From 1848 the Maid of the Mist boats have been ferrying tourists on the Niagara River for a closer look at the Niagara Falls.
The Maid of the Mist is a boat ride that took tourists from either side of the Niagara River, i.e. from USA and Canada, on a boat ride to see the Niagara Falls from close quarters. Till 2013, the tours from both Canada and USA were operated by the same company.
In 2013, the Canadian government awarded the contract to operate the Niagara Falls boat tour to Hornblower, a California-based company. The company started operating the rides from 2014 and also announced a number of changes and improvements to the tour.
Though the route taken is the same and the experience is similar, there are a few differences between Maid of the Mist and Hornblower Niagara Cruises.
Point of Origin
The Maid of the Mist sets sail from Niagara Falls, New York State, USA. Boarding docks are within the Niagara Falls State Park, NY. Visitors have to take the elevator from the Prospect Point Observation Tower down to the Niagara River shore where the Maid of the Mist docks are located.
The Hornblower Niagara boat tour is from the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. It is located on Niagara Parkway at the foot of Clifton Hill.
If you are touring Niagara Falls, USA, it would make sense to take the Maid of the Mist. Tourists in Niagara Falls, Canada, take the Hornblower Niagara boat ride. If you have valid travel documents, you can always cross the border via Rainbow Bridge to take the boat tour from the other side of the border.
Day Tour vs. Evening Tour
Both Hornblower Niagara Cruises and Maid of the Mist take passengers upstream on the Niagara River to view the American, Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls.
Maid of the Mist boat rides operate between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. in early summer and autumn and extend till 8:00 p.m. on weekends and peak summer.
Hornblower Niagara Cruises offers 4 different types of boat rides:
- Voyage to the Falls Boat Tour: This tour is a 20-minute day tour that takes you really close to the Horseshoe Falls. It is operated every day from 8:30 am till dusk.
- Voyage to the Falls Evening Boat Tour: This tour is a 20-minute light mist experience that is operated from dusk till 8:30 p.m. With the evening tour, passengers can see the illuminated Falls.
- Falls Illumination Cruise: This boat tour is a 40-minute light mist experience. Travelling at a slower pace, it gives passengers more time to admire the beauty of Niagara Falls. You can also see the city skyline and landmarks such as Skylon Tower.
- Falls Fireworks Cruise: This tour is also a 40-minute light mist experience that is run on select nights when there is a fireworks display. You can watch the illuminated Falls as well as the fireworks with this cruise. Passengers can also enjoy a complimentary snack, music and drinks from the onboard licensed bar.
The Maid of the Mist has no seating areas either on the lower deck or the upper deck. It is wheelchair accessible, but others have to stand for the length of the boat ride.
The Hornblower boats have seating, bathrooms, enclosed viewing areas on the lower deck for those who do not want to get wet, and open upper decks for maximum viewing. They too are wheelchair accessible.
Online Booking and Timed Arrivals
Though both Maid of the Mist and Hornblower Niagara boat rides can be booked online, the queues at Maid of the Mist are always long. Tickets sold are valid for any day of the whole season and not for any particular day.
Hornblower Niagara Cruises offers timed arrivals when booking online. Passengers can arrive just before the requested arrival time on their ticket and make their way through an air-conditioned terminal to the boat docks.
Maid of the Mist operates between May and early November.
The season for Hornblower Niagara Cruises is slighter longer; boat tours start in April and continue till the end of November, weather permitting. If you are keen on taking a boat tour of Niagara Falls, check the schedule before planning your trip.
Colour of Ponchos
Niagara Falls Boat Tours take you close enough to the Horseshoe Falls that you will get wet. The boat tour operators provide complimentary ponchos that keep passengers somewhat dry. Both Maid of the Mist and Hornblower provide free keepsake ponchos, but their colours vary. As the boats make their way across the Niagara River, Maid of the Mist passengers can be identified by their blue ponchos and Hornblower passengers by their red ponchos.
Cost of Niagara Boat Tours
The Hornblower Niagara boat ride is costlier than the Maid of the Mist. For the 2019 season, Hornblower is charging $28.95 CAD for adults and $18.95 CAD for children. For the same ride, Maid of the Mist is charging $19.25 USD for adults and $11.20 for children. The Falls Illumination Cruise and Falls Fireworks Cruise by Hornblower cost more.
The biggest difference between Maid of the Mist and Hornblower is the history behind them. While the Maid of the Mist has been operating on the Niagara River since 1846, first as a ferry and later as a sightseeing boat, the Hornblower has been operating the Niagara Falls Boat Tour since only 2014. It should be noted that Maid of the Mist has changed hands over the years and since 1971 it has been owned by the Glynn family.
Tourists visiting Canadian Niagara Falls take the Hornblower Niagara Cruise while tourists to USA Niagara Falls take the Maid of the Mist. Visitors wishing to take both boat tours can do so by crossing the border (you should have valid travel documents). There are bus tours too that take you from Canada to USA and vice versa. The route followed by both boats is the same, the only difference being Hornblower also offers evening, illumination and fireworks cruises.
Hornblower has invested about $1.5 million into the former funicular or incline railway that used to ferry passengers from the foot of Clifton Hill to the gorge below where the boat docks are. The rail cars will be air conditioned/heated and an audio guide as it lowers into the gorge. The elevators to the landing area of the boat ride are also being upgraded. With an efficient system of both the elevators and Incline Railway, Hornblower expects to increase its daily number of cruises.
From July 2018, Hornblower visitors can buy a general admission ticket and use the elevators to get to the landing docks or they can buy the fast track admission ticket and take a VIP 2-minute funicular ride. You can enjoy spectacular views of the Falls as the incline railway rides down.
Take the Niagara Falls Boat Tour for spectacular views of Niagara Falls from the river. With a lot of upgrades and other attractions like the Riverside Patio, the Hornblower is a more attractive option.
Please click here to know more about Maid of the Mist schedule and pricing for 2019.