America Queen steamboat to return to Natchez

Published 12:15 am Thursday, September 8, 2011


The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — Natchez will be receiving a royal visitor this spring that may bring the crown jewel of economic opportunities for Natchez tourism.

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Approximately 50 people attended a meeting Wednesday at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center to hear Bob Buesing of Shore Excursions of America outline a plan to bring the American Queen steamboat back to Natchez and revive riverboat tourism in town.

“I live and breathe tourism,” Buesing said. “It took 10 years to get what you’re about to see, and it’s different from anything we’ve ever done.”

The difference between a typical boat cruise and an American Queen cruise is that the American Queen will enable its passengers to have time to complete a guided tour of the city and its attractions, as well as shop, eat and visit local venues on their own, Buesing said.

Buesing said his company’s vision is to provide a shore excursion included in every passenger’s package that will give passengers an experience on land that will complement the experience on board.

“This is not a $499 Carnival cruise,” Buesing said. “This is high-end.”

The American Queen will set sail on April 11 and make 15 stops to Natchez in 2012. Buesing said there is a possibility of 25-30 stops in Natchez in 2013.

Buesing said the American Queen will carry 430 passengers. He said he anticipates each tourist that steps off the boat in Natchez will spend an average of $113, which could mean more than $485,000 for Natchez shops, attractions and restaurants.

In the past, Buesing said, port time was less than three hours and only 35-40 percent of passengers debarked the boat to go on optional tours.

“We plan on doubling that time in port and making the entire town accessible to American Queen passengers.”

He said his company will choose attractions in Natchez to include in the tour based on criteria including historical significance and admission.

Buesing said one of his ultimate goals is to have people want to come back to Natchez.

“When they get back on the boat, we want them to say, ‘Boy, I’d like to come back there for the pilgrimage and stay a few nights.”

Donna Sessions, treasurer for Preservation Society of Ellicott Hill, said she is excited about the opportunities the American Queen will bring to Natchez.

“I’m excited about the possibility of having so many tourists from the riverboat spending money in our shops and touring our homes,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to show Natchez off.”

For more information on how to get involved with the American Queen tours, call the Natchez Visitor Reception Center at 601-446-6345.