Getting Ready for a Historic Ride on the River

In a few hours the Historical Society of Rockland County’s first of two trips exploring Tappan Zee Bridge history on the River Rose begins.

Captain John “Duke” Panzella’s father joined the Navy in 1941 and had duty aboard the USS Battleship Missouri. During his early childhood, his mother told him about his father serving on the battleship — and that’s where Panzella inherited his love for all things nautical.

Captain John

Captain John “Duke” Panzella lives his dream/© 2014 Hudson River Sightseeing Cruises Aboard The River Rose

At age 7, he bought his first boat “for $7, a row boat,” he said, chuckling at the memory. Now 71, Panzella said he feels 42, restores boats as a hobby, and is living his dream of owning a party boat.

“I love being on the water, and being on this boat is special,” he said. “The Hudson River has a peace to it that soothes my soul.”

After careers in heavy construction, land development and a very successful water softener business, Panzella retired at 52 and headed to south Florida. “I bought a big yacht that I rented and chartered, and then operated,” he said. When he saw the River Rose, he said, “I knew it’s something very special. It was a dream.”

Fourteen years later, Panzella said, “it’s a pleasure to own (this former gambling boat) boat that came from New Orleans.”


Manufactured in 1984, the River Rose is the last stern-wheeler built, Panzella learned from its prior owner. It’s rented for private parties, weddings, class reunions, sweet 16 parties, sightseeing cruises, dance party cruises and dinner and brunch cruises.

In 2013 and 2014, it was voted 1st Place, Readers Choice Award, Best River Cruise by the Times-Herald Record.

The River Rose particulars:

• Burns 50 gallons of fuel per hour between two engines
• 100 feet long and 28 feet wide
• Capacity for 150 guests, and an additional 25 caterers, musicians and crew
• She is the smoothest riding boat on the Hudson River!

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

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