Queen of the Mississippi to Begin Service
4 August 2012
By The Associated Press
The Queen of the Mississippi is seen docked
in the Mississippi River in New Orleans, Friday, Aug. 3, 2012. A
comeback for old fashioned paddlewheel riverboat travel continues
in New Orleans this weekend with the launch of the brand new,
quintuple-decked vessel mixing 19th century ambiance with
amenities Mark Twain never dreamed of, including satellite
television, an exercise area, a putting green and internet access.
American Cruise Lines has set Saturday as the date for its first
seven-day cruise. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
NEW ORLEANS — A comeback for old-fashioned paddlewheel riverboat
travel on the Mississippi River continues this weekend with the
departure from New Orleans of the Queen of the Mississippi, a
brand-new, quintuple-decked vessel mixing 19th-century trappings
meant to evoke the Mark Twain era with modern amenities including
Internet access, satellite television, an exercise area and a
American Cruise Lines set Saturday as the date for its first
seven-night round trip to Vicksburg, Miss.
Future destinations include Memphis; Minneapolis-St. Paul; and on
the Ohio River and Pittsburgh.
The Queen of the Mississippi’s launch takes place six months after
the competing Great American Steamboat Co. brought riverboat
cruises back to New Orleans with the refurbished American Queen in
Tourism officials say both are welcome sights. Paddlewheel boat
travel is an element of New Orleans history and culture that was
sorely missed for several years, said Kim Priez of the Greater New
Orleans Convention and Tourism Bureau.
“Can you imagine New Orleans without river cruising?” Priez asked.
“This is just something that you expect to see when you look out
the window of your hotel, these wonderful vessels going up and
down the Mississippi River.”
The steamboat Natchez still makes short trips at New Orleans, but
long-haul Mississippi River cruises on ships like the American
Queen, the Delta Queen and the Mississippi Queen died out.
Aficionados of the old-style cruises blame the demise on tightened
cruise ship fire safety regulations. Companies said the
regulations were unnecessary and too expensive to comply with for
boats that had excellent safety records and that traveled on a
river instead of the open seas.
Hurricane Katrina’s virtual shutdown of the city in 2005 and a
national economic slowdown did not help.
The Delta Queen became a floating hotel in Chattanooga, Tenn., in
2009; the Mississippi Queen was sold for scrap in 2010. The
American Queen, after its refurbishment, returned to service only
on the Mississippi this year after a four-year absence.
American Cruise Lines had its shot at buying older riverboats as
it sought to get into the market, CEO Charles Robertson said.
Building from scratch, however, had some advantages, including the
opportunity to include larger staterooms with details and
amenities Robertson likens to a luxury hotel.
“The staterooms are larger than you’d find on a large ocean liner
in most cases,” Robertson said.
Construction of the 295-foot Queen of the Mississippi was
completed in June by Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Md.
American Cruise Lines did not provide information on the
The 150-passenger vessel boasts a dining room large enough to
accommodate all passengers in one seating, but there will also be
room service, allowing passengers to dine on the private balconies
available with most of the 300-square-foot state rooms.
The authentic paddlewheel and a calliope add the old-fashioned
touch, but the Mark Twain Library and Chart Room, in addition to
charts, will also display modern technology, including a large
monitor using a global positioning system to show the boat’s
Wi-Fi will be available on board, so Mark Twain fans can download
his works. However, Robertson said, there will be plenty of books
on board for those who want to enjoy “Life on the Mississippi” the
All of this comes at a luxury price. Per-person rates on the
American Cruise Lines website for a seven-night cruise on the
Queen of the Mississippi run from $3,995 to $6,685.
Priez said the market is there, especially among baby boomers who
often are among the clientele for the riverboats.
“This resurgence of cruising is a positive indication of a comfort
zone in the more mature market,” she said.