Queen to float again

Published 12:05am Saturday, August 13, 2011

NATCHEZ — More than 600 tourists could be delivered right to Natchez if one of the locals gets her way.

They’ll also be well fed, she said.

The American Queen, a steamboat that has the capacity to hold 463 passengers and 160 crew members, will hopefully make 25 to 30 stops in Natchez per year when it resumes making trips up and down the Mississippi River in the spring, said Regina Charboneau, a Natchez resident and professional chef who has been chosen as the chef de cuisine of the boat.

The chef de cuisine is in charge of overseeing the quality of the food, she said, which entails creating recipes, as well as ideas and standards for them. Charboneau won’t be on board cooking.

And for Charboneau, part of that includes being mindful of including local ingredients, not just “Southern” ingredients.

For example, she said, she’s been thinking of food you’d find along the river, like corn, wild rice, river shrimp, yams and catfish.

“I’ve always been a big advocate of sustainable seafood,” she said. “I’m also a big advocate of organic produce.”

But just as importantly, she said, she’s been “big time” pushing for frequent stops in Natchez.

The American Queen, which is owned by The Great American Steamboat Company and docked in Memphis, has been out of commission for the past few years after being built in 1995, and Charboneau said she’d hoped to have its home port be in Natchez, but now she’ll be happy just to have it visit.

And since her job doesn’t mandate that she travel the length of the Mississippi with the crew, she said, she has an inkling they’ll have some incentive to want to stop pretty frequently.

“I’m hoping Natchez will put its best foot forward to roll out the red carpet,” Charboneau said. “When boats used to come in, people were down (Under-the-Hill) welcoming them, and I really want to see that hospitality again, to really show them the Natchez that we all really know and love.”

Charboneau said the schedule for the American Queen should be available on greatamericansteamboatcompany.com in mid-September, and she’s already gearing up to go on a press tour, which includes stops in New York, Chicago, Miami and San Francisco.

“We will all do a press tour, but I will be staying on land, and that’s why I want (the boat) to come to Natchez as often as possible, so I can go (onboard) and meet with the chef and not have to leave home.

“It’s a win-win. I get to share my expertise and my Southern food knowledge with them, I get to stay home, and I get the boat to Natchez a bunch of times.”

With so many passengers coming ashore, she said, it would make a “huge economic impact.”

“I wouldn’t necessarily be looking to be involved with anything like this in this stage of my life, except this is an amazing group of people to be involved with,” she said. “And it’s a way to get people down in the streets of Natchez again.”

  • Anonymous

    Congratulations Ms. Regina! This is wonderful! Thank you for all you have done for Natchez!

  • Anonymous

    Man, the good news for Natchez just keeps a-coming! This is wonderful, and a big thanks to Mrs. Charboneau for helping with this. Can hardly wait to hear the whistle announcing the arrival, and enjoy the happy sounds of the calliope! Great news!!!!  Now, if “that person” would just get out of NLT, it would make even better news for this area. ( That comment was for you, natcheznative) Ha!

  • Anonymous

    The sound of the calliope when the boat pulls into port seem to bring the downtown area to life. I can’t wait to hear it again!!!  Thank you, Regina, for all of you hard work!!!

  • Anonymous

    Would love to see the riverboats again. Possibly to city could get a grip and actually make it safe for the passengers when they dock. A lot of the people that will be there to greet them will be thieves and drug addicts. It is always a good sight when you dock in natchez and the first thing you see is the Under the Hill Saloon with the good ole boys and the bikers drinking and burping.

  • Anonymous

    I know, why are you so bitter about that place?

  • Anonymous

    I think this is a wonderful idea!

  • Anonymous

    Dude, I wish you would give your problem(s) with the NPD and Mike Mullins a rest. Do me a favor. Tell me who you are and I will call you for a little chat. Hmmmm?

  • Anonymous

    Try again, stay on point.
    Great news!  There has been some positive stories lately, and this is no exception. Can hardly wait to see her, and hear the wonderful calliope. I believe it is a 43-note variety. I know the Mississippi Queen’s was a 43-note. Thanks, Mrs. Charboneau, for getting her back. Natchez needs that boat!

  • Anonymous

    You’re not stayin’ on point.  Naughty naughty.

  • Anonymous

    there is also another boat called the Queen of the Mississippi that will be on the river from New Orleans to Memphis to St. Louis etc.  The story was on the Fox Business news website yesterday.  Both boats are million dollar projects.  It is wonderful that Regina has a job consulting with them, she is a very talented person.  However, I doubt she is “responsible” for the Queens coming here.  The American Queen always docked here and I am sure it would still dock here if Regina was working for them or not.  I look forward to seeing both boats here in 2012.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t think it is an idea, it appears to be an actuality.

  • Anonymous

    Now that was interesting. Did a search for it, and read about it. Did you know that the American Queen was ALSO propelled by engines other than her paddlewheel? It was to help fight the sometimes overly strong current. Having read that the new Queen of the Mississippi will be able to adjust its speed significantly faster, I am betting it will have additional propulsion, too.

  • Anonymous

    Our “Riverfront” is a DISGRACE!!!!!!  It could really be developed into something special, and could be a HUGE asset to our city, and could be marketed as a true destination point!!!  We have something special God has given us, but can’t seem to get our act together to shine that diamond until it really sparkles…. Side walk cafes/ coffee shops, gift shops— not the seedy redneck place it is today……. SAD!!!!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PJYRCK3MJP5WIADNZ5476BWVMM Kathy

    It’s bad. I remember when there were more restaurants and things down there.

  • Anonymous

    Regina, I think it would be a great idea to have “re-enactments” of some sort down under the hill when the boat docks when it is a high tourist time.  Not being a true “Nachezian”  since I have only been here 24 years, I am not sure if this has ever been done.  You know make scheduled events that envolve the businessess there.  Don’t know if I am making any since but most theme parks do this kind of thing.  I have always thought it would be great to make a sort of “French Market” like New Orleans only on a smaller scale with the farmers showing there goods and vendors with jewelry, purses, etc..  Ours would be be much nicer, cleaner, and hopefully safer.