NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Spirit Cruises are returning to the Elizabeth River two months after a fire that started in the engine room burned for hours and destroyed the beloved Spirit of Norfolk. This weekend, another Spirit will set sail from Otter Berth in downtown Norfolk.
As a new chapter begins for Spirit Cruises, company officials took time to reflect on what would have been a disaster on June 7 when the ship, with more than 100 people, including several children on board, burned for hours on the 30-year-old Spirit of Norfolk. The maritime community came to the rescue.
“The friends of ours over on the Victory Rover were just invaluable that day and of course, all of our friends at the Naval base all coming together to help out in that situation,” said Co-Chief Operating Officer Dan Russell who has worked for the company for 20 years.
Chopper Ten was above as the shell of the Spirit of Norfolk was later towed to nearby Colonna’s Shipyard.
It was a sad sight for Spirit Cruises. The company was founded in Norfolk by former Navy man Richard O’Leary who died last year.
“It was a day like no other in our company’s history for all of us,” said Russell.
Beginning Friday, the Spirit will sail again. The Spirit of Mount Vernon, which typically sails from the Washington DC area, has been upgraded to host the family reunions, proms, and parties that have been part of the 757 for decades.
“We’re thrilled to bring this particular vessel here for all of our guests locally who come down here. They are really going to feel like it’s the exact same experience that they’ve been accustomed to for the last 30 years.”
Spirit officials say in the past ten years alone, the Spirit of Norfolk has welcomed 4 million guests, hosted more than 3,000 reunions, toasted more than 2,500 weddings, and celebrated more than 1,500 proms.
And what about a name change? Officials say a name change is definitely on the to-do list.
“We have been focused on getting the right vessel here, getting it outfitted appropriately, and getting open. Naming a vessel is its own process; it’s on the to-do list; we definitely want to take that step next,” said Russell.
The Co-COO says the Spirit of Mount Vernon could become the Spirit of Norfolk before the end of the year. Seasonal events such as the Christmas Cruises are already on the schedule for 2022.