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Boston - Boston Harbor Cruises

One Long Wharf

Matthew "Matty" Hughes claims two important places in history. At the tender age of 16 he became the youngest licensed captain ever in the port of Boston, and in 1926 he founded New England's premier cruise company, what is today the nation's largest private operator of passenger vessels, Boston Harbor Cruises.

Given Matty's glorious obsession with boats and Boston Harbor, no one was surprised when, soon after obtaining his license, he struck a deal with a local boat owner to operate the M/V Nelly with two full-time employees on a 30-minute cruise of the Charles River at a cost of 10¢.

For the next 16 years, area residents, in an attempt to escape the oppressive summer heat in their Boston flats, created a steady stream of seasonal customers for Matty and his cruises. Service had to be interrupted though in 1942 when Matty enlisted in the United States Navy, serving as a Seabee through the end of World War II.

Retuning home from service in 1945, Matty resumed operations at Boston Harbor Cruises, expanding the business to operate vessels inside Boston Harbor and on the Charles River. For more than a decade these sightseeing excursions ran three times daily for a fare of $2.00. It was during this era that Boston Harbor Cruises became a true family run enterprise with Matty's daughters, Rookie and Rita, coming on board, followed closely by their kids.

Around 1960, the family made a decision to switch the emphasis of their cruises to deep sea fishing expeditions. Passengers would charter day and overnight trips for the amazing price of $6 for a full day in order to be able to cast their lines in search of cod, haddock, halibut, blue fish, tuna and more.

Fishing charters remained the company's specialty until the late 1970s when Boston's waterfront exploded with development. Tourist attractions such as the New England Aquarium and Faneuil Hall Marketplace brought a record number of visitors to the waterfront, and to Matty's front door. Given this new opportunity, Boston Harbor Cruises moved back into the sightseeing market, but this time it would be Matty's grandchildren, including current principles Rick and Chris Nolan who would be at the helm.

In the 1980s, their leadership was instrumental in BHC securing a contract with the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority to provide water transportation services between downtown Boston and Charlestown, a heavily traveled commuter route. This transformed BHC from a seasonal business to a year-round venture transporting more than 200,000 additional passengers each year. Since then, the MBTA has awarded 4 additional commuter ferry contracts to the company, the largest carrying 4,000 passengers per day.

Today, the company continues to grow with Rick, Chris and great-granddaughter Alison Nolan as its managing partners. They've parlayed their 93 years of maritime operations and management into building a fleet that has operated successfully in Massachusetts Bay, New York, Rhode Island, The US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

BHC's 250 employees uphold the company's hard-won reputation for safety and courtesy by incorporating the most high-tech, up-to-date advancements in customer service, technology and training. This extra effort ensures all 21 BHC vessels are ready for the 264 scheduled weekday morning departures they make each year, and that the more than 2 million passengers who travel with BHC get the most enjoyable trip possible.


Alex Jones

Sunday, May 13, 2018
We went on a whale watch and it was very enjoyable. We saw a lot of wildlife and the boat and guests were managed very effectively. It didn't matter what side of the boat you were on, they made sure each side got to see something. The crew was very informative and I thought quite amusing in their delivery of the information. They did a great job of answering all questions in detail. I recommend bringing a jacket because it's quite a bit cooler on the water. I also recommend that you take something if you are at all prone to motion sickness. I absolutely would go on another whale watch at Boston Harbor Cruises.

Brendan Sullivan

Monday, April 16, 2018
Took the family on a whale watch over the weekend through Boston Harbor Cruises. This was one of the better watches I have been on, plenty of whales and dolphins to be seen. The crew was very helpful and had plenty of information about what we were seeing. I also really like the policy of a free trip if you didn't see any whales when you went out. I can understand that wiled animals do not work on our schedules, so its nice to get a second chance for free. My one complaint, and a light jest; If you are going to sales soft pretzels at least have salt on them or the option to put salt on, really would have made the trip perfect.

Heidi Cosford

Monday, May 7, 2018
Fabulous whale watching tour. Informative guide. Boat had snacks and drinks for sale on board which was great. Multiple humpback whales seen a lot closer than expected. Overall the highlight of our holiday in Boston. Very highly recommend - a must do.

Ashish Goel

Friday, April 27, 2018
Wonderful whale watch tour at Long what's Boston. We got a complimentary sight of dolphins too. It is quite windy and freezing down in the sea so better take stuff to cover yourself n esp a hoodie. You can buy drinks and food on the cruise. It's a pure joy trip esp if it's sunny out there. Enjoy!

Jenn Nelson

Saturday, April 14, 2018
Second time out on the Whale Tour. Both times we were out on stormy/choppy days. My family never got sick, but lots of people with weaker stomachs did. People know your limits! Or take Dramamine. Anyways. Perfect. Lovely. Amazing! We saw so many whales and dolphins out on our 10:00 am 4.12.18 excursion. Every time out really is phenomenal and different. We will be going out again for sure. Thank you!

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