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Cruise line selects Gull Lake in Minn. as its new port of call

BRAINERD, Minn. - It may feel like open water may never return, but spring follows winter and summer can't be that far away.

With open water, a new dining and recreation option will be plying the waters of Gull Lake. Destiny Cruises announced it will begin offering day and evening cruises on Gull Lake in the summer of 2014. The 65-foot long, double-deck vessel will accommodate 120 passengers and offer open cruises and private chartered events to residents, tourists and guests visiting the Brainerd lakes area.

The $1.7 million dollar vessel, named the North Star, is currently being built at SkipperLiner Headquarters in La Crosse, Wis. - one of the country's largest passenger vessel manufacturers. Pending ice-out on Gull Lake, the ship's season will correspond with the area resorts and is projected to begin cruising this spring and operating through mid-October 2014.

Depending on ice-out dates on Gull Lake, the cruises may start in mid-May. The boat will be docked at Ernie's on Gull.

"We have studied the market for over a year and selected Gull Lake due to its proximity and readiness," said Destiny Cruises partner Liz Diedrich, owner of Twin Cities-based research and marketing firm Diedrich RPM. "We have already begun hiring local talent and anticipate that 85 percent of the operating expenditures will be local. Since we intend to be an attraction in Brainerd, we are interested in becoming involved in the community's activities and programs to establish our residency in the area. Toward that goal, the vessel owners have met with area hospitality partners and resorts to include them as tentative pick-up points for their guests."

Target markets for private charters include receptions, weddings, family reunions, office parties and other events. Randy Lee is general manager for the Destiny Cruise operation.

"We have been wanting a vessel in this market - this has been something Gull Lake has needed for a very long time and we are looking forward to offering cruises to our guests," said Mark Ronnei, Grand View Lodge general manager.

Madden's Resort owner Brian Thuringer said: "The owners of Destiny met with the Madden's sales team and myself over the summer. We are excited for Destiny Cruises to operate on Gull Lake, and we think that our visitors and tourists in the community will enjoy being out on the vessel."

Destiny Cruises will offer brunch, lunch and dinner cruises, themed events and private charter opportunities. Ernie's on Gull will serve as the docking destination and guest-parking partner.