Savannah Riverboat Cruises Celebrates 25 Years Sailing the Savannah River Aboard its New Georgia Queen

Staff Report From Savannah CEO

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

On Friday evening, February 24, 2017, Savannah Riverboat Cruises held a grand affair aboard its new Georgia Queen to officially christen the 1000-passenger cruise ship and to commemorate the company’s 25th anniversary sailing the Savannah River.

The Georgia Queen came to Savannah’s Historic Riverfront in November 2016 after making a 2800 mile journey down the Mississippi River, across the Gulf of Mexico, around the shorelines of Florida and Key West to call Savannah her new home. The luxury vessel is in fact the largest and grandest ship of its kind, which makes her a special addition to Georgia’s beautiful coastline and an important contributing factor in Georgia and Savannah’s tourism and economic development.

The celebration on Friday began with a special appearance by Miss Georgia Teen USA Taylor Ward of Valdosta, Ga. The newly crowned 18-year-old served as Savannah Riverboat Cruises’ honorary guest and christened the new vessel with the company’s founder and owner, Captain Jonathan Claughton. Reverend Kenny Grant of Calvary Baptist Church was also on hand to offer a blessing for The Georgia Queen, which is a longstanding maritime tradition.

“For 25 years, Savannah Riverboat Cruises has been delighting guests with customized river cruises that include a unique view of Savannah and Georgia’s history. With live entertainment, fine dining, and true southern hospitality, they are an integral part of the fabric that makes our historic district such a special place. We are very proud to have the Georgia Queen grace our riverfront.” Jeff Hewitt, senior vice president at Visit Savannah.

While the company is celebrating 25 years in business, Claughton is actually celebrating nearly 50 years in the maritime industry. Growing up, Claughton called the Cumberland River home, working alongside his family (dad, mom, brother, and sister) operating a 44-passenger riverboat, named Belle Carol after his sister, in Nashville, Tenn.

“As a boy, I sold Coca-Colas to passengers, swabbed decks, cleaned toilets, worked as an oiler in the engine room -- you name it, I did it,” said Capt. Jonathan Claughton. “I was this wide-eyed kid and just loved it. I soaked it all up.”

By 18-years-old, Claughton had received his captain’s license and there was no turning back. Since then, his hard work has earned him respect nationwide in the maritime industry. He’s served as president of the Passenger Vessel Association where he helped develop industry standards for passenger vessel safety and security; served as a director of numerous industry-related boards; was a founding member of the Tourism Leadership Council and continues to serve as an active partner between passenger vessels and the U.S. Coast Guard.

“It’s a hard business,” said Claughton, “and in fact, it’s arguably two of the hardest industries combined: hospitality and maritime. But it’s my passion and I get to meet the most incredible people from all over the world every day on our ships. That and my pure love of the water is what keeps me coming back.”