Charleston West Virginia Economic Development

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

The below article appeared in today's Charleston Daily Mail.

Belle Makes Return to Charleston

By Mary Childress
Daily Mail Staff

The Belle of Cincinnati makes a five-day return visit to Charleston next week.

The paddle wheeler will be docked at Haddad Riverfront Park starting Tuesday.

Piloted by captain and owner Alan Bernstein, she'll be ready to load visitors and ply the waters of the Kanawha River.

"There will be opportunities for groups and individuals to take in the boat for lunch or dinner or just to sightsee," said Bob Anderson, executive director of the South Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Bernstein brought another one of his boats, the River Queen, for a visit to Charleston during the recent FestivALL celebration.

The Belle's visit is sponsored by the convention and visitors bureaus in both South Charleston and Charleston. The Belle also visited Charleston last July.

Patty Pitrolo, president and CEO of the Charleston bureau, said, "We're very excited about the Belle's visit. People here have told me they have missed seeing the sternwheelers in Charleston."
Anderson, meanwhile, hopes Bernstein will permanently post a boat in the Kanawha Valley.

"People want a riverboat," he said. "Having a permanent boat here has been a dream of mine ever since the West Virginia Belle left."

The 1,600-ton Belle of Cincinnati has three climate-controlled decks as well as an open-air top deck. Each of the enclosed decks offers a bar, dance floor and elevator. The boat is also handicapped accessible.

The boat is noted for the Victorian decor and intricate details found on boats in the heyday of river travel.

Businesses and civic organizations can reserve sections of the boat or the entire boat to host parties, meetings or fundraisers. It also can be booked for special occasions such as weddings or receptions.

This year, visitors have the option of paying for their lunch, dinner or sightseeing cruises at the boat before they board.

The Charleston Area Alliance will co-sponsor Business After Hours on the Belle July 16. The boat also will be open to the public that day.

"The event will be held on the Belle from 5 to 6:45 p.m." said Anderson. "The cost will be $10 for members and $15 for non-members. We have also arranged for the Esquires to play that evening, and they've promised to play 'Rolling on the River' while we're cruising down the Kanawha."

Alliance members and guests have the option of staying on the boat for the dinner cruise for $25, Anderson said. Members of the Alliance should call Leslie at 304-340-4253 to make reservations for the Business After Hours event. If they wish to stay for the dinner, they should call Mary Ann at 800-261-8586.

Anderson has arranged for musical entertainment for the lunch and dinner cruises while the Belle is in Charleston.

"I've got Tommy Griffith Plus 2, George 'The Earl of Elkview' Daugherty and two Elvis impersonators that will be on the boat for the lunch crowds," he said.

"In addition to the Esquires on July 16, I've booked the Steve Pennington Band and the Lost Cause Band on July 17 plus Hillbilly Entertainment July 14-17 in the evening. And I'm still booking other bands."

Lunch and dinner and sightseeing tours take about two and a half hours and run from Haddad Riverfront Park to Kanawha City and then back down the river to South Charleston before returning to Charleston.

Boarding for the lunch cruises on the Belle will be from 11 a.m. to noon with the trip scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. Meals served on the boat are buffet style.

Prices for the lunch cruise are $32.95 for adults; $31.95 for seniors; and $17.95 for children age 4-12.

Dinner cruises board from 6 to 7 p.m. and sail from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Prices are $40.95 for adults; $39.95 for seniors; and $25 for children age 4-12.

Sightseeing trips July 14-18 board at 3 p.m. and cruise the Kanawha River from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Cost is $13.95 for adults; $12.95 for seniors; and $7.95 for children.

The final cruise of the Belle will take visitors from Charleston to Point Pleasant on July 19. At Point Pleasant cruisers will board a bus for the trip back to Charleston. The boat will board at 8 a.m. and sail from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. This trip will include a continental breakfast and lunch. Cost is $74 for adults; $70 for seniors and $40 for children.

The Belle will visit Huntington July 22 and 23.

For more information about the cruises or to book passage, call Mary Ann at 800-261-8586.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for folks to see a beautiful sunset in the evening or view the downtown area from the deck of this wonderful paddle wheeler," said Anderson. "That's the best entertainment we can offer."


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