A couple of years ago, our family decided to take a trip on the Hornblower at Niagara Falls, for a close-up look at the Falls. You may have known it as the Maid of the Mist in years past, who used to tour the falls, but Hornblower was awarded the new 500 million dollar contract in 2014 and continues to bring you the Falls experience.
The Hornblower is a 700-passenger catamaran that will take you as close to the falls as you possibly can, with laughs, screams, and cheers from everyone on board. The 700-passenger catamaran is great for seeing the Falls with a multi-tiered 360-degree viewing platform.
Some History of the Hornblower
In 1980, Terry MacRae, the CEO, and owner purchased Hornblower Coach Cruises based in Berkeley, California. The company at that time only had 2 yachts and focused more on private tours.
In 1992, the company rebranded to Hornblower Cruises & Events, which focused more on the total services that they offered. As of 2015, they have more than 32 vessels across California, New York, and most recently in Niagara Falls, Ontario for Hornblower Niagara Cruises.
I was excited to take the tour, but not everyone in my family was eager for the trip. My 8-year-old daughter was a little nervous about the whole idea of getting into a boat and riding toward the falls; her first thought was, why would anyone want to go toward the falls? Shouldn’t we be trying to get away from them? But after the trip, she was glad that she was able to be a part of it.
This article is my full review of the Hornblower tours, and what you can expect if you decide to see Niagara Falls from its perspective.
It’s A Long Wait
The hardest part of the whole experience is the overwhelmingly long wait to actually get onto the Hornblower.
It was nice that we had some snacks with us because we must have waited for at least an hour before we got on the boat.
Even though the wait was long, the whole experience was organized and well laid out.
At first, we kept thinking that we’d wait for a later time, and maybe the line would thin out – it never did and never did. It was terribly busy, and that’s just something that you’re going to have to accept.
This may be a spoiler alert, but I do believe it’s worth the wait.
Bring some snacks, a hat for shade, use sun block and bring some water with you so that you can survive the wait.
The price for the Hornblower tour is as follows:
|TICKET TYPE||AGE RANGE||PRICE*|
|Child||3 to 12||$21.25|
|Infant||2 and under||Free|
It’s pricey, and I was hesitant to purchase the tickets for our family of 5, but in the end, I am glad that I decided to do it.
The Hornblower Niagara Falls Tour is going to last 15-20 minutes. It’s expensive for a 20-minute tour, but what’s not overpriced in Niagara Falls?
Consider how much money they are making with this tour. No wonder they signed a 500 million dollar contract. My guess, they are making around $10,000 for every 20 minute tour – and they are running two vessels.
Boarding the Hornblower
We waited for about 60 minutes, and they were allowed to board. It was well-organized and the directions were clear. We quickly rushed to the best spot available and waited for the boat to start.
Once you get on the Hornblower, it’s a very tight fit. You’re almost shoulder to shoulder with the other passengers. I made sure my kids were close because there is a little commotion when things start to move.
As the Hornblower get closer to the Falls, it starts to get wet.
You get a red poncho, which doesn’t help a whole lot, but it does keep you from being absolutely soaked. You’ll have to accept the fact that you’re going to get wet. I was soaked when I left the Hornblower, but I couldn’t stop smiling.
Beside the Falls
The experience that we had on the Hornblower will never be forgotten. It was so much fun, and it was an incredible sight to behold.
The roar and splash from the falls, combined with the pure enjoyment of being up so close to the Falls, make the Hornblower a breathtaking, amazing experience. It was so cool to be that close to the water crashing down – it’s a wow factor, for sure.
You tried to talk, but it couldn’t be heard from all the laughing, and the fears that my children had about riding the Hornblower was replaced with laughing and smiling.
Overall, it was a really good tour, and an unbelievable experience.
The Hornblower isn’t a cheap trip, that’s for sure. You’re looking at spending over $100 for a family of 5.
Is it worth the money? Absolutely. If you have the opportunity to take the tour, then I would do it. In fact, if I had the opportunity to retake the tour, I would do it.
Overall, It’s a great way to experience the Falls up close, and the excitement of feeling so close to the Falls that you could reach out and touch them is a cool perspective.
Learn more about taking a tour on the Hornblower here.