Cruise boats plying Lake Mead and the Colorado River offer daytime sightseeing tours, evening dinner cruises and opportunities for celebrating special events. The Desert Princess on Lake Mead above Hoover Dam and the Celebration on the Colorado at Laughlin are jaunty replica paddle-wheelers reminiscent of Mississippi River steamboats. The USS Riverside is a sleek modern cruiser built to motor upstream from Laughlin under the highway bridge toward Davis Dam.
Sturdy little steamboats were the workhorses on the untamed Colorado River of yesteryear before dams tamed the river and created lakes. A vital link for isolated communities, the boats carried passengers, supplies, draft animals, food supplies, equipment and the production of area mines and mills. In bygone days, boat passage on the river was often challenging with danger from shifting sandbars, driftwood, boulders and white-water rapids through narrow canyons. Today’s motorized watercraft safely carry passengers on narrated scenic excursions.
Lake Mead’s Desert Princess is the largest of the cruise boats in use on the lake or river. The Coast Guard-certified triple-decked paddle-wheeler carries 275 passengers and 10 crew members. Lake Mead Cruises, an authorized national park concessionaire, operates the boat from its landing at Horsepower Cove near Boulder City. To reach the pier and large boathouse frequently used for special events, follow U.S. Highway 93 to Boulder City. At the second stoplight, turn left on the truck route and follow it to Lakeshore Road, state Route 166. Turn left again, watching for the sign to Hemenway Cove. Turn right at the road to Horsepower Cove. Follow this road to reach the Desert Princess parking area, landing building and pier.
Available most of the year, the 90-minute, narrated midday cruise offers comfortable seating inside or outside on the promenade or covered outdoor deck for a fare of $26 for adults and $13 for children ages 2 to 11. Snacks and beverages are available inside at the bar and grill. Sunday champagne brunch cruises are featured several months of the year for $45 for adults and $19.50 for children. Ideal for special occasions, romantic two-hour dinner cruises offer fine dining and nighttime views of Hoover Dam all lit up for a cost of $61 for adults and $25 for children.
From April through October, the Desert Princess maintains a busy schedule of two daily midday sightseeing tours, evening dinner excursions and weekend champagne brunch tours. The winter schedule is curtailed for downtime maintenance. The Desert Princess will be available through early December for tours at noon or 2 p.m. No tours will be offered after Dec. 6 until the spring schedule resumes in February. Consult the upcoming schedule online and make reservations at lakemeadcruises.com or call 866-292-9191.
In Laughlin, narrated scenic river tours are offered by two casino resorts. The Celebration is a replica two-deck paddle-wheeler that carries 110 passengers plus crew. It docks at the south end of the Aquarius on the river. It takes passengers on 90-minute midday tours once or twice daily for a cost of $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 4 to 10. Celebration also takes two-hour dinner cruises five days a week through November and on 12 days in December for $40 per person. Call the resort for details and reservations at 702-298-1047.
The USS Riverside, docked at the Riverside, is a cruiser capable of powering upriver toward Davis Dam, passing under the highway bridge from Laughlin that links Nevada and Arizona. It is a busy boat, offering one-hour, 20-minute cruises four times daily, plus two sunset cruises on Saturdays. The scenic cruises cost $10 for adults and $6 for children. Call the Riverside for information at 702-298-2535 or visit riversideresort.com.
— Margo Bartlett Pesek’s Trip of the Week column appears on Sundays.