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Two charter ships are planned for Detroit River

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The Detroit Princess could reach the city next month.

Two charter ships are planned for Detroit River

By R.J. King / The Detroit News

DETROIT - Two new charter ships are making plans to ply the Detroit River next spring, including a 1,900-passenger paddleboat called the Detroit Princess, which evokes memories of ships that once ferried passengers from Detroit to the Boblo Island amusement park.

The other craft, called the Ovation, carries up to 325 passengers and will come on line next spring and dock periodically in Detroit, said Steven L. Rybicki, general manager of Infinity Yacht Charters in St. Clair Shores.

The charter ships could bolster the fledgling revival of Detroit's waterfront. A riverfront promenade, parks and retail and housing projects also are in the works.

The Detroit Princess, now docked in Nova Scotia, may reach Detroit next month, but rough waters could delay its arrival until next spring, said John Chamberlain, director of Detroit Princess LLC in Grand Ledge, Mich.

Chamberlain and a group of investors purchased the ship earlier this year for an undisclosed sum.

Built in 1993 and previously owned by Harrah's Entertainment, the Detroit Princess is 222 feet long with five decks. Chamberlain said the ship will offer dining and entertainment, including a salute to Motown music, comedy revues, murder mysteries and big band shows.

"We'll dock the Detroit Princess at Hart Plaza initially and then move to a new dock being built by the Detroit Wayne County Port Authority next to the Renaissance Center," Chamberlain said. "The ship is heated and air-conditioned, so we plan to operate year-round."

The Detroit Princess will take passengers near Belle Isle, under the Ambassador Bridge and to Wyandotte. Other trips can be arranged to Lake St. Clair or Lake Erie, Chamberlain said.

"We have hired some of the people that once operated the (two) Boblo boats, so we'll be in good hands," he added. The Detroit Princess will have a 400-member crew.

One of the Boblo boats, the Ste. Clair, is operating in Toledo, while the Columbia is in dry dock in Ecorse and in need of repair. Earlier this year, the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy undertook a $200,000 feasibility study to see if the boat could be restored. The study will be completed next spring.

The port authority is building an $11.5 million public dock and terminal at Bates and Atwater behind Ford Auditorium, which will open next summer. "We're building the dock to attract just this type of river traffic," said Curtis Hertel, executive director of the authority.

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