Cruise line coming to Natchez

Published 12:01 am Sunday, June 20, 2010

NATCHEZ — After 20 months of missing river travelers, tourism officials in Natchez got some good news last week.

Cruise West, a Seattle-based cruise line specializing in small vessel cruises announced departure dates for four Mississippi River cruises embarking from New Orleans.

The cruises are scheduled to begin in March 2011.

Sally Durkin, media and film liaison for the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau said the scheduled arrivals of the cruises should be a good addition to an already busy spring season.

“It is very exciting to learn that Natchez is on the proposed itinerary for Cruise West’s seven-day run between New Orleans and Memphis,” Durkin said. “If they bring their runs in March of 2011, it could be a big boost for Spring Pilgrimage and the Historic Natchez (Tableaux).”

Cruises will run from New Orleans to Memphis and from Memphis to New Orleans.

The current scheduled departure dates are March 19 and April 16 for New Orleans to Memphis route and April 9 and May 7 for the Memphis to New Orleans route.

Both routes include one-day stops in Natchez, giving travelers several hours to explore Natchez.

“Although the passengers sleep and eat aboard the vessel, their being here could still have a nice economic impact on downtown retail businesses,” Durkin said. “(Cruise West) ships are very attractive and seem to be just the right size for river travel.”

The boats will make stops in Helena, Ark., Vicksburg, St. Francisville, La. and Vacherie, La., along the way.

The arrival of passengers from Cruise West cruises would be the first commercial vessel river-transported visitors to Natchez since the American Queen and Delta Queen made their last stops in Natchez in November of 2008.

The Delta Queen docked in Natchez for the last time on Nov. 4, 2008, and the American Queen docked for the last time in Natchez on Nov. 10, 2008.

The Delta Queen was decommissioned after losing her exemption from the Safety of Life at Sea Act of 1966.

The Delta Queen was later leased to a hotel operator in Chattanooga, Tenn., to become a floating hotel.

The American Queen did not book any voyages after 2008.

The Mississippi Queen was sold for scrap metal to a private buyer in May.

“With the loss of the three Majestic America Line paddle wheelers, which docked in Natchez for many decades, it will be awesome to have water-transported visitors strolling our streets again,” Durkin said.