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A staple of summertime returns: Hiawatha River Cruises are back!

A warm-weather tradition in central Pennsylvania is getting back to rollin’ on the river this Fourth of July weekend. It’s a first since COVID-19 hit.

A staple of summer in central Pennsylvania gets back to cruising again this Independence Day weekend.

Friday, July 3, 2020, marks the first cruises of the season for the Hiawatha Paddlewheel Riverboat in the Williamsport area.

Newswatch 16's Ryan Leckey visited the boat in Lycoming County on Friday. He showed what's new this season and what to expect regarding new safety measures due to COVID-19.

"Hiawatha, Inc." is a 501 C 3 not for profit organization. It relies on community sponsors for each and every cruising season.

The new cruise schedule

Organizers tell Newswatch 16 "the daytime cruises will operate twice daily Wednesday through Friday at 2:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Weekend cruises times will be 1:00 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 4:00 p.m."

Special Event Cruises will also happen this season. They include Wing Night, Dinner Cruise, Craft Beer and Wine Cruises, along with Concert Cruises.

The paddlewheel riverboat crew will also offer its "Floating Classroom Series" during July, August, and September.

Online ticket sales for all of the cruises can be purchased at this link. Tickets can also be purchased at the administrative office, 1500 West Third Street, Williamsport, PA.

Safety measures in place

The following plans are in place surrounding COVID-19 according to the Hiawatha's crew:

  • Reduction of passengers on each of the cruises. Capacity has been reduced, and tables will be assigned for event cruises.
  • Due to COVID-19, the Hiawatha will operate much like any restaurant in Pennsylvania where tables will be 6 feet apart, and no more than groups of 4 people may be seated together.
  • Facial coverings must be worn by passengers when boarding and departing cruises and when moving about the enclosed lower deck.
  • Food and beverage service will be only offered by the wait staff, and social distancing guidelines will be enforced.
  • Hand sanitizing stations will be available, and high touch areas will be cleaned frequently.

More on the Hiawatha from its board members:

The Hiawatha may be rented for private events such as weddings, rehearsal dinners, birthday parties, anniversaries, business meetings, or any event. 

There is a full-service beverage service aboard, and the boat can accommodate caterers as well as bands, DJs, and entertainers. The main cabin is climate controlled and can be heated or cooled to make the cruise comfortable any time of the year.

For more information on the Hiawatha season, specialty cruises, departure times, prices, and private charter rental, call River Valley Transit at 570.326.2500 or visit its website for details.