by Alex Muto
The Grand Lady, a passenger vessel that offers public cruises and exclusive charters for private events like weddings, corporate events and parties, has called Grand Island home for about 15 years since its founding in 1991. However, recent financial concerns forced the Grand Lady to move its headquarters and public docking location to the Rich Marina at 5 Austin St., Buffalo. Though the change in location signifies the loss of one of Grand Island's most recognizable businesses, the cruise will offer the same quality services to both Islander and non-Islander customers.
The Grand Lady can no longer be docked from Grand Island due to financial disagreements with their previous docking headquarters, the Holiday Inn at 100 Whitehaven Road. Jenna Deegan, sales and catering manager at Grand Lady Cruises, explains that "Unfortunately, our arrangement that we had with the Holiday Inn on Grand Island fell through for financial reasons, so we moved the boat elsewhere." As a result, the Grand Lady made new arrangements for their headquarters and docking locations in April. Beginning on Aug. 1, no public ships and few private ships will sail from Grand Island, and headquarters for the Grand Lady will move. Those who hire the boat for private events will have a multitude of docking options. Deegan explains, "About 70 percent of our business comes from private parties, like weddings, corporate events, and birthdays. Many of these that we offer this year sail from the Erie Basin Marina in downtown Buffalo, Placid Harbor Marina in North Tonawanda, the Holiday Inn Grand Island, or the Inner Harbor Central Wharf as well."
However, Deegan assures that the new circumstances will not influence the quality of Grand Lady rides for customers. The new location offers a convenient starting point for the Grand Lady's stunning trips down the Niagara River and also allows the business to maintain their customer base and the quality of the vessel. Deegan says, "The new location allows us to keep our route down the river intact, and it's closer to Buffalo, making it closer to many of our customers." Furthermore, the move has expanded both docking options for private parties and catering options. "Since we have moved, we have been using a variety of new caterers and now offer many new catering options for private charters," Deegan explains. "We use Salvatore's Italian Gardens to cater all of our public lunch and dinner cruises, and many private charters. We are using Carmen's for private charters as well."
Deegan explains that the Grand Lady's new business connections will certainly improve both the quality of their cruises and customer satisfaction. "We are excited to be a little bit closer to Buffalo, and we are excited to work with our new caterers, who are a great value for us. We see the move as a positive thing to be excited about. We plan to grow and expand the company from the new port."
Deegan notes a host of other valuable alterations to the boat that will make Grand Lady trips dependable and enjoyable for all visitors. During the past winter, the boat's two engines were rebuilt. Deegan explains, "The Caterpillar engines were rebuilt this winter because they were getting a little tired since the original motors were built in 1993. They were a little tired." Although Deegan notes that the boat ride will be unchanged, visitors can be assured that the boat will meet safety precautions to an even greater degree. "The boat is now more reliable, and there will be an even smaller chance of something going wrong on the boat." Other recent alterations have been more noticeable. The internal appearance of the boat went through some major modifications. She says, "About two years ago, we did completely re-carpet the vessel, and change all of its interior carpeting and curtains." The new appearance curbed the effects of sun damage and assured that the boat "looks nice and fresh" for its visitors. The physical transformation of the boat has ensured a visually enjoyable and safe ride for visitors.
Although the Grand Lady has moved away from Grand Island and undergone many changes, Deegan emphasizes that the Grand Lady is forever indebted to its original home and hopes to maintain its strong relationship with the Grand Island community. The Grand Lady even served the Grand Island Fire Co. on Thursday, July 26. The company values their relationship with Grand Island and hopes to share many more memories with the Island.
"We really appreciate the support we have had on Grand Island for 16 years, and we at the Grand Lady grew to become fond of the community," explains Deegan. "We still have a strong relationship with many organizations and serve many Grand Island Organizations, like the Grand Island Fire Co. We certainly hope this will continue."
Those interested in organizing an event, attending a public cruise, or contacting the Grand Lady can visit www.grandlady.com, which has cruise availability listed and times and prices. They may also call 716-774-8594.