That was the last time I was on one.”
The West Virginia Belle offered dinner and event cruises in the late 1980s and early ’90s, before it was moved to Iowa to become a riverboat casino.
The Belle of Cincinnati departed Sunday night for Point Pleasant, West Virginia, where it is scheduled to hold a special dinner cruise Monday night. The sternwheel boat will be in Maysville, Kentucky, on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Follow reporter Ben Fields on Twitter @BenFieldsHD