I believe whole-heartily in the phrase "Being there at the right time in the right place!". Today my wife and I decided to spend the day at the Magic Kingdom (Which for us is almost every other day!). Getting there early we headed straight to my favorite attraction, the "Haunted Mansion". As we passed by the Liberty Square Riverboat dock, Lo and behold to our delight, they were opening the gates and loading guests on what was an earlier than expected grand opening of the "Liberty Belle" riverboat attraction which has been in dry-dock for over a year. This attraction was supposed to re-open on September 23rd. After speaking to several cast members and crew, the repairs went ahead faster and Disney decided to open the Grand old Girl today.
So, being at the right place at the right time, we were among it's first passengers since it's rehab at Disney's dry dock. I spoke to several cast crew members and they said the entire hull was replaced, all electrical upgraded, the steam engines tuned and refurbished and all new paint and polish abounded on the Liberty Belle. Even the Liberty Square Dock is freshly painted and done over. All and all, it's like a new ship all around.
This was a pleasant surprise. The Liberty Belle was missing far too long from the Magic Kingdom. So, how was the ride? As before, a nice, lazy riverboat trip around Tom Sawyer's Island, passing Big Thunder Mountain, Fort Langhorn, the Indian camp along the Walt Disney World Railroad route and snaking it's way pass the Haunted Mansion to return to dock back at Liberty Square dock. If you close your eyes, you can imagine being back in time when these old Steam paddlewheels plied back and forth on the Mississippi river, carrying cargo, gamblers and the like. This is an authentic paddlewheel steamer just like in the old days. It was built right here at the dry dock, originally named the "Richard F. Irvine" and after a total rehab in the early '90's, it was renamed the Liberty Belle. Although authentic in all ways, it is not steered by the crew, it runs on a submerged track in the water.
We rode on the top deck to enjoy the beautiful day and watch as the "Belle" made it's 17 minute journey; the ship will now begin it's daily voyages every half hour. If you want to get out of the sun for a bit, ride on the second deck. All in all, Disney did a magnificent job and it was worth the long wait to get the "Belle" back. The crew was also ecstatic about her return. So now when you plan your trip to the Magic Kingdom, a little more magic had been added with the return of the Liberty Belle!