Company History of Diamond Jack River Tours in Detroit

Company History

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Sightseeing tour heading toward down town Detroit waterfront
Captain Bill Hoey of Grosse Ile, founder of Diamond Jack’s River Tours and the Gaelic Tugboat Company, was born in Ferndale, Michigan. As a youngster he spent summers at his uncle’s cottage in northern Canada, which nurtured his interest in boats. The great old steamboats that plied the Great Lakes captured Hoey’s imagination, and led to his decision to pursue a career in the maritime industry.

In 1961, Hoey was working for the Fuller Marine Towing Co., which was owned by Elmer Dean and Warren Fuller. In 1964, Capt. Fuller retired and sold his business to Hoey. The business grew with the towing of salt and oil barges and with ship assistance — moving the giant Great Lakes freighters into and out of small areas. Success allowed Hoey to purchase more tugs, and at one point he ran a fleet of 14 tugs. Being of Irish/Protestant descent, but also having a good Irish/Catholic friend, Hoey selected orange, green and white as his fleet colors. The smokestacks of Gaelic’s tugs, which traditionally represent the vessel owner, are orange.

Sightseeing tour looks at the Renaissance CenterWith the change in the economy in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Bill planned for the future. Harbor tours worked in other cities and Detroit was ideal for this type of activity. In 1991, he purchased a 65 foot former Arnold Line Mackinac Island ferry, the Diamond Jack, outfitted it as a sightseeing vessel, and launched Diamond Jack’s River Tours. The company’s two hour tours present highlights of the Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, Canada skylines, along with historical anecdotes about both cities. A big bonus of the tours is when a Great Lakes freighter blows her whistle as she glides by the Diamond Jack.

In early 1993, Hoey purchased another Arnold Line ferry, christened the Diamond Belle. This 91 foot mini-ship is now used exclusively for group charters. These charters had become so popular that Bill added yet another Arnold Line vessel to the fleet, the Diamond Queen. Hundreds of corporate parties, wedding receptions, fund-raisers, family reunions, and senior citizen outings have taken place aboard our vessels. Also, longer cruises to Port Huron, Toledo, Sans Souci and Wallaceburg, Ontario are popular destinations of customers chartering the Diamond Queen each summer.Owners of Diamond Jack on deck

The tour business has become a family venture. Bill’s daughter Patricia Hoey-Carrothers is now President. Patty’s husband, Steve, is a Captain and the Operations Coordinator.

Captain Bill Hoey was committed to sharing his love of the Great Lakes and its lore by offering the public a family-oriented fun and affordable way to enjoy summer on the Detroit River. Although Mr. Hoey died in December, 2013 his legacy lives on in the thrill and excitement of cruising the Detroit River on a Diamond Jack River Tour.

Allyson Thomas
20:49 29 Aug 19
The boat was very clean and the people working were friendly. I loved the humor while we got info about each sight we were looking at. It was well worth the money for the amount of time we got out on the water with them!read more
Wes Yates
03:09 20 Aug 19
Incredible staff in a great time. Very knowledgeable and full of history. I would do this again and again and again
Lisa Whitten
12:39 18 Aug 19
The tour was relaxing and informative. The two hours was a perfect length. The line at the concession stand was long, but it moved quickly, thankfully. We thoroughly enjoyed it!read more
Sandra I have no idea
14:51 15 Aug 19
Love taking their scenic trips once a year. Knowledgeable and safety conscious.
Angela Toth
10:45 06 Aug 19
Wounderful day for a boat ride. We done all their cruises. Nice rides.
William Pellegrino
08:23 01 Aug 19
This is a great way to get out on the water and see two cities. You get a narrator to give you some history and the boat moves, as opposed to the Princess, which barely goes faster than the current.read more
Angela Anthony
23:07 27 Jul 19
The tour was great and fun. The moderator was very informative. We had a good time.
Caroll Brown
22:57 26 Jul 19
Had a great time! The cruise was very nice and informative just wish they had evening cruises and a better food selection, other than that, it was a nice getaway!read more
Lady E
19:33 25 Jul 19
Nice and not crowed boat ride.
Melissa Lankford
22:43 15 Jul 19
Me & my son went with his class. They were very professional & all the crew on board were very friendly
Shafiqa Garrison
22:22 14 Jul 19
I really enjoyed myself during the tour! I also learned a lot of history about Detroit and Windsor, Canada 🇨🇦. If you have 2 hours of free time check this out! It’s really worth it!!read more
Lisa McManamon
14:02 14 Jul 19
This was a very cool thing to do on the Detroit River that is inexpensive and fun! You also learn about Detroit which some people might not already knowread more
Doris Hurt
20:26 09 Jul 19
Beautiful two hour cruise down the Detroit River. They need a new narrator, the one they had puts you to sleep, too monotone!!read more
Minner Latham
05:37 05 Jul 19
Peaceful, entertaining, educational, being on the water was very relaxing. The ride was great. Could have more snacks on board.read more
Marilynn Leedom
09:18 15 Jun 19
When we were downstairs we could not understand the announcements. Also they need to update their commentary. The Joe Lewis arena has begun demolition, among other things.read more
Jill Wickliff
02:23 04 Jun 19
Very nice, scenic enjoyable
boz vlogs 2
02:33 10 May 19
5 stars as always!
Janet Bachman
00:59 25 Oct 18
Nice tour of Detroit area. Would be nice if they expanded the variety of food and drinks offered.
Nikki Lee
17:26 17 Sep 18
I absolutely love Jack diamond river tours! I just wish the season didn't end so soon it would be nice if it they offered tours to October. I would definitely recommend Jack diamond tours for a great time.read more
Elizabeth Scheuer-Murphy
13:14 09 Sep 18
Rented the boat for a function. We did an evening cruise. It was early September. It was a little cool so bring a jacket or sweater. Had a catered dinner on the ship the food was good. You could walk around the 3 levels. The lights were very nice to watch. The staff was friendly and helpful. Like any captive place drinks were a little pricey. Overall very niceread more
brooke shastachuk
20:51 05 Aug 18
The boat tour was fun. I liked the facts that the announcer said about the certain buildings and landmarks we sailed by. We saw places like: Kid Rock's vacation home, the boblo boat dock, and the hotel where the Beatles stayed! Great family fun.read more
Paula Runey
19:44 02 Aug 18
Very informative! We had so much fun! Found it interesting all the history!
April Hayes
14:59 20 Jul 18
Staff was very friendly. It's kind of pricey, $70 for 2 adults & 2 kids. But worth the money. If you want to know more about Detroit & around the river it's definitely worth it. If we get a chance to back I will be doing this river tour again.read more
Lj Williams
18:59 12 Jul 18
A few days ago I had the pleasure of bringing a small bus load of senior citizens down for one of Diamond Jack's boat rides/tours. I believe this is the 4th time I have brought a group down and, as always, the boat ride and narrated tour was just great. Yet, the boat crew, should be applauded because of the extra care and attention they give to people that need assistance loading on to the boat. Whether it was a guest that was just a little unsteady on the ramp, or a guest using a walker, or a manual wheelchair - the staff took good solid measures to make sure the guest was comfortable and safe getting loaded on and off the boat. And I loved some of the chatter on the bus on the way home; " That is the best $15 I have ever spent and the most fun I have had in years! And I learned a lot!" Keep up the great work Diamond Jacks!read more
freda s
03:55 09 Jul 18
Nice tour but almost missed the boat because their website says credit cards are accepted but their brochure says cash only. The nearest atm machine was half a mile awayread more
V Eccles
00:57 07 Jul 18
Awesome tour.....go check it out and enjoy the boat ride
Mary Anne David
21:05 27 Apr 18
I highly recommend the Diamond Jack and the Diamond Belle boat trip to anyone that wants an outstanding experience on the Detroit River waterfront. The staff is friendly and helpful, the catered food on the boat is great and you can not find a better way to show off the beautiful waterfront that Detroit and Windsor share. This is an experience that is different from any run of the mill corporate event and also provides a great opportunity to take customers on. Don't wait to take your friends, family, visitors or customers for a boat ride on the Diamond Belle or Diamond Jack!read more
Brandon Cowan
20:19 03 Jan 18
Great organization, great owners, dedicated workers that will bend over backwards to take care of you. This place is pleasant to work with and highly recommended. .read more
Atalie Schwartz
17:08 26 Oct 17
My school has used Diamond Jack's for our annual Detroit field trip for several years now and they have been WONDERFUL each and every time! They are quick to respond, flexible, and helpful in every way. I highly recommend them!read more
Jennifer Hendricks
13:38 03 Aug 17
We took a group of Seniors (15) down and we were a little apprehensive with the gangway being so steep, but the crew was EXTREMELY helpful. They totally managed our scooter and wheelchair residents. The tour itself was wonderful. Very informative, giving both history and current details. I would DEFINETLY recommend this activity with Diamond Jacks River Tours.read more
Bill Watt
09:54 21 Jul 17
Another Detroit hidden gem. Very informative narration of Detroit's rich history. Bargain prices and very family friendly. Looking forward to a return voyage. Crew was helpful and courteous with senior citizens.read more
R L.
11:44 09 Jul 17
Pretty unorganized. You can't buy tickets except while in line. Single board and exit ramp which makes for long times. Could cut time off the tour by not going past connecting bridge to Canada. Oh and they take credit/debit even though the website and brochures onsite say cash only. Could've saved ATM fees. Anyhow the information on the tour was okay and the boating near Canadian border was unexpected and welcome. The tour guide was actually clear and seemed to actually enjoy his job which was nice. A few tweaks and this tour could be even more fantastic.read more
Donnie Robinson
10:22 09 Jul 17
Going on my 3rd tour this afternoon. I think it's very nice... 2 full hours of touring is well worth the price.
Brett Wilson
14:41 15 May 17
Went on a field trip with my son's class - had an excellent time - very nice tour of Detroit and Belle Isle. The crew was well organized, informative, and overall it was a pleasant experience.read more
Carolyn Witt
16:58 28 Apr 17
Loved the boat trip & all the great information!
Sue Schweihofer
11:54 03 Sep 16
Great alternative way to see Detroit and Windsor, narration was informative,we had a great time! Recommend this for everyone!read more
Donna Murray
01:06 18 Aug 16
loved, loved ,loved this boat ride
Danielle Thomas
14:12 02 May 14
Great informative tours of the Detroit River. Great experience especially for private parties!
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