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Riverfront Attracts Cruise Business

La Crosse Family Hopes to Cash in on Dubuque's Revitalization

Rob Kundert

Dubuque Telegraph Herald

April 17, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Dubuque Telegraph Herald.]

A new dinner cruise vessel should be plying the waters of the Mississippi in a few weeks. It's not another Port of Dubuque venue - this one's out of the Dubuque Yacht Basin.

"It's very exciting," said Lora Shonts, formerly of La Crosse, Wis., who with her husband, Ted, and son, Lance, plan to operate the Dubuque's American Lady beginning the first week of May.

"We want to complement Dubuque's wonderful riverfront development and honor America's river - the Mississippi River," she said.

Because the city owns Chaplain Schmitt Island and leases a portion to the Dubuque Yacht Basin, the City Council will be asked to approve a sublease with the new business at tonight's council meeting.

The boat will offer three to five cruises per day, seven days per week, until late October.

The menu - dishes like prime rib, orange roughfy parmesan, honey-baked spiral ham, teriyaki chicken breast and walleye with pecan butter sauce - will be served by another yacht basin tenant, Catfish Charlie's.

"Being located at the Marina will bring a
lot of traffic to the area. It will be an asset to the restaurant and to them," said Bob Runberg, senior vice president of operations for yacht basin's American Marine.

The cruise possibilities range from breakfast, lunch and dinner, to cocktail, sightseeing, moonlight and special events.

Then there's the Cocktail Pizza Cruise - catered by Domino's with free pizza, pop and beer.

The totally refitted 80-foot yacht - similar to its Ice Harbor competition, the Miss Dubuque, owned by Dubuque River Rides - should be headed down river next week, according to Pam Linden, of MidStates Yachts Inc., who sold the boat.

The 149-person capacity craft can seat 110 and features an enclosed lower level, an upper level enclosed lounge backed by a covered aft area, plus an open bow area.

"It's a beautifully appointed luxurious yacht," Linden said.

Recently retired after nearly 30 years as a court reporter, and with her husband in line to retire from Alliant Energy in a year, Lora Shonts called the dinner cruise business "another selected lifestyle change."

A family of "boat people," Lora said they in fact lived on their last boat - a 75-foot SkipperLiner - while in La Crosse. They've since downsized to a 55-footer.

The decision to come to Dubuque was carefully thought out. The family looked into a warmer climate to operate year-round, but ran into various problems from dock space to dredging.

"We found out that Dubuque was revitalizing its riverfront and using it as an asset. We liked that," said Lance, who along with his father will train over the next year with an experienced captain to be certified to handle the craft.

"It's a very inviting opportunity," Lora Shonts said. "We want to offer an upscale boat-dining experience complementary to Catfish Charlie's, American Marine and the island."