Riverboat to offer rides for weekend

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 14, 2005

VIDALIA &8212; A New Orleans-based riverboat will visit the Miss-Lou this week to provide cruises during the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race, Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said.

At the suggestion of a Natchez shop owner, Copeland called New Orleans Steamboat Co. and invited company officials to bring a boat to dock at Vidalia. &8220;I&8217;m totally excited about it,&8221; Copeland said.

The John James Audubon riverboat will dock at Vidalia Dock & Storage Thursday through Sunday for tours.

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&8220;This is something we can build on. They may come for other special events and festivals and maybe even set up a permanent cruise between Natchez and Baton Rouge,&8221; Copeland said.

For balloon-race enthusiasts, the opportunity to see hot-air balloons from a riverboat will be &8220;something we&8217;ve always wanted,&8221; Copeland said.

Adrienne Thomas, spokeswoman for the steamboat company, said the chance to come to Natchez is a good opportunity for them. &8220;Not much is going on for us in New Orleans,&8221; she said. &8220;This seems like an exciting thing to do.&8221;

Further, &8220;We may also bring the steamboat Natchez up &8212; maybe for Spring Pilgrimage.&8221;

Thursday, the John James Audubon will welcome school groups. Elementary students will cruise 8:30 to 10 a.m.; middle school students, 10:30 a.m. to noon; and high school students, 12:30 to 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 each per student.

&8220;Students may bring their bagged lunches, and soft drinks and snacks will be available for purchase on the boat,&8221; Thomas said.

Friday through Sunday, cruises will be $25 per adult and $13 per child, including meals, for the breakfast and lunch cruises and $50 per adult and $25 per child for the evening cruises.

The lift-off breakfast cruises will begin boarding at 6:30 a.m. The lunch cruises will board at 11:30 a.m. And the dinner, jazz and fireworks cruises will board at 6 p.m.

&8220;What a great way to spend your weekend &8212; touring antebellum homes, participating in balloon race festivities and cruising the Mississippi River aboard the John James Audubon,&8221; said Walter Tipton, director of tourism for Natchez.

Both Natchez and New Orleans are known for their hospitality, Thomas said. &8220;We&8217;ll just be bringing a little touch of New Orleans to Natchez,&8221; she said.

The John James Audubon, commissioned in 1982, is not a paddlewheel boat but, rather, a sleek contemporary vessel &8220;uniquely suited to sail the Mississippi,&8221; Thomas said.

Boat passengers will be transported by van from the parking lot at the Vidalia riverfront to the landing at Vidalia Dock & Storage, Copeland said.

Tickets are available by calling the toll-free number, 800-233-2628, extension 416; or online by going to www.steamboatnatchez.com.