(Photo by @therobong)
Millions of visitors travel to Niagara Falls each year to witness the Falls up close and personal. Last year, over 1.6 million guests experienced a Hornblower Niagara Cruises daytime boat tour and evening cruise between the months of April – November where our boats toured guests past the American and Bridal Veil Falls and into the heart of the Niagara Gorge facing the thundering Canadian Horseshoe Falls. Captain Mark is one of the men behind the catamarans who ensures each and every passenger has a safe and enjoyable onboard experience. We sat down with Captain Mark to see what it’s like to operate Hornblower’s state-of-the-art 700-passenger catamarans and one of Niagara Falls biggest and most talked about attractions.
Q: What is the most rewarding part about your job?
A: The most rewarding part of my job is being able to show Niagara Falls to visitors from all over the world especially the ones seeing it the first time in their lives. I love to see the look of amazement on the faces as they see the falls for the first time.
Q: When you are not operating the boats on the water what additional duties does a Captain have?
A: When the Captain is not operating the boats he is responsible for the safety and maintenance of the ship. He does inspections and supervises the crew in the upkeep of the vessel. He leads the safety and emergency drills that are practiced almost everyday. He ensures the vessel equipment is kept in proper working order and documents and records are kept in order.
Q: Did you have a favourite moment you recently experienced?
A: My favorite moment at Hornblower was opening day. It was great seeing all the hard work that everyone had done in preparation for the day. It made me extremely proud to be part of a big piece of history. The day was a big success and just so happened to be my birthday. The last trip of the day, the entire Hornblower staff came for a cruise and presented me with a birthday cake.
Q: How many boat trips/ evening cruises as a Captain do you operate a day?
A: The catamarans make between 15 to 26 trips a day depending on the period of the visitor season. The high peak visitor season is between the months of June to September.
Q: As a captain you tour hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world each day was there one person or group in particular that made your day extra special?
A: The most memorable day for me so far was the day an elderly woman in her late eighties approached me and told me how much Niagara Falls has changed since she rode the adventure to the falls 60 years ago on her honeymoon with her now deceased husband. She continued on about how her trip was and how beautiful the city is. One thing she remembered was the bells ringing in the Carillon Tower (located on the Canadian side of the Rainbow Bridge) when she was here last but had not been able to find the tower. At that moment I could hear the bells ringing in the distance and when I asked her if she recognized the noise she began to weep as she was so happy to finally find the tower.
Q: What made you want to become a Captain?
A: I wanted to be a Captain since I started driving my Father’s’ outboard fishing boat as a young boy. I began working on the Great Lake Freighters when I was 16 years old. Having observed the Captain of these large ships maneuver the vessels with such precision made me want to start this as a career of my own.
Q: Explain what a First Mate is?
A: The First Mate is what you would call the Captain’s right hand man or woman. He or she is second in command of the ship and is the eyes and the ears of the Captain throughout the ship. The first mate is in charge of the crew of the ship, the safe unloading and loading of passengers and cargo. The first mate is responsible for the safety of everyone on board.
Q: What is your favourite thing about Niagara Falls?
A: I love the beautiful outdoors in Niagara Falls. When I’m not cruising the waters, I am usually hiking along the Niagara Gorge near the rapids and the whirlpool. I also enjoy kayaking the lower end of the Niagara River and cycling throughout the Niagara Escarpment.