17-May-18 Chicago River tour boats are coming back from their winter vacations bigger.
Shoreline Sightseeing has lengthened Bright Star and two other vessels by 20 feet. The boats are longer to give passengers on the upper decks more room and unobstructed views.
Chip Collopy and Matt Collopy, co-owners of Shoreline Sightseeing, say Chicagos increasing popularity with tourists helped convince them to invest $5 million in the refit.
|We thought the time was right to invest in providing an enhanced tour experience for our customers, said Matt Collopy (right). Its been great to watch Chicago increase its ranking as a top tourism destination. Chicago has so much to offer visitors that we are confident the city will become even more popular as a touring destination in the future.
The boats were modified at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Besides being lengthened, each ships bar and concession area was updated, along with electrical and sound systems.
To make them longer, the boats were cut in half and new prefabricated center pieces were hand-welded into place.
Matt Collopy told Door County Pulse the goal was not to increase total passenger capacity but to add seating to the upper deck so more customers had a good experience.
||(Left) Star of Chicago with a new section inserted into the middle of the boat. Photo by Jerome Orsted.
Bright Star is the first of the three ships to return to active service. Evening Star and Star of Chicago are expected back later in May.
The three vessels are needed for Shorelines Architecture River Tours, ranked by TripAdvisor as the most-booked tourist experience costing less than $150 in the United States in 2017, and the second-most-booked in the world, behind a tour of museums, St. Peters Basilica, and Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.