Belle of Louisville preps for Spring debut with A/C, interior makeover


Posted on March 29, 2010 at 4:07 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 30 at 12:17 AM

The Belle of Louisville makes its river cruising debut this season for Easter Sunday.

It’s one of the earliest excursions yet for the city-owned boat and it will be the first time the historic paddle wheeler has held a public cruise since last Fall when the boat collided with a dock, slightly injuring some passengers.

With a repaired paddlewheel after its collision with a dock last September and inside gleaming with new paint and a renovation sure to please those who hate the heat.

For the city, the historic Belle of Louisville will debut its cruising season on Easter with one undeniable fact:  She’s in much better shape now than it was when our cameras caught her arrival in Louisville 1963.

The Belle was the Avalon. The steamboat specialized in hauling hogs and cattle. It was a beaten, battered boat that the county bought for a song to turn into a tourist attraction.

Those hogs and cattle sweltered in the heat and until this year, so did the humans travelling on the boat.

The Belle's Director Linda Harris showed us the $350,000 worth of improvements that include history in the making.  The boat is now equipped with rows of air conditioning units meaning the busiest summer yet for the steamboat.

It meant the construction of mahogany swinging doors and glass to keep the air conditioning in.

On the top deck, which stays open air, there’s all new decking, which also removed a lot of weight from the Belle.

But the most stunning new renovation is the original captain's quarters which is now a private dining room with bar and restroom, all for booking.

The 1:00 p.m. Easter cruise is filling up quickly. There are tickets still available.  It includes a brunch and of course, the Easter bunny.

Officials with the Belle of Louisville say the air conditioning will lead to taxpayer savings through an increase in charters and ridership on the steamboat.

But before anyone could take a ride, they had to make sure she was safe.

“The coast guard did a stability test to make sure that she is stable in the water and basically is measuring how far she sits in the water.  They move weights around the boat to make sure she doesn't have any tipping factors and they take measurements and make sure she's good and stable,” says Belle of Louisville CEO Linda Harris.

Overall, the Belle of Louisville is 10 to 12 tons lighter with all the changes, which should make her much more efficient.