Valley Gem to open for summer season this weekend

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MARIETTA, Ohio (WTAP) - The Valley Gem Sternwheeler is set to begin its summer season of narrated sightseeing tours on Saturday, May 23. With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing, it will be taking a number of safety precautions.

The number of people allowed on the sternwheeler at one time will be limited. Tables on the lower deck will be spaced six feet apart and chairs and tables on the upper deck will be arranged in couples, with two seats every six feet. Employees will wear masks, and all facilities will be sanitized hourly, according to Heather Sands, the Valley Gem’s general manager.

“We’re going to try to make it as normal as possible for everybody, but there are guidelines that we’re going to follow,” Sands said.

Sands said it is difficult to project how much business the sternwheeler will attract amid the pandemic, but feels there are a number of reasons why residents would likely be interested in its tours and dining options during this time.

“Honestly, nobody knows what’s going to happen. We have had a lot of positive feedback on our posts announcing that we’re getting ready to open...And we do have quite an advantage that the entire upper deck is outdoors and we can spread out. There’s a lot more confidence and less worry when you’re able to spread out outside, and I think that will help,” Sands said.

In addition, the sternwheeler’s restaurant, the Riviera, re-opened on the upper deck on Friday, May 16 and Sands said business over the weekend was good.

“We had a really great weekend. We dodged the rain...and we were able to space everybody out. I think everybody had a great time and it worked out well,” Sands said.

Those interested in booking a sightseeing tour are encouraged to visit the Valley Gem’s website and call 740.373.7862.