New Queen graces Natchez shores

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — The Queen of the Mississippi riverboat sits docked at the boat ramp at Natchez Under-the-Hill Monday evening during its pre-inaugural cruise. The riverboat will start its inaugural cruise Saturday and visit Natchez on Aug. 15.

NATCHEZ — A royal visitor quietly cruised into Natchez by way of the Mississippi River this week.

A brand-new paddlewheel riverboat, the Queen of the Mississippi, made a stop in the city Monday during the boat’s pre-inaugural cruise.

Britt Rabinovici, public relations manager for American Cruise Lines, said the Queen of the Mississippi was completed in June by Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Md. The 150-passenger boat took approximately 22 months to be built, Rabinovici said.

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The five-deck paddle wheeler mixes historic stylings, Rabinovici said, with 21st Century technology and features a Mark Twain library and chart room, a top deck café and an exercise area, putting green, Internet access and satellite television.

The boat’s current trip is a pre-inaugural cruise, Rabinovici said, because the boat was finished ahead of schedule, so the company added a cruise before their publicized inaugural cruise because of high demand.

The Queen of the Mississippi’s inaugural cruise will launch Saturday in New Orleans headed to Memphis and will make a stop in Natchez on Aug. 15.

The boat will return twice in November and five times in December, Rabinovici said.

The boat will dock at approximately 11 p.m. when it arrives in Natchez, Rabinovici said, and will leave mid-afternoon the next day.

Rabinovici said the Queen of the Mississippi will kick off its first full season next year and will make several stops in Natchez.

The Queen of the Mississippi’s first voyage comes six months after the Great American Steamboat Co. brought riverboat cruises back to New Orleans with the restored American Queen in April.

Rabinovici said the riverboat cruise business went dormant for a while, but she said a renewed interest in American riverboats has spurred the recent comeback in Mississippi River riverboat cruises.

“I think people are really starting to realize the opportunity of river cruising here in the U.S.,” Rabinovici said. “Most people think of Europe when they think of river cruising. Just the Mississippi River itself has so much history…and I think people have really been itching to see these cruises come back to the Mississippi River.”