Foxy Lady Cruises of Green Bay, Wis., has launched a Downtown river cruise service. Private cruises have begun and public cruises are scheduled to start the weekend of March 23.
Jacksonville is the second location for the cruise company.
"We've been looking at the Florida market for years," owner John "Capt. Mitch" Michkowski said Thursday.
"We've kind of scoured the area. With the beauty of the river, the waterfront, the skyline, I think it's an excellent market," he said.
Michkowski has owned the company for 14 years and said plans for the Foxy Lady Cruises, named after the Fox River in Wisconsin, are to initially provide two to three public cruises a week from Downtown, in addition to private and corporate cruises.
Jacksonville's most recent river-cruise boat, the Princess II, ended its service several years ago and was docked at the Crowne Plaza Jacksonville Riverfront.
Michkowski called Jacksonville a "wide-open market" and said he has worked with the City's Office of Economic Development, including Executive Director Ted Carter, to launch the operation.
Michkowski said he is not seeking government subsidies .
Michkowski said he has two boats. One remains in Wisconsin and the second operates in Jacksonville.
The 96-foot-long, 20-foot-wide vessel can hold 149 passengers and will have 2-hour evening dinner cruises and 11/2-hour afternoon sightseeing and lunch tours.
The vessel is named the Naples Princess, but Michkowski said it will be renamed the Jacksonville Lady after documents with the state have been completed.
Michkowski said cruise prices will range from $24.95 for a sightseeing tour to $49.95 for the longer cruises that include meals. Schedules and additional information should be available soon, he said.
He said the main differences between Green Bay and Jacksonville are in the business model and availability to operate.
He says Jacksonville will be a year-round operation while Wisconsin's weather is conducive for operating May-September.
Michkowski also said the corporate climates differ.
Green Bay's population was about 100,000 and the summertime clients were tourists.
He said Jacksonville's population is more than 1 million and offers a larger corporate market, which he hopes to leverage for event promotions and company outings.
Michkowski said the boat will be docked at River City Brewing Company on the Southbank and will launch there for private events.
Public cruises will load and unload on the Northbank at the end of Liberty Street.
Michkowski was docked there Thursday to interview for crew members. He wants to hire 6-8 people to assist in the operation.
Much of the Jacksonville information on its website, foxyladycruises.com, has not been updated but will be soon, he said.
Michkowski's wife and business partner, Carolyn, will return to Green Bay to oversee that operation with a new boat captain while Michkowski remains in Jacksonville.
"We're looking to bring more to do here (Downtown)," he said.
He said it took a month to move the vessel from Green Bay to Jacksonville via the waterways at slow rates of speed.
"It's quite a trip," he said.