|Credit: American Cruise Lines|
Once again, the Mississippi River is a hotbed of river line competition. Agents now have two river lines' products to sell.
After the demise of Delta Queen Steamboat Company, River Barge and Majestic America Line in the aftermath of 9-11, there was a lack of any such U.S. heartland river cruises for many years.
But U.S. river cruising - aka Mark Twain style with paddlewheel products that focus on river lore, historic sites, and southern culture and cuisine - has roared back on the Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee rivers.
Last weekend, American Cruise Lines' (www.americancruiselines.com) new 150-passenger Queen of the Mississippi sailed from New Orleans on its pre-inaugural cruise. The inaugural cruise departs this Saturday from New Orleans to Memphis.
The spacious vessel has huge staterooms and suites; all are a minimum of 300 square feet. Decks 2, 3 and 4 have private balconies, and some of those have glass doors for the best outdoor views.
River cruisers dine in an elegant main dining room. Guests enjoy open seating, free unlimited beer and wine with lunch and dinner, as well as a pre-dinner cocktail hour.
Two alternative venues, Sky Lounge and Top Deck Cafe, feature lighter fare, such as sandwiches, pastries and refreshments. The ship has multiple lounges including the Paddlewheel Lounge and the Magnolia Lounge; at the latter, riverlorians as well as expert speakers versed in eco-, historical and cultural topics lecture and mingle with guests.
Travel writer Deborah Burst, a New Orleans area journalist, ventured onboard the new vessel in New Orleans late last week. For her first-hand perspective on Queen of the Mississippi, check out her original story with multiple photos at SouthernCruising.com: http://www.southerncruising.com/NewsRelease.aspx?NewsId=554.
Also back on the river this year is competitor American Queen Steamboat Company, which changed its name from Great American Steamboat Company this summer. (www.americanqueensteamboatcompany.com)
This line launched the 450-passenger American Queen, the largest paddlewheeler on the river, earlier this year. The vessel previously sailed for both Majestic America Line and Delta Queen Steamboat Company.