Finally Ready To Party

Finally Ready To Party

Showboat Branson Belle celebrates 25th birthday


The Showboat Branson Belle turned 25 on April 13 — but the party is just beginning. Like so many things, the celebration was delayed by the onset of covid-19. Still, Capt. James Plybon, who has been skippering the Belle for 10 years, says the Belle is always prepared to be pampered.

“You treat a ship like you would a lady: You’re always kind and take care of her, and she’ll take care of you.”

Christened on April 13, 1995, the Belle is 278 feet long — almost the size of a football field — 78 feet wide and weighs 2.5 million pounds — although Plybon, who is senior captain and operations manager for “the largest boat ever built for a landlocked lake,” jokes that he never says that part in front of “her.” He says most people don’t realize that she is a true sternwheeler, propelled through the water by two huge rear paddlewheels, each with its own motor weighing 7,500 pounds.

Maintaining a boat of that size — capable of carrying 700 passengers per cruise plus the crew — is not easy, and it’s a challenge Plybon takes very seriously. He considers himself personally responsible for every guest who sets foot on board and adds that “you can’t work for me if you don’t share the same philosophy.” With that in mind, every cruise starts with multiple counts of the passengers — including service dogs — and an assessment of their needs in case of emergency.

“All of our marine crew are trained First Responders and firefighters,” Plybon adds, and all of the deck hands must know how to dock the Belle in case of emergency.

Now, of course, that job also includes combating the coronavirus.

“The Showboat’s current capacity is less than 50% at 300,” says Lisa Rau, spokeswoman for Herschend Family Entertainment. “The Showboat will be implementing social distancing per CDC guidelines, with tables spaced out at least 6 feet apart from each other, along with appropriate distancing measures found in retail shops, queue lines and other appropriate areas.

“Walk-up tickets will be sold, but advance purchase is strongly recommended,” she adds. “Tickets may be purchased online at”

“The enthralling sights, sounds and smells of Table Rock Lake create a stress-free atmosphere on the Showboat Branson Belle,” promises spokeswoman Lisa Rau.
(Courtesy Photo)

Not to let the anniversary go uncelebrated, Rau says, “we have some new stellar and talented performers in the cast, as well as three all new songs in the main show. Two of the new songs are in our rock medley, while another is heard in the gospel medley. Plus, the very beginning of the cruise experience features all-new entertainment on the top deck of the Showboat Branson Belle.”

Oh, she adds, there’s also a new dessert, gooey butter cake.

“Cruising the Ozark-painted shoreline and pristine waters of Table Rock Lake is truly captivating with the 360-degree views of the Showboat’s panoramic viewing decks and open-air top deck,” Rau waxes eloquent. “The enthralling sights, sounds and smells of Table Rock Lake create a stress-free atmosphere on the Showboat, where guests experience a one-of-a-kind excursion complete with plenty of cruise time, a three-course meal and a non-stop-action variety show.”

Plybon says he loves to meet the guests and does so as often as possible.

“My No. 1 priority is to make sure the ship is running smoothly,” he says. “But the guests are the reason we’re here.”



Showboat Branson Belle

25th Anniversary Season

WHEN — Cruises at noon, 4 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. on select days

WHERE — 4800 Missouri 165 in Branson

COST — $31-$83


FYI — Further information on all safety and operational changes is available at Reservations can be made at and on the mobile app.

Categories: Music