Philadelphia Belle paddleboat no longer steaming

The Philadelphia Belle cruising toa ceremony at Penn's Landing last year. "We had been exploring options . . . but we ran out of time," general manager Perry Miles said.
The Philadelphia Belle cruising toa ceremony at Penn's Landing last year. "We had been exploring options . . . but we ran out of time," general manager Perry Miles said. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 22, 2011

An old-time paddleboat that arrived on the Delaware River waterfront to much fanfare last summer has ceased operations.

Perry Miles, general manager of the Philadelphia Belle, said lackluster sales for dinner cruises sank the business.

Nearly 150 people lost their jobs when tour operations stopped at 7 a.m. Thursday.

"It was a decision that was immediate," Miles told Philly.com.

"We had been exploring options to continue operations, but we ran out of time. We had to pull the plug."

Miles said the Belle's employees were of chief concern.

He said Philadelphia Riverboat L.L.C. wanted to ensure that all employees would be compensated.

"Everyone will be paid for all time worked," he said.

The company has not figured out how to handle any existing reservations. The Belle's website had no mention of the decision to shut down Thursday, but had stopped taking reservations.

Miles said sales were not meeting operating costs. The ship remains on the river.

Miles said Philadelphia Riverboat L.L.C. was leasing the ship but did not own it.

"It's a great ship," Miles said, "and I hope someone will want to operate [it] here in Philadelphia."

Virginia-based CI Travel bought the riverboat - a replica of the vessels of the 1800s that plied the Mississippi River - for about $3 million last year and brought it to Philadelphia in August.

The Belle was greeted by a Mummers string band and a Ben Franklin impersonator.

Built in 1994, the riverboat was originally named the Mississippi Belle II and was a vehicle for the gaming industry on the Mississippi River.

After land-based casinos were permitted, the vessel was no longer needed.

For its arrival in Philadelphia, the paddleboat had star collaborators on board.

Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, architects of the Sound of Philadelphia, supplied the music.

Starr Events, the catering arm of the Starr Restaurant Organization, handled the provisions but only for the opening event, a company spokesman said.


 

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