Grand River Dinner Cruises is located in the tranquil County of Brant and cruises on a 20 km section of the Grand River between Caledonia and Brantford, Ontario. The area has a unique aboriginal heritage scattered with quaint farming towns and communities. The Grand River flows 300 km through the heartland of Southern Ontario and was declared a Canadian Heritage River in 1994.
Grand River Dinner Cruises sails three boats all season, the Grand River Belle, Grand River Queen and Grand River Princess. Each boat can comfortably hold a bus load of passengers with each table arranged along a window to give all passengers a great view. The promenade deck, that surrounds the dining area, allows everyone to stroll the deck or sit and enjoy the river scenery. All boats are wheelchair accessible and are licensed by AGCO to serve beer, wine & spirits.
All boats are inspected annually by Transport Canada and are fully equipped with life saving equipment, life jackets, fire fighting equipment and radio communications. All crew members are specially trained in emergency procedures and CPR.
Cruising the Grand since 1978
In 1972, John Albin and wife Luella built a home along the banks of the Grand outside Caledonia. The property ran along a creek and had a century old barn that had been a prosperous cattle farm in its better years but had been vacant for many years. John and Luella both grew up in farming families and had planned in turning this property back into a prosperous farm. However, in 1976, John built a houseboat for the family and there sparked the idea of introducing riverboat cruises on the Grand River.
From the knowledge John gained from constructing his own houseboat, he designed a larger boat that would seat a bus group. The boats would dock on Big Creek and would include a petting farm, and John & Luella came up with the name Big Creek Boat Farm. In 1978, the “Boat Farm” opened with the Grand River Belle being the first boat. During the first few years, John and Luella were trying to target a market for the cruises. The century old barn was named “Old MacDonald’s Farm” and school groups would come to pet animals and then take a nature boat ride up Big Creek to “The Lost Forest” on a boat named “The Tinkerbelle”. Bus groups would come to take a lunch cruise on the Grand River Belle.
More demand was from bus groups looking for day trips than from school groups so in 1982, John converted the “Old MacDonald’s Farm” into “The Loft” that held a Music Theatre, Bake Shop and Craft Shop. Luella produced and accompanied the music show as well as working in the office, John looked after the boats and the day-to-day operation. This package became an ideal day trip for groups. By 1987, John had built two more boats the Grand River Queen and the Grand River Princess and started to offer evening dinner cruises also. The name “Grand River Dinner Cruises” was introduced in the mid-90’s as this was the direction the business took.
In 2000, the current building named “The Landing” was constructed housing the auditorium, office, and craft shop. The tour wagon and Tinkerbelle were then retired to pasture and the century old barn was converted into a hobby farm for the family. Today Grand River Dinner Cruises has a staff of 40 people from the community and offers a variety of cruises from Lunch to Sunset Dinner Cruises to Private Charters. The name “Boat Farm” is still used by longstanding customers and staff.
John and Luella’s son, Blain, and daughter, Dana Johnson, have been managing the business since 1998. The century old barn is still standing and is now a farm specializing in goat meat, operated by Blain. Luella is retired from the every day business but maintains an advisory position in the family business. John passed away in 2006 leaving a thriving, entrepreneurial enterprise for future generations.
© Copyright 2016 Grand River Dinner Cruises
Caledonia, Ontario, Canada
905-765-4107 or 800-847-3321