New cruiser on the Horizon: $6 million, 600-passenger dining yacht, docked in Lincoln Harbor,
After being involved with coordinating dinner cruises for the last 15 years, Larry Moran decided the time had come to hit the high seas on his own. Moran, a Fort Lee native, spent many years as a director with the Spirit of New York/New Jersey lines, based out of Weehawken's Lincoln Harbor, for the past decade. But Moran felt the time had come to be his own boss. "I just needed to find the right partners with the right financing," Moran said. "Once I found that opportunity, I was ready to throw everything I had into it." For the last two years, Moran and his partners have been busy making the preparations and plans for their own venture, building their own elegant dining vessel. "The plans began in April of 1998 and construction began 15 months ago," Moran said. "I had a job in Chicago working for Premier Yacht, but I quit that job to concentrate on this venture. So I'd say that this was pretty significant to me and represented a huge gamble." But Moran had faith that the gamble would be minimal. "Knowing the local market as well as I do, I knew that there was room for an upscale dining vessel, a product that didn't exist," Moran said. "I knew that it was something that could be very successful if done right." Moran also knew that he wanted to call Lincoln Harbor home. "It's a proven location," Moran said. "The Spirit cruises have originated in Weehawken for years. It really made sense to make it the home for the Horizon." More than two years after the first plan was introduced, Moran's dream is about to become reality. The $6 million, 600-passenger, three-tiered Horizon, already docked at the Lincoln Harbor Marina, is ready to set sail and take on passengers. The official grand opening is slated for mid-to-late May, but Moran's staff and crew have been taking regular practice runs with invited customers. "We're getting ready to open to the general public," Moran said. "I think we'll be ready by the end of the month." Moran is eager to introduce his vessel to the people of northern New Jersey. "It's a very exciting time," said Moran, who will serve as the president and managing partner of Horizon Cruises, Inc. "I think there is a market for sophisticated, upscale dining on a cruise vessel. A lot of the other dining cruises are unaffordable to the private person. But with a 600-passenger boat, you can deliver the private yacht experience." Moran said that the dinner cruises will start at $56, with the customer receiving a four-course meal and live entertainment during the course of a four-hour cruise around Manhattan. A four-hour tour
There will also be lunch and brunch cruises scheduled, as well as catering capabilities for private parties, weddings and other occasions. "We've already had a tremendous response for weddings," Moran said. "We've had so many calls from interested people and our advanced bookings are way ahead of schedule, off the charts." The ship is truly one of its kind. It stands 165 feet long and 40 feet wide, making it longer and wider than most dining vessels. It stands 50 feet (or about five stories) high above the water line. It also features panoramic windows on every level and has been endowed with lavish cherry wood and brass furnishings, to take on the look of a four-star hotel. "It's a luxurious ship," Moran said. "People have told me that it's not a boat, that it's more like a floating hotel. It resembles the grand ballroom of a hotel. It has complete handicap access and we've put in a dumbwaiter system to assure the highest of food quality on all levels." Moran also went out of the way to secure a top chef, with former Waldorf Astoria chef Robert Grancio coordinating the menu. "It is really unique," Moran said. "People see it and love it. Our best sales tool is the vessel itself. The corporate market loves it and the general public will love it when they get a chance to see it. When people see the prices and the affordability, they will want to come and experience the Horizon as well. There really is nothing like it. I've been on many ships all over the world and it's the nicest dinner boat I've ever seen." Moran is still experiencing some growing pains, like finding an office. "There's an office barge being built for us and it is being delivered to Edgewater," Moran laughed. "It's being prepped to float down the river to us in Weehawken. We've had to handle hurdle after hurdle. It's been an incredible adventure, but we're ready for business." And now, it's up to the general public to see if the business is there.