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Riverboat resumes nostalgic cruises on Mississippi

 In this April 28, 2012 photo, The American Queen steamboat cruises on the Mississippi River in northwest Tennessee. The American Queen is the largest...
 In this April 30, 2012 photo, passengers disembark the American Queen steamboat in Henderson, Ky. The American Queen is the largest steamboat in the ...
 In this April 27, 2012 photo, the red paddlewheel of the American Queen steamboat churns as it propels the vessel on a Memphis to Cincinnati cruise o...
 In this April 28, 2012 photo, passengers on the American Queen steamboat eat lunch at an outdoor restaurant as the vessel moves up the Mississippi Ri...
 In this April 29, 2012 photo, Jim and Cathy Ahrenholz take in the sights as the American Queen steamboat cruises up the Ohio River near Brookport, Il...
 In this April 28, 2012 photo, passengers on the American Queen steamboat eat in the dining room as the vessel moves up the Mississippi River on the M...
 In this April 27, 2012 photo, passengers on the American Queen steamboat take in the view as they sit on rocking chairs as the vessel moves up the Mi...
 In this April 29, 2012 photo, passengers on the American Queen steamboat watch as the vessel enters a river lock on the Ohio River near Brookport, Il...

Travel-Mississippi Riverboat

In this April 28, 2012 photo, The American Queen steamboat cruises on the Mississippi River in northwest Tennessee. The American Queen is the largest...

Travel-Mississippi Riverboat

In this April 30, 2012 photo, passengers disembark the American Queen steamboat in Henderson, Ky. The American Queen is the largest steamboat in the ...

Travel-Mississippi Riverboat

In this April 27, 2012 photo, the red paddlewheel of the American Queen steamboat churns as it propels the vessel on a Memphis to Cincinnati cruise o...

Travel-Mississippi Riverboat

In this April 28, 2012 photo, passengers on the American Queen steamboat eat lunch at an outdoor restaurant as the vessel moves up the Mississippi Ri...

Travel-Mississippi Riverboat

In this April 29, 2012 photo, Jim and Cathy Ahrenholz take in the sights as the American Queen steamboat cruises up the Ohio River near Brookport, Il...

Travel-Mississippi Riverboat

In this April 28, 2012 photo, passengers on the American Queen steamboat eat in the dining room as the vessel moves up the Mississippi River on the M...

Travel-Mississippi Riverboat

In this April 27, 2012 photo, passengers on the American Queen steamboat take in the view as they sit on rocking chairs as the vessel moves up the Mi...

Travel-Mississippi Riverboat

In this April 29, 2012 photo, passengers on the American Queen steamboat watch as the vessel enters a river lock on the Ohio River near Brookport, Il...

The churning red paddlewheel propels the steamboat along the wide Mississippi River, like a slow-moving time machine through a slice of Americana that harks back to Mark Twain and the 19th century.
Passengers enjoy tea time in the ladies' parlor, musical shows in the Grand Saloon, lessons on river history and four-course meals in an antebellum-style dining room.
With the relaunching of the American Queen, steamboat travel has returned to the Mississippi and Ohio rivers for the first time since 2008. The boat, the largest of its kind in the world, was christened Friday in Memphis as it left for a seven-day cruise. Future cruises will go all the way to Pittsburgh and St. Paul, Minnesota; some routes include stops in New Orleans and St. Louis.
"I find myself inspired by the quiet, still majesty of a river of this size, and I appreciate the insight that they've given us for the contribution that these rivers have made to America," said Jim Ahrenholz, 69, who took the trip with his wife, Cathy.
The American Queen and its sister boats, the Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen, carried passengers up and down the Mississippi for decades, continuing a tradition that began in the early 19th century, when steamboats replaced keelboats as the main source of transportation and commerce on the river.
Towns sprouted along the route as the boats carried cargo like cotton, tobacco and sugar from Louisiana to Minnesota and back. The ballad "Ol' Man River" from the 1927 musical "Showboat" lamented the backbreaking hardships of black dockworkers. Before the Civil War, the heavy cargo lifting was often done by slaves.
The river was also the site of several Civil War battles, with Confederate and Union ironclad ships battling for control of the strategically vital artery.
Author Mark Twain, who was born Samuel Clemens, took his pen name "Mark Twain" from a term used on the river to measure water depth. Twain grew up in a river townand is best known for his classic novels, "Tom Sawyer" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." But he also wrote a memoir of his years as a steamboat pilot called "Life on the Mississippi."
Riverboats even turned up in late 20th century pop music, with singer Tina Turner famously belting out "Rollin' on the river" as she sang "Proud Mary" in tribute to a "riverboat queen."
But long-distance riverboat travel along the Mississippi stopped four years ago, when the company that owned the American Queen ceased operations. The boat was later bought for $15.5 million by the Great American Steamboat Company and underwent a $6 million refurbishment. The company is betting on the expectation that passengers from around the world will be drawn to the nostalgic trips.
Large port cities such as New Orleans, Memphis and St. Louis, along with smaller stops like Natchez and Vicksburg in Mississippi, are also hopeful that the boat will bring tourists to sightsee, shop and spend money during port calls or before they board. But this is not a trip for cruisers on a budget. Depending on the trip length and type of cabin, rates range from $995 a person to more than $8,000 for the most luxurious accommodations, though the price covers meals, snacks, coffee, soda, beer and wine with dinner, some shore excursions in larger ports and one night at a land hotel.
At those prices, even passengers enjoying the 19th century decor and timeless views won't mind some modern amenities. The boat has an exercise room, swimming pool, comfortable beds and flat-screen TVs in every room.
The trip that began in Memphis was the American Queen's first cruise following a formal christening by the boat's godmother, Priscilla Presley. The ex-wife of the late rock-and-roll icon Elvis Presley, who lived in Memphis, launched the voyage with the traditional smashing of a champagne bottle.
American Queen's decor includes deep burgundy carpets, regal staircases and ornate chandeliers. In the Grand Saloon, the dark wooden dance floor, theater-style balconies and large stage host games like bingo during the day and nightly shows featuring Big Band music or a Mark Twain look-alike spinning tales of life on the Mississippi.
Breakfast and lunch are buffet-style; 24-hour snack service is available in a section of the boat called Front Porch of America, complete with rocking chairs and bench swings. Highlights were a New Orleans-style jazz brunch with shrimp, grits and crab cake eggs Benedict, a three-course dinner featuring duck breast with orange-currant sauce and dessert beignets, and excellent beef brisket po' boys served at an outdoor bar-restaurant called the River Grill.
Three bars stay open late into the night. The Engine Room Bar has dark wood chairs, portholes with a view of the paddlewheel and a piano-banjo duo. A piano player also sings in the Captain's Bar.
Cruise officials acknowledge that some issues remain to be worked out. Problems have included isolated plumbing issues; inexperienced staffers unable to give good directions to sections of the boat; and an hour-long wait for a mediocre burger at the River Grill. In the dining room, staff struggled at times with special orders. But housekeepers efficiently attended to rooms twice a day and filled special requests for sundries like ice and toothpaste.
A marketing blitz to advertise trips to travel agents and the public begins May 7.
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If You Go...
http://www.greatamericansteamboatcompany.com


Updated : 2021-04-23 11:23 GMT+08:00