All clear, Captain! a deckhand yelled as the water taxi maneuvered away from the Old Town dock. One long beeeep was followed by three shorter ones, and the Miss Christin sailed north toward National Harbor.
To benefit from the revenue that National Harbor is projected to produce for Alexandria, spenders must first cross from Marylands banks to Virginias, wallets and purses in hand, ready to drop money into the tourism district. To get there, visitors can cross the Woodrow Wilson bridge in a taxi cab, or they can surpass the traffic, board the Miss Christin, and cruise beneath it in the water taxi, which last week enjoyed its first weekend as the National Harbor-Old Town express.
Despite the murky and cool weather, the water taxi, operated by the Potomac Riverboat Company at the Old Town waterfront, saw success in its first week of existence particularly when the sun came out on Saturday. Tourists and commuters flocked to the docks by the Torpedo Factory to board it, which is practical transportation, but also an attraction in itself.
Right now it seems to be sightseers leaving from Old Town, said Charlotte Hall, PRCs vice president. But for people staying at National Harbor theres more of a desire to come to Old Town, where they have more restaurants and shops to choose from.
With just four restaurants and five retail spaces opened so far at National Harbor, Old Towns more established scene is already enjoying the benefits of being the older, more mature attraction at least by way of riverboat. On the 125-person water taxi, people leaving from Alexandria seem to be residents curious about the new mini-city in Prince Georges County, while river riders coming to Alexandria are arriving there out of necessity.
We have no other transportation, said Dawn McCulley of Huntsville, AL, who was returning to the Gaylord complex at National Harbor after visiting Old Town. McCulley and her friend Angie Kloote, also of Huntsville, were here for the husbands who attended a conference at Gaylord, where they were staying.
On Saturday afternoon, British Military Defense Attache Paul Davies and his wife Fiona of London, England, were taking a Potomac Riverboat vessel from the Georgetown waterfront to check in to their room for the week at the Gaylord National. Both seemed pleased with the convenience. “It’s really quite nice to be able to sightsee along the river and get to our hotel at the same time,” Paul Davies said. “It’s less of a hassle than taking a cab.”
As Davies was to be in back-to-back meetings all week for an Army Aviation Association convention, Fiona Davies had planned a busy week of sightseeing at Mount Vernon, and shopping in Old Town. “The [British] Pound is so strong here,” said Fiona Davies, a professional photographer. “My plan is to shop, shop, shop…I think I’ll take an extra suitcase or two of things to my family and friends back in London.”
Part of PRCs current five-boat fleet, the Miss Christin is the temporary taxi vessel, and will be replaced by a new boat, coming from Wisonsin, May 1, according to Hall. Starting Saturday, two boats will run. One is currently docked at National Harbor but is having some last minute touch-ups done, Hall said.
John Arundel contributed to this article.