By Sara K. Clarke, Orlando Sentinel
5:02 PM CDT, October 10, 2012
The family that brought the Star of Sanford to the St. Johns River in the 1980s is getting back into the dinner cruise business with its latest boat, the Barbara Lee.
The big red-white-and-blue paddle wheeler is making its way from Clearwater to Sanford this week, a 600-mile journey up Florida's Atlantic Coast and down the St. Johns River to Lake Monroe.
The boat will be docked in a slip at the Monroe Harbour Marina formerly used by the Rivership Romance, which shut down this past fall due to maintenance issues with the boat's hull, the city of Sanford said.
Bill Maloney, whose father, Bill Sternberg, had sold the riverboat business more than a decade ago, said the closure of the Rivership Romance was an opportunity for his family. They ran the numbers and decided they could make the operation work.
"The market was actually starting to come back up," Maloney said.
So Maloney and his siblings – who grew up on the dinner boats – are giving it a go, under the name the St. Johns Rivership Co. They hope to launch the first cruise in the next two to three weeks, and plan to feature food prepared onboard, live entertainment and a narrative about the wildlife and history of the St. Johns. Ticket prices have yet to be set.
The 240-person boat, with its big windows overlooking the paddle, "is kind of like stepping back into the past," and fits well with the history of the St. Johns, Maloney said.
"It was actually being used by another company over on the Gulf Coast," Maloney said. "It really wasn't very good for their market. It's perfect for ours."
The company has created a Facebook page, Facebook.com/DinnerCruise, to document their ship's journey to Sanford.
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