If only our boats could talk, the stories they could tell of couples who met and fell in love, young students who came on a class trip, a corporate milestone celebrated onboard…they could boast about hosting dignitaries, sports legends, Stanley Cups, celebrities & movie shoots. There are stories of birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, company events, proposals and weddings. There are stories from so many who came to us from all around the world and visited our city of Toronto. Over the last 30 years, our fleet has welcomed over 3 million guests and while our boats can’t speak, they do tell our story.
It all started with the Mariposa Belle…
The namesake of our company, the Mariposa Belle was then the largest passenger vessel in Toronto Harbour when Mariposa Cruises acquired the legendary paddle wheeler in 1987. This is when the company, Mariposa Cruise Line was first launched, along with the two other boats, The Rosemary and The Torontonian.
Toronto’s waterfront was just starting evolve with the newly renovated Queens Quay Terminal Building (1983), then a mecca for one of a kind artisan shops and food experiences. There was a smattering of wharfs and marinas, and only a few condominium towers. Harbourfront Centre was operating as the Harbourfront Corporation and one could see The Royal York Hotel’s neon lettering from the dock. The LRT was yet to launch, and yet people came to the waterfront to beat the summer heat, spend a day shopping in Queens Quay, buy the kids an ice cream and hop on the Mariposa Belle for harbour cruise. The Mariposa Belle launched Mariposa Cruises and played host of many, many celebrations until her retirement from Mariposa’s fleet in 2013.
The yacht Rosemary has been with Mariposa Cruises since our inception. A true southern belle, normally a lady doesn’t like to divulge her age, that being said, the Rosemary was built in Mobile, Alabama in 1960 as a private yacht, complete with overnight bunks. Operated for years as a private pleasure craft, The Rosemary was transformed into a passenger vessel, at one time Transport Canada approved for 75 guests. Fully refurbished in 2008, she is our smallest in the fleet, but loved by so many for her timeless interior and the ability to host smaller groups and intimate occasions. But don’t judge her by her size, The Rosie boasts an impressive list of voyages for celebrities (whose privacy we respect) and notable events over the years.
Another Mariposa original was The Torontonian (175 pax), who, like The Rosemary, was part of our operation when the company acquired The Mariposa Belle. One of the original party boats in Toronto, and before boats were regulated by the ACGO, guests could bring their own alcohol onboard. The Torontonian hosted hundreds of parties and later became the student cruise boat of choice. In 2006, a local graffiti artist was contracted to transform her exterior with a butterfly mural in reference to ‘Mariposa’ (Spanish for Butterfly). The Torontonian was retired from the Mariposa fleet in 2010.
Things got interesting….
The Captain Matthew Flinders made its way to Toronto in 1989 to join the Mariposa fleet. The ship continues to be the largest passenger vessel in Toronto and was welcomed by the Mayor at the time. This majestic ship was built in Port Adelaide (1986) and bears the name of the Australian explorer who was the first to circumnavigate and identify the Australian continent. As an ocean going ship, The Flinders is sturdy but she’s not very fast, sailing at a speed of only 30km per hour. The voyage from Australia to Toronto took four months! Cruising on the Flinders is a special experience. With two interior decks, a massive split-level outer deck, stairwells and long promenade decks running from bow to stern, you get a true sense of being on a classic ocean liner. Among the thousands of Flinders’ notable voyages, it boasts a colorful stint as a casino boat off of West Palm Beach Florida; cruises to Niagara-on-the-Lake and Hamilton. The Captain Matthew Flinders has hosted G7, Mayors from Around the World, Arnold Palmer, the Baseball All Stars, and some of the most exclusive affairs hosted in Toronto.
In 1992, Mariposa Cruises completed the acquisition of two additional ships, The Oriole, (200 pax) and The Northern Spirit (600 pax), which increased the Mariposa fleet capacity by 60%. The Oriole, a Victorian era steamship replica built in Port Dover, Ontario, has hosted voyages for hundreds of thousands of passengers on private charters and daily Harbour Tours. Her old-world charm has established her as a favourite in Toronto and her green and ivory exterior is easily visible as she cruises along with sailboats, salties, lakers, canoes, water taxis and ferries that sail along the city’s harbour. Passengers from all over the world have boarded The Oriole on the sightseeing harbour tours, to take in skyline and scenery along the harbour. The Oriole hosts the only multi-lingual Scenic Harbour tour in Toronto, offering narrations in English, French, Spanish, Mandarin, German and Japanese. One of the Oriole’s most memorable voyages was in 1988, when she hosted Mila Mulroney, Nancy Reagan, and the wives of G7 attendees for a private afternoon charter.
The Northern Spirit came as the Spirit of Norfolk and was renamed The Pride of Toronto. When Mariposa Cruises purchased her, she underwent extensive renovations and was rebranded as The Northern Spirit. The Spirit has hosted some amazing corporate events, including a spectacular city wide conference special event for 1000 guests, co-hosted by the adjacent Flinders. The event featured an outdoor tent the length of the Northern Spirit, an ice-luge on the dock, a steady flow of hors d’ouevres, food stations named after the streets that represented the different cultural districts in Toronto, and performers from Cavalia Odysseo performing acrobatics on the dock. Along with The Captain Matthew Flinders, The Northern Spirit is one of the largest passenger vessels in the harbour and a favourite among our Captains to navigate because she handles so well. Perfectly designed for hosting large events, the Northern Spirit has twin engines, an open concept interior and lots of open deck space to enjoy the views of Toronto’s skyline.
And then there were seven!
The Showboat joined the Mariposa Fleet in 1993. Originally build as a dinner theatre venue, The Showboat featured a stage and large dining room. In 2013, The Showboat went under an extensive renovation, which included being cut in half with twelve feet added to the centre. This increased the passenger capacity from 89 to 149 onboard. The Showboat continues to be a popular wedding venue choice, with large dance floor and big picture windows in the dining salon, it is easy to understand why. As we celebrate our 30th Anniversary and Canada’s 150th, we share two of Showboat’s most memorable Canadian moments. On Canada Day in 2015 The Showboat hosted the Stanley Cup on a private event organized by NHL champion Brian Bickell of the Chicago Blackhawks.
One event that has remained with us is a reunion of Vietnamese who faced great hardship and personal loss to escape Vietnam in the 80’s. They all came from the same 8 block area of Hanoi, and dispersed across the globe, with many finally choosing to settle in Canada. Two decades later, with the help of the internet, they found each other again and planned a reunion on the Showboat. The emotion of that cruise was overwhelming, a mix of sorrow for the horrors they remembered, and unspeakable joy at being reunited again after years.
Our Captain was humbled to be part of such a joyous occasion. “It was something to behold. And the fact that Canada opened its doors to many of them, and that they all did so well over the years in spite of all the hardship, with two or three generations on board sharing in the experience- it was such a wonderful celebration and a proud moment for all of us.”
Last, but not least …
The Klancy sailed to Toronto from St. Thomas and joined our fleet in 2011. The name comes from incorporating the two names of the original owners. The Klancy has hosted a variety of weddings, VIP events and is the perfect size for sailing around the islands and lagoons. She is the vessel of choice for Mariposa Cruises’ annual company picnic. The cruise hospitality industry is hard work, particularly challenging because we run a seasonal operation. Boats need care and maintenance. Our crew works tirelessly and in all weather conditions. During peak season, we can host up to 3000 passengers a day. With so many moving parts to our business, and specialists in their field, Sales, Reservations, Hospitality, Events, Accounting, Operations to our Officers and Marine Engineers–we are really a team of teams working collectively to bring our guests the best cruise experience possible. Our cruising season continues until New Year’s Eve, but around Labour Day, the Mariposa crew boards the Klancy and heads to the islands for a BBQ. We celebrate our accomplishments and say farewell to some of our seasonal team members.
Today, the Mariposa Cruises fleet consists of six of the most beautiful boats in the harbour. We take pride in the events we have hosted, the people we have met, and the crew we have had the pleasure of working with. Thank you, Toronto. It’s been an honour to have hosted experiences for the millions who have come aboard our vessels and to share our view of this wonderful city.
A very special thanks to our team over the years. The Mariposa crew are a special lot and their dedication and amazing talent has contributed to Mariposa Cruise’s success over 30 years.
Happy 150th Canada!
Introducing 3D Virtual Tours! Take a tour of our fleet.