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13News Now Vault: Spirit of Norfolk, then and now

The Spirit of Norfolk has been around for almost 45 years now.

NORFOLK, Va. — Strong and steady is the life, and spirit, of one of Norfolk’s most iconic vessels.

You may be surprised to hear it, but the Spirit of Norfolk has been around for almost 45 years now.

It all began in 1978. The Spirit was the first of its kind, making Norfolk one of the birthplaces of harbor cruising.

But the new idea didn’t stick out of the gate.

Financial trouble forced the Spirit to shut it down temporarily in 1981, before resurfacing with a new name. "The New Spirit," as it was called at the time, has been operating out of Otter Berth in downtown Norfolk ever since.

We found one of the most memorable moments aboard the Spirit in our archives.

Tonya Crown of Baltimore became the 1,000,000 passenger, and she was surprised with champagne and free plane tickets to the destination of her choosing.

A big investment in the harbor cruise yacht came two years later. A new 187-foot boat and a $4 million renovation ushered in a new era for the Spirit.

It was rechristened 30 years ago this week in 1992, including a name change back to the Spirit of Norfolk.

Two more renovations have happened since then, including one in 2008 and another in 2016.

Then in 2020, the Spirit of Norfolk was forced to anchor for months when the entire tourism industry was rocked by stay-at-home orders during the pandemic.

The staff was cut in half, and no cruises were going out, but 2021 signaled the beginning of a rebound.

And now, we're in 2022. Able to operate at full capacity, the Spirit should be "lifted" once again.

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