The term is a registered trademark of the Compagnie des Bateaux Mouches, the most widely known operator of the boats in Paris, founded by Jean Bruel (1917-2003); however, the phrase, because of the success of the company, is used generically to refer to all such boats operating on the river within the city. Bateaux Mouches translates literally as "fly boats" ("fly" meaning the insect); however, the name comes from the fact that they were originally manufactured in boatyards situated in the Mouche area of Lyon.
These boats are popular tourist attractions in Paris. They started with steamers at an Exhibition in 1867. Many seat several hundred people, often with an open upper deck and an enclosed lower deck; some have sliding canopies that can close to protect the open deck in inclement weather. Most boat tours include a live or recorded commentary on the sights along the river. A typical cruise lasts about one hour. Many companies offer lunch and dinner cruises as well. Most boats are equipped with lights to illuminate landmarks in the evening. The Steamers stopped running in the slow down of the Great Depression. The modern low slung boats, more like glass sardine tins, have been as such re-christened "bateau moche" for their declasse details.
Since the Seine is centrally situated in Paris, a boat tour covers a great deal of the city. Both the Left Bank (Rive Gauche) and the Right Bank (Rive Droite) are visible from the boat. Passengers can see, among other sites, the Eiffel Tower; Notre-Dame Cathedral; the Alexander III Bridge, the Pont Neuf; the Orsay Museum, and the Louvre Museum. Passengers can also see Les Invalides, Napoleon's burial site.
Boat tours in Paris have flourished since World War II, and today the Compagnie des Bateaux Mouches (still the oldest company operating boat tours) has significant competition. On busy days in high season, boats constantly move up and down the river.
In Canada, Montréal (Québec)
The "Bateau-Mouche of the Old Port of Montréal" is a Quebecer company that was started in 1992. Built in the Old Port of Montreal, the Bateau Mouche was inaugurated during the 350th Anniversary of the foundation of the City of Montreal.
The Bateau Mouche of Montreal has a passenger capacity of 190. It offers five daily trips, four during day-time and one at night.
Like its Parisian cousin, it is operated on a river: the St Lawrence River. Its aim is to provide excursions in the heart of the Old Port of Montreal and between its islands (Island of Montreal, Île Notre-Dame, St Helen’s Island), to discover a natural and urban landscape. The small draught of the Bateau-Mouche allows an itinerary that traditional boats cannot follow: the entrance of the Lachine Canal, Habitat 67, St Mary’s current, Mount Royal, Montreal Clock Tower, Jacques Cartier Bridge, La Ronde (Amusement Park), Le Moyne Channel, Montreal Biosphère…
Since 1992, the Bateau-Mouche has had more than one million passengers. More than 400,000 dinners were served during dinner-cruises.
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- Compagnie des Bateaux Mouches