Wilmington, NC March 27, 2013 – On April 2, 1988, Wilmington, North Carolina’s historic downtown waterfront changed forever when the Henrietta II’s big red and white 16-foot diameter paddle wheel churned up the Cape Fear River. Against a strong ebb tide, the Henrietta II docked at the foot of Market Street where the City’s dock is located. In 2013 Cape Fear Riverboats celebrates 25 years of cruise success with public tours on Saturday, April 6 and retro cruises at 1988 prices on Sunday, April 7. Other special events and cruises are scheduled throughout the year.
Wilmington’s Market Street has long been considered the gateway to Downtown Wilmington. For many years the ferry from Eagle Island landed at the foot of Water and Market streets, bringing visitors from the west bank of the river. On that second day of April in 1988, passengers on board the Henrietta II included City officials, investors and friends of Captain Carl Marshburn, whose idea it was to start a riverboat company in Downtown Wilmington. Hundreds of Wilmington citizens showed up to welcome the Henrietta II as she approached the town’s historic riverfront.
“When we came under the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge I could not believe the number of people lining the riverbank standing at the foot of Market Street to welcome us,” recalls Captain Marshburn. “I had never docked the Henrietta II before, so I muttered a prayer to not blow this docking.”
Marshburn and his crew put on quite a show that day. On board were actors portraying Becky Thatcher, Tom Sawyer, a riverboat gambler, and Mark Twain. Deck hands were dressed as Confederate Navy re-enactors, and passengers were greeted with a Dixieland band. To set a grand stage, the Antique Car Club parked their classic cars along Water Street. Touched and encouraged by the welcome reception, Marshburn vowed to provide Wilmington’s citizens and visitors with a cruise boat they could be proud of. Twenty-five years later Marshburn honors that promise as the Henrietta III, a larger cruise boat that replaced the Henrietta II in 2000, graces Wilmington’s riverfront ready to cruise the waters of the Cape Fear River. Over the past 25 years, tens of thousands of passengers—comprised of visitors and local citizens—have boarded the Henrietta II and III for nearly 12,000 cruises.
To celebrate 25 years in Wilmington, Cape Fear Riverboats will recreate the excitement of the Henrietta II’s grand arrival back in 1988 with public tours of the Henrietta III. On Saturday April 6, from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. residents and visitors are invited to board and tour the Henrietta III, just as they toured the Henrietta II twenty-five years before. On Sunday April 7, Cape Fear Riverboats will offer three tours of the Cape Fear River at the 1988 rate of $5.50 for adults and $3.00 for children (prices valid one day only).
Throughout 2013, the cruise schedule will include cruises and events that were popular during Cape Fear Riverboats’ early years, as well as more recent offerings, such as the breathtaking 4-hour Black River Nature Cruise. Led by coastal ecologist and author Andy Wood, Black River Nature Cruises aboard the Capt. J.N. Maffitt are offered April through October on select dates (http://www.cfrboats.com/proddetail.php?prod=1000). Cape Fear Riverboats offers a variety of narrated sightseeing, sunset, dinner/dance, interactive theatre, special theme and private charter voyages. For more information and a complete cruise schedule, please visit www.cfrboats.com.