STEAMBOATIN’ ON AMERICA’S RIVERS
By Louise Whiteside
Plantation homes evoking “Gone with the Wind.” Sleepy Southern riverfront towns with a flavor of yesteryear. Civil War battlefields. Green, rolling farmlands. These were just a few of the sights my husband and I enjoyed on our riverboat trip aboard the Delta Queen just a few years ago.
Well, sad to say, as many travellers know, the historic Delta Queen has since been retired. However, you can still be transported back into an earlier America on board a luxurious paddlewheel boat. The American Queen, the Mississippi Queen and other elegant riverboats are ready to carry you along portions of the Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois, Cumberland and Mississippi Rivers. This is a small sample of the many Mark Twain-like river cruises that offer not only luxury but a taste of America’s history, culture, music and cuisine.
OHIO RIVER CRUISES
Cruise from St. Louis or Cincinnati with stops at the River Heritage Museum and the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Ky., Churchill Downs in Louisville and the famous Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Mo. The 981-mile-long river passes through, or borders six states on its way to Cairo, Ill., where it joins the mighty Mississippi River. Prices per person per day range from $100 to $650, depending on quality of accommodations. Cruises run for approximately eight days.
More information can be found at www.rivercruise.com/ohio_river.cfm
TENNESSEE RIVER CRUISES
Winding for 886 miles in a U-shape across four states (Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi), these voyages often visit important Civil War sites such as Shiloh National Military Park. Boats pass beneath the bright blue John Ross Bridge in Chattanooga, Tenn., or the “Steamboat Bill” Memorial Bridges in Decatur, Ala., where you will also find Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge and the North Alabama Birding Trail.
Prices per person per day also range from $100 to $650. Cruises run for approximately eight days. For more information, see www.rivercruise.com/tennessee_river.cfm
GRAND HEARTLAND MISSISSIPPI CRUISE
This two-week luxury cruise transports you from St. Paul, Minn., to New Orleans, visiting 10 states that border the 2,300-mile river. There’ll be lots to enjoy such as jazz, bluegrass and country music, Southern hospitality and the complete history of the Louisiana Purchase, the Civil War and the beginning of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Prices per person (for the 14-night, 15-day cruise) range from $8,575 to $13,115, depending on choice of accommodations. For more information, see www.americancruiselines.com/cruises/mississippi-river-cruises/grand-heartland-cruise
Most cruises run for one or two weeks, purchased as a package, which usually includes a comfortable stateroom, onboard meals and some sightseeing tours. And in addition to the previously mentioned cruise lines, two new Viking ships are scheduled for debut on the Mississippi in 2017.
Most riverboat “cruisers” come away with a feeling of having experienced a slower, simpler, more relaxed time of life, harking back in American history, to an era when the sound of the steamboat comin’ ‘round the bend was the high point of the day. And if your travels don’t take you for the entire length of the Big Muddy, there’s the Great River Road National Scenic Byway. A road maintained by individual states, it closely parallels the Mississippi as it winds 3,000 miles through 10 states from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Take a look at http://experiencemississippiriver.com
For information on the many available riverboat cruises, with destinations and schedules, check out these websites: