company changes course
to provide weeklong trips
The move means fewer Madison stops,
but more for Louisville
(September 2001) Madison, In Frequently during
each summer, an historical image of American culture cruises
the Ohio River steamboats making their way between
Pittsburgh and New Orleans. Companies such as the Delta
Queen Steamboat Co. Inc. are reinventing the wheel
or the paddlewheel as it were
to enhance this historical experience.
Over the years, this revitalization of early
American river travel has had many economic effects on
the towns along the river where the steamboats stop. But
because of recent changes in the cruise schedules, several
towns, including Madison, will see fewer visits in 2002.
Compared to 11 stops in Madison this year by its three
steamboats, the American Queen, the Delta Queen and the
Mississippi Queen, next years schedule lists only
three stops. The American Queen, the largest of the three,
will not stop at all in Madison. The Delta Queen will
stop twice and the Mississippi only once to bring passengers
to visit historic Madison for a few hours.
Conversely, Louisville, Ky., will graduate to being more
than just stops by these steamboats. Now passengers
will board and have their final docking in Louisville,
which could involve guests spending one or two nights
in the city. Mayor Dave Armstrong sees the increased presence
of the steamboats as a way of attracting more people to
Louisvilles waterfront and bringing more than 8,000
people to town, a number that would double from years
In 2002, there are 16 cruises scheduled between Louisville
and Pittsburgh. Eight will begin and end in each city.
The Delta Queen will increase its number of stops in Louisville
but will start and stop in Cincinnati, Memphis, Nashville,
Tenn., and Chattanooga, Tenn. The American Queen, meanwhile,
will mostly conduct its tours along the Mississippi River
between St. Louis and St. Paul, Minn.
The change in scheduling has occurred to enhance a seven-night
vacation experience that would cater towards younger passengers,
according to Delta Queen Steamboat. Co. public relations
officials. The company is finding it is more conducive
for the younger, pre-retirement age groups to get away
for a week or less. In the past, many of the cruises have
lasted as long as 14 days.
All stopping points are determined by the home office
and made two years in advance, said Jamie Kilb,
tourism director for the Mississippi Queen. Theyre
looking for history and good tour opportunities.
Madison has long been a favorite stop for passengers,
company officials said.
After the boat docks on Madisons riverfront, the
passenger are greeted by tourism officials and volunteers
who offer them brochures, town maps and information on
shopping, dining and history. The Madison Trolley and
tour buses take them to the towns Main Street, where
many shops open earlier than usual to accommodate the
We have approached many of the merchants about opening
earlier, said Susie Hamner, marketing director of
the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Most
of them are trying to open at about 8 in the morning,
and that seems to be working well.
The Delta Queen Steamboat Co. usually has its boats dock
in smaller river towns on weekdays from 7 a.m. to noon.
But Hamner said that one of the Delta Queens 2002
visits will occur on a Sunday next year. At Kilbs
request, Hamner has sent her a listing of church service
times in the Madison area for interested passengers.
Madison has carried on its strong hospitality tradition
since the mid-1980s. Early efforts were spearheaded by
the late Dotti Reindollar and Elbert Hinds. The two often
dressed up in 1800s attire to greet the boats. Such greetings
often included walking tours of museums and combos playing
We realize there are a number of towns that would
like to get these boats in, said Hinds. We
cant take the fact they stop here for granted, so
we want to do special things to thank them. They always
bring quality visitors to Madison who are well seasoned
travelers that love river towns and love Madison.
To this day, docents, walking tours and music are still
a strong part of greeting put on by Madison volunteers.
Carolyn Clark, Sharon Steinhardt and Hal and Yvonne Davis
are among those active in greeting guests.
The hospitality that passengers aboard the three boats
receive does not just occur in the places they visit.
All three steamboats have unique activities and amenities
to keep their guests entertained around the clock. The
largest and newest boat, the American Queen, has six decks
of amenities, including a two-story dining room, both
a grand saloon and a theatre, a beauty salon, an athletic
club and swimming pool, outdoor sun decks and 222 cabin
staterooms. The second-largest boat, the Mississippi Queen,
is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and features
a dining room and grand saloon, on-deck kite flying, dancing
classes and trivia contests.
On a scale of one to 10, its a 15, said Carl
Czirr of Cincinnati. There is always something going
on enough that there is always something to do.
Czirr and his wife, Bonnie, were visiting Madison aboard
the Mississippi Queen during an August stop. They had
taken a bus to Nashville, Tenn., where the Mississippi
Queen began their particular voyage. They would eventually
finish their cruise back home in Cincinnati.
We do a lot of theme cruises Civil War cruises,
Big Band cruises. Most of our themes are all-American,
said hotel manager Bob Barnett. Other themes include 1950s,
Cajun culture, and Fall Foliage.
Many of the themes are complemented by entertainment on
the cruise. These might include a 1950s hit revue or a
Mark Twain theme along the Mississippi River. Its
letting people experience America, added Barnett.
It is a lot more laid back and relaxing than some
other cruises weve done, said Cincinnati resident
Bob Jacobs, who was aboard the boat in August with his
wife, Marie. I do a lot of business travel in the
river area, and its nice to see the river from a
The oldest of the three boats is the Delta Queen, which
over the past century has been graced by the presence
of presidents and other dignitaries. The Delta Queen presents
an ambiance similar to a Victorian home with brass and
Tiffany-style stained glass windows.
The Delta Queen Steamboat Co., better known as American
Classic Voyages Co., was formed in 1890 after the paddlewheel
steamboats presence in America. Its corporate offices
are based in New Orleans.
The company offers many cruise options of varying lengths
and luxury. A seven-day cruise ranges between $940 and
$4,015 (per person, based on double occupancy), depending
on the level of luxury. The 2001 cruise schedule offered
trips from three nights to 11 nights.
The fares do not include port charges or hotel stays before
or after a cruise.
Cruises include showboat style entertainment, meals, snacks,
private baths, lectures, classes, movies, concerts and
All three steamboats have proven enjoyable for those traveling
on them and those who get to witness their docking. Some
come from out of town just to see them dock.
Their passengers have always enjoyed Madison,
said Madison Area CVB executive director Linda Lytle.
Their decision (to make fewer stops) is one made
by their marketing department. There is not much we can
do about it. They will be here for three regular visits,
and we will do everything we can to make them enjoyable.
The last steamboat visit in Madison
this year will be the Mississippi Queen on Oct. 7. It
arrives at 8 a.m.