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Press Release: Hornblower Cruises & Events Introduces New Yachts to Its Fleet of Historic Vessels

JULY 10, 2015

(San Francisco, CA – July 10, 2015) — Hornblower Cruises & Events (HCE) has recently added two new yachts to its fleet of over 70 vessels. The new additions are part of the company’s New York fleet and complement the historic vessels that reside in San Francisco and Southern California.

New Additions

Hornblower Cruises & Events takes on the Northeast with full force, as the largest fleet in the dinner cruise excursion business in the New York harbor. In combination with Statue Cruises, which is one of the company’s key concessioners, Hornblower Cruises & Events, along with Statue Cruises, has 13 boats in its New York fleet, making it the largest passenger company in New York.

Hornblower Esprit

The Hornblower Esprit was recently christened in the New York Harbor.  The yacht is 90 feet with a capacity of 100 passengers. Ideal for intimate affairs, the boat is decked out with exclusive dining area, full bar, dance and lounge areas, custom LED lighting, covered awning and outdoor seating. Upon purchase of the yacht, Hornblower Cruises & Events spent $1.5 million in renovations and upgrades. The yacht is available for private charters, including corporate events, private parties and weddings, to name a few.


Formerly the Vista Jubilee, Sensation is the other new addition to the New York HCE fleet and was christened on July 16, 2015. The yacht is 114 feet long and accommodates up to 400 passengers. With panoramic windows providing clear views of the New York skyline, her covered top deck provides unobstructed visibility. This private charter vessel is ideal for large or small groups, from weddings, anniversaries and birthdays to corporate events and school cruises. Upon acquisition, HCE invested $3 million on renovation and refurbishment, the vessel’s first major investment in 20 years.

With renovations to both the Hornblower Espirit and Sensation, the vessels feature the latest in environmental efficiencies and have been designed to avoid the “cookie cutter” image of dinner boats.

The yachts have been modeled after the highly-acclaimed Hornblower Hybrid with the following features:

  • recycled products
  • reduction of cleansing chemicals
  • counter tops made from recycled glass and colored vodka bottles
  • enhanced sound systems
  • LED lighting
  • powered solar panels and wind turbines
  • flooring sourced from post-consumer recycled materials
  • aluminum wall coverings for a modern visual backdrop, eliminating the need for wallpaper, glue or high volatile organic compound (VOC) paints and
  • energy efficient windows and heating/air conditioning systems to maintain a comfortable interior in the most efficient way possible

Historic Vessels

San Francisco Belle

The 292-foot San Francisco Belle was built in Louisiana in 1994 and was originally used as a floating casino on the St. Charles River in Missouri. Her classic lines, stern paddlewheel and ornate detailing recall the elegant riverboats of the late 1800s. With 30,000 square feet of event space, she features three fully-enclosed, climate-controlled decks, a sun deck with a canopy cover, four bars, a modern galley and two elevators. With a capacity for 2,200 guests, the Belle is the largest capacity dining yacht on the west coast and boasts the grandeur and style that is uniquely San Francisco.

Wild Goose

Originally christened the USS YMS-328, what is now the Wild Goose was a US Navy YMS-1-class (aka Yard Mine Sweeper), which was built in Ballard, Washington. She was classified as a Mark II design and her hull is constructed completely out of 3” vertical grain. After naval service during World War II, she became a private yacht and was later renamed Wild Goose. The yacht’s most notable owner was actor John Wayne who purchased the vessel in 1962 and entertained many famous passengers, including presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, until his death 17 years later.

Other notable facts: the yacht was listed on the US National Registry of Historic Places on July 19, 2011; in 1948, she was sold to Vancouver Tug & Barge owner Harold Jones who named her La Beverie; she was then purchased by millionaire Max Wyman in 1956, who renamed her Wild Goose II; the vessel was featured in the 1967 film, The President’s Analyst, doubling as a Canadian spy ship; the yacht is still under operation with Hornblower Cruises & Events for dinner cruises and private charters in Newport Beach, Ca. and at 136 feet, can accommodate up to 127 guests.


One of the most historic yachts sailing out of Marina del Rey, the Zumbrota was built (in 1896 in Sarasota, FL for circus baron Charles Ringling and was named Zumbrota after Zumbro Falls, Minnesota where the large Ringling family had lived when Charles Ringling was a boy. The boat became the namesake of Charles Ringling’s prized elephant, the circus’ star attraction and the largest elephant in captivity.

After the initial ownership by the Ringling family, she began a ten-year career with the U.S. Navy when she was commissioned in 1917 and assigned to the 7th Naval District, operating out of Key West, FL. The boat was then sold to the Thompson Fish Company in 1927. The Zumbrota then spent 80 years in California with a variety of owners, including celebrities Mae West and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. During World War II, she became a Naval mail boat between Los Angeles and San Francisco. She then served as a fishing vessel and passenger vessel until HCE’s acquisition in 1985 when the Zumbrota was rebuilt and refurbished for luxury dining and private event cruises.

The historic vessel features teak decks, sparkling brass, polished woodwork and a galley large enough to serve up to 125 passengers were added. This yacht now houses two bars, five salons, a stereo sound system and a spacious sun deck.

High Spirits

Built in 1929 by world famous boatwright John Trumpy in Camden, NJ, the 11-foot High Spirits yacht has an impressive pedigree. She was originally constructed as a sister ship to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidential yacht, Sequoia, also constructed by Trumpy, who was considered the best designer of his time. High Spirits was originally built for industrialist, DeWitt Page and was first named Maemere, after Mr. Page’s wife, Mae. The yacht exhibits many features of the John Trumpy trademark. The exterior bright work is fashioned from solid teak and the interior salon panels are constructed of rare, bleached black walnut. The unique windows on this yacht work like classic automobile design as they can be lowered by a cranking system concealed just below each panel by a sterling silver clamshell. Having been built during the Prohibition years, she had a secret liquor bar, hidden behind a built-in chest and mirror.

High Spirits has always been a privately owned yacht, but during W.W.II, the US Navy purchased Maemere, as they did many private yachts for use as a patrol ship in the Pacific. Following the war, the Maemere was renamed Big Pebble then Sea Panther. While named Sea Panther, the yacht lived in New York and hosted many of the rich & famous, including the Rolling Stones who used the venue in 1966 as backdrop to the band’s first US Tour promotions, shot by Linda Eastman, later known as Linda McCartney.  High Spirits has been meticulously restored and is considered one of the finest antique yachts available for charter on the west coast.

Now located in San Diego, the High Spirits accommodates guests in three luxurious staterooms, a main salon with a dance floor and stereo system and a charming upper deck dining area with space available for outdoor seating. Interior highlights include crystal light fixtures, an antique piano, rich mahogany paneling and a Chippendale-design mahogany dining table.  At 112 feet in length the vessel can accommodate up to 150 guests.