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Northern Star maiden voyage on Memphremagog - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Northern Star maiden voyage on Memphremagog

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NEWPORT, Vt. -

A boat that once called Lake Champlain home set sail on Lake Memphremagog Wednesday night after quite a transformation.   

It was a who's who of the Newport business world aboard the Northern Star -- after a few photo ops -- and some final preparations -- around 7 p.m. the cruise ship launched into the lake.

"We're firm believers that the future for Newport is really, really bright," explained boat Captain Chris Johansen.

Johansen bought the Northern Star last year -- she used to be an overnight cruise ship called Moonlight Lady on Lake Champlain.  It took just three weeks to take apart and truck her up the interstate -- but five more months to bring her back to life.  The Captain hopes the changes will make passengers feel more like they're on a yacht -- than a public vessel. The cocktails and live music sure help.

"We just want them to enjoy themselves. And this boat, I truly believe has a purpose in this town," Johansen said.

Newport has been in an economic recession for years, but is slowly starting to see change.  Many in the business community think the boat is part of the new wave.

"It's a great way to get more people downtown, and to be using our restaurants and our shopping and seeing our library and our other jewels that are downtown," explained Patricia Sears with the Newport City Renaissance.

City officials are banking on the 1 and a half hour tour, breathtaking views -- and novelty that once aboard -- you spend some time in Canadian waters -- will attract day-trippers from around the state.

"Lots of people come to town looking for things to do -- tourists -- and we had a boat in the lake a few years ago and they keep coming and asking ‘when does the boat run? when does the boat run?' and so I really think this is going to be good for tourists and good for us," said John Ward, the Newport City Manager.

Though the boat is a big investment -- Johansen did captain cruise ships on the lake in the 90s but more recently was at the helm of the Spirit of Ethan Allen in Burlington -- so he feels it's a business model that will stay afloat.

"We did it before in years past. We have a track record, and we felt that bringing a much higher scale boat to the area -- the timing was perfect," explained Johansen.

Now that the Northern Lady is officially open for business -- tours will take place many times a day -- and tickets start at $16.95.

"I think this is awesome. It's really nice. It's a real smooth ride and it's just great," said Diane Ward, a passenger of the first cruise.

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