As captain of Milwaukee's two Edelweiss ships for the past five years, Robert Carr was concerned when the ships' proprietor, Hans Weissgerber III's Waterfront Entertainment Group, filed for receivership last October. The Third Street Pier closed that same month, and Weissgerber formally announced that the Edelweiss Cruise Lines would cease operations as well, leaving the two vessels treading water along the riverbank behind the restaurant.
Seeing the boats as positive assets for Milwaukee, Captain Carr and long-time friend Dan Jorgenson sought to save the ships. Shopping the proposal to investors -- including Pieces of Eight general manager Daniel Hensley -- they ultimately decided to proceed with a private investor to purchase the boats.
By March 18, Carr and Jorgenson were working on a new logo for the Milwaukee River Cruise Line featuring the Edelweiss Ships.
Carr, with his five years of experience as ship captain, will continue operating the Edelweiss I and II, while Jorgenson -- who has experience working on the Washington Island Ferry Line -- will handle marketing and accounting for the new cruise line.
Although both agree that the primary functions of the 70-foot Edelweiss I, which seats 100 passengers, and the 85-foot Edelweiss II, which seats 150, will remain similar to what they've been since construction in the late '80s -- brunches, lunches, happy hours, dinners and private parties -- Jorgenson says he and Carr are looking to broaden the company's scope.
In addition to maintaining the public schedule of catered tours, they are also working on a deal with Pier Wisconsin to introduce daily sight-seeing tours that would allow one ship to dock in the marina outside the new Pier and the other in the Milwaukee River at 1110 Old World 3rd St. When redevelopment of the Third Street Pier and marina starts this fall, the ships will move slightly down river to dock behind the Steinmeyer Building, the home of the cruise line's new ticket office.
"Our business will differ from the old in its ability to serve the clients' needs without demanding exclusivity," says Jorgenson. "We'd like to broaden our horizons on the privately chartered stuff, as well. In years past we had to utilize the food out of Third Street Pier, but now we're looking at a variety of local caterers and we hope to create some kind of flat package rate where clients get the boat, the crew, the food and they're able to utilize it for different functions."
In the weeks since the purchase became final, Carr and Jorgenson have been busy revamping the vessels' interiors, including fresh paint and new bathrooms -- which are now nearly 20 years old. As a team they are working swiftly and Carr says they'll be cruising by May 1 and are currently taking reservations.
"Milwaukee has unique attributes considering the lakefront and the river," says Jorgenson. "Given the intense amount of development in the Downtown area, I can only wish to turn ahead a chapter of the book of Milwaukee. It's an exciting time to be living in Milwaukee, and we are excited to have the opportunity to provide people with a unique view of Milwaukee and its fruition."
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”