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Is This the End for the Maid of the Mist?

By SHANNON KELLY

Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls (Photo: caruba)

The famous Maid of the Mist boat company, which has offered tours of Niagara Falls since 1846, was unsuccessful in renewing its lease with the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) this week, losing out to a U.S.-based boat tour company.

The NPC’s 30-year lease was awarded to the Canadian subsidiary of U.S.-based company Hornblower Cruises. The contract will potentially bring in a $300 million increase in revenue over the previous contract in the next three decades. Hornblower plans to bring in new boats with larger viewing areas and to upgrade docks and increase tour prices.

Though the new tour prices could result in some sticker shock, more money is good news overall for tourism in the region. But it’s a nostalgic blow nonetheless—the Maid of the Mist has been synonymous with Niagara Falls for 165 years.

And not so good news for those planning a 2012 or 2013 Niagara Falls trip is that in the wake of these changes, it’s possible that no boat tours will be running in and around the falls until Hornblower’s contract begins in the spring of 2014. The Maid of the Mist still has a month-to-moth contract until 2014, but the company has been mum as to whether it will continue operations. Hornblower has hinted that it might pick up the slack if Maid of the Mist drops out.

As yet, there’s no word on whether the Maid of the Mist will continue to operate from the U.S. side of Niagara Falls.

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