Open bidding process could end Niagara Falls’ Maid of the Mist boat tours

Spring’s arrival means the Maid of the Mist boat tours open this Saturday, but a brewing storm may keep the ships from launching next year.

The famous tour company’s first ferry boat launched in 1846, offering the best way to see Niagara Falls up close without donning a barrel.

Since then, millions of people, among them Princess Di and Marilyn Monroe, have taken the 30-minute tour into the mist. Some, like a certain fictional couple from NBC’s “The Office,” have even exchanged their vows on board while wearing the Maid of the Mist’s signature (and complimentary!) blue ponchos.

The Maid of the Mist boats are the only ones that offer Niagara Falls tours from both the United States and Canada. In fact, they’ve done so without competition for decades. The fact is, there’s really not room on the shore for much competition. And that’s where our controversy comes in.

The Maid of the Mist Steamboat Company docks its boats and sells its tickets on public land in both countries. Its 25-year lease was about to be quietly renewed in Ontario when questions arose about why the Niagara Parks Commission would renew it without seeking other bids. So, the Maid of the Mist company is on a month-to-month lease while other bids are being sought.

The bidding process is being conducted in secret, but rumors have everyone from Ripley Entertainment to Circle Line Tours to Disney Cruise Line trying to get a piece of the Niagara Falls action.

For its part, the Maid of the Mist company tells the Buffalo (N.Y.) News that it will prevail in the bidding process, and the historic site of Jim and Pam’s wedding will sail into the mist for decades to come.%Gallery-71848%