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Here's some news that should float the boat of steamboat aficionados: The paddlewheeler American Queen will again offer overnight trips on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, with some itineraries originating in Minneapolis/St. Paul.
Since 2008, the Delta Queen's last season, no steamboat has plied the great waterways of the heartland on overnight excursions. The Delta Queen, which was built in the late 1920s, is docked in Chattanooga, related to a floating hotel. The American Queen, which was built in 1995 and went out of service in 2008, is now owned by the Great American Steamboat Company. The 418-foot-long boat and its 222 staterooms is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation in New Orleans. The company, based in Memphis, plans to begin offering 3- to 11-night trips on April 13, 2012.
"Steamboats have run through the heartland of this country for 200 years, " said Tim Rubacky, senior vice president of marketing for the company. "Aside from being a commercial endeavor, this was a piece of America’s history."
Though Itineraries are set, they won't be released to the public until the company gets its final approval from the Federal Maritime Commission. Rubacky says that could happen as early as next week. He expects sales to begin the last week in September. For more information, go to www.greatamericansteamboatcompany.com.
Q My friend has just been diagnosed with cancer. She is still well enough to do some traveling, so we want to take a trip. She doesn’t believe that she would tolerate an intercontinental air flight. And she isn’t interested in a warm-water or Alaskan cruise, as she’s done that.
In the past, she has loved riverboat cruises down the Mississippi, but we’re told the companies that used to provide them are now out of business. The riverboat trips I’ve found now require passengers to disembarque to a hotel each night. That’s not what we’re looking for. Any ideas? Train trips? I read about New England to Quebec City cruises, would you recommend something like that? We’re pretty open to new ideas.
A I hope your trip is filled with joy and laughter. Appreciating what will help keep your friend comfortable — like no long-haul flights — is a good start.You are right about Mississippi River cruises. The riverboats that once carried overnight passengers stopped running in 2008. Fortunately, there’s a nice alternative. The Great Lakes Cruise Company (1-888-891-0203) offers many itineraries. You can cruise the Great Lakes from Duluth to Toronto (or visa versa), explore the New England islands (including Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard) or opt for a Fall Colors tour of New England (with floats down the Hudson River and the Erie Canal). The boats are intimate, too. Except for one larger boat, none hold more than 100 passengers. I think you’ll be intrigued after a visit to its website. And I hope that wherever you go, your trip will be restorative, uplifting and memorable.
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