Hornblower Cruises

Hornblower Cruises & Events NOW City Experiences is a San Francisco-based charter yacht, dining cruise and ferry service company.

Hornblower Cruises
LocaleMost Major US Waterways, Niagara Falls, London
WaterwayNear Coastal and Lakes, Bays & Sounds,
Transit typeCharter Yachts, Dining Cruises, Ferry Service, Tourist Attractions, Commuter Ferry, Overnight Cruises
OwnerTerry MacRae (1980-2020 Founder, now Chairman of the Board) Kevin Rabbit (CEO as of 2021)
OperatorHornblower Yachts, Inc.
Began operation1980


The company began in 1974 in Berkeley, California with two ships. In 1980 the original owner, Ward Proescher, sold the business to Terry MacRae and P. Michael Watson. Proescher later went on to start a competing charter yacht company in the Bay Area, Commodore Cruises.

By acquiring existing charter yacht companies, Hornblower was able to expand into San Diego in 1984, followed by Newport Beach in 1987. Shortly thereafter the company acquired the Marina del Rey-based Marina Cruise Lines.

By 1989 the company operated in Berkeley, San Francisco, San Diego, Newport Beach and Marina del Rey. The corporate headquarters were (and continue to be) located on the historic ferry Santa Rosa, which is moored at Pier 3 in San Francisco.

In 1992 Terry MacRae became the sole owner of Hornblower Yachts, Inc, which was rebranded as Hornblower Cruises & Events to more accurately reflect the products and services offered.

In 1996 Hornblower Marine Services (HMS) was created to fill a need as a consultant to the booming riverboat casino and ferry service operations industry. By 2003, HMS grew to 80 employees, with offices in San Francisco, New London, Boston and Jacksonville. Three year later, HMS had become the leading worldwide provider of high-speed ferry services.

In 2019 Hornblower Cruises & Events acquired Entertainment Cruises and all the operations encompassing it. The purchase of Entertainment Cruises doubled the number of ships and locations that Hornblower operates. In October of the same year, Hornblower acquired English tour boat operator City Cruises who have operations in London, Poole and York.[1][2][3]

In 2022 Hornblower acquired Experience Australia Group Pty Ltd, a diversified tourism business based in Adelaide, South Australia, known mainly for operating Australian interstate experiential tourism trains (The Ghan, the Indian Pacific, The Overland, and the Great Southern) but also with interests in cruise and air tourism. In turn, the company had been owned by Quadrant Private Equity since 2016. In January 2022, Quadrant Private Equity sold the business to Hornblower.

Today, Hornblower operates out of 19 different ports: San Francisco, Berkeley, Sacramento, Marina Del Rey, Long Beach, Newport Beach, San Diego, DC, Alexandria, Boston, Chicago, Norfolk, Philadelphia, Toronto, Baltimore, Port of New York and New Jersey, London, Poole and York. The company's entire fleet now includes more than 80 boats.

Cruises and ferry servicesEdit

Niagara Falls CruisesEdit

Hornblower Canada Company, a Canadian subsidiary of Hornblower operates the Niagara Falls Gorge Boat Tour from the Canadian side of the Niagara River near Niagara Falls, similar to the Maid of the Mist cruises out of Niagara Falls, New York on the American side. Hornblower has two ships, Niagara Wonder and Niagara Thunder, which carries 700 passengers each. The boats are based on Elliot Bay Design Group design and built by Hike Metal Products of Wheatley, Ontario.

  • Niagara Wonder
    • Years of service: 2013–present
    • Type: double-stack catamaran tour boat
    • Engine: 2 x 450 BHP @1800RPM Scania DI13
  • Niagara Thunder
    • Years of service: 2013–present
    • Type: double-stack catamaran tour boat
    • Engine: 2 x 450 BHP @1800RPM Scania DI13

Lake Tahoe CruisesEdit

Between 1997 and 2002 Hornblower operated in Lake Tahoe, beginning with the acquisition of Lake Tahoe Cruises Inc. and the vessels Tahoe Queen and Tahoe Princess. Business expanded to include ferry service across Lake Tahoe and land shuttle services between South Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley Ski Resort. Lake Link ferry service was launched across Lake Tahoe, and was the fastest passenger boat on the lake. In 2002 the Lake Tahoe port was sold to Aramark - the owner and operator of the MS Dixie - the primary long-standing competition for the Tahoe Queen.

Alcatraz CruisesEdit

Alcatraz Island

In 2006 Hornblower won the National Park Service concession for ferry service to Alcatraz Island when the contract with Blue & Gold Fleet expired.[citation needed] Under the name Alcatraz Cruises, the company provides ticketing service and transportation to the one and a half million visitors to the island every year.

In 2008, Alcatraz Cruises introduced the Hornblower Hybrid to the fleet — the first hybrid ferry in the United States. The Hybrid runs off of solar power, wind power, and low-emission diesel fuel.

Statue CruisesEdit

Statue Cruises - Lady Liberty

In 2007 the company was awarded a concession from the National Park Service to operate ferries to Liberty Island and Ellis Island, the only public access to the national historic sites in the Port of New York and New Jersey. This replaced Circle Line, which had operated the service since 1953.[4] Under the name Statue Cruises, the company provides ticketing service and transportation for visitors to the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Boats depart from either Communipaw Terminal, Liberty State Park in Jersey City or Castle Clinton, Battery Park in Lower Manhattan.[5] All ferry riders are subject to security screening, similar to airport procedures, prior to boarding.[6]

The affiliated Liberty Water Taxi operates between Liberty State Park and the Battery Park City Ferry Terminal.

Hornblower New York CruisesEdit

Separately from its Liberty and Ellis Island service, Hornblower operates a fleet of six New York-based yachts operating from Pier 15 on the East River and Pier 40 on the Hudson River, offering scheduled sightseeing cruises and special-event charter excursions. Its vessels are the Hornblower Infinity, the Hornblower Serenity, the Hornblower Sensation, the Hornblower Hybrid,[7] the Hornblower Esprit and the John James Audubon.[8]

NYC FerryEdit

In 2015, Hornblower Cruises was selected to operate New York City's NYC Ferry service, which started operations on May 1, 2017.[9][10] It is the company's first commuter ferry operation.[11] One route connects Lower Manhattan and Midtown Manhattan with nearby points across the East River in northern Brooklyn and in Queens, while a second route connects Lower Manhattan with Rockaway Park in Queens.[12] A third route, which began on June 1, 2017,[13] connects Lower Manhattan with riverfront communities in southern Brooklyn.[12] A fourth route, connecting Manhattan with Astoria, Queens,[12] began operating on August 19, 2017.[14][15] Two additional routes to Soundview, Bronx, and to the Lower East Side of Manhattan started operating in August 2018.[16][17]

Notable yachtsEdit

San Francisco Belle
  • The M/V Zumbrota, built for circus magnate Charles Ringling and named for the then-largest elephant in captivity, was acquired to serve guests in San Diego. It is now based in Marina del Rey.
  • The M/V Wild Goose (USS YMS-328) formerly John Wayne’s private yacht, joined the fleet in 1995. The vintage 1942 restored minesweeper continues to operate in Newport Beach.
  • The ferryboat Santa Rosa, which ferried passengers between San Francisco and the East Bay, now serves at the company’s corporate office.
  • The M/V San Francisco Belle, a paddlewheel style vessel, joined the fleet in 2001. The Belle, with a capacity of 2,200 is the largest dining yacht on the West Coast.
  • The Hornblower Hybrid, the first hybrid ferry in the United States, was completed in 2008 and serves visitors to Alcatraz Island and Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.


  1. ^ Acquisition by US Company City Cruises
  2. ^ Hornblower UK Holdings Ltd acquires City Cruises British Marine 7 November 2019
  3. ^ City Cruises Ships Monthly January 2020 page 6
  4. ^ Ramirez, Anthony (June 29, 2007). "Circle Line Loses Pact for Ferries to Liberty Island". The New York Times. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  5. ^ "NPS: Liberty and Ellis Island ferry map". Ferry Map. National Park Service. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  6. ^ "For Your Safety and Security". Statue of Liberty. National Park Service. Retrieved August 30, 2011.
  7. ^ "The Customized TECU: A Marine Example". November 20, 2018.
  8. ^ "New York City Tickets & Tour Experiences | City Experiences".
  9. ^ "NYC launches ferry service with Queens, East River routes". NY Daily News. Associated Press. May 1, 2017. Archived from the original on May 1, 2017. Retrieved May 1, 2017.
  10. ^ Levine, Alexandra S.; Wolfe, Jonathan (May 1, 2017). "New York Today: Our City's New Ferry". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 1, 2017.
  11. ^ "New York City's Ferry Service Set to Launch in 2017". NBC New York. Retrieved May 9, 2016.
  12. ^ a b c "Route Map" (PDF). NYC Ferry. 2017. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 28, 2017. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
  13. ^ Barone, Vin (June 1, 2017). "NYC Ferry launches South Brooklyn route". am New York. Retrieved August 28, 2017.
  14. ^ Barone, Vin (August 28, 2017). "Astoria's NYC Ferry route launches Tuesday". am New York. Retrieved August 28, 2017.
  15. ^ Evelly, Jeanmarie (August 29, 2017). "SEE IT: NYC Ferry Service Launches New Astoria Route". DNAinfo New York. Archived from the original on August 30, 2017. Retrieved August 29, 2017.
  16. ^ Rivoli, Dan (August 15, 2018). "Setting sail from Soundview in new NYC ferry". nydailynews.com. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  17. ^ Berger, Paul (August 29, 2018). "NYC Ferry Begins Lower East Side Service". WSJ. Retrieved August 29, 2018.


External linksEdit