American Queen to dock overnight?

Published 12:02 am Thursday, January 21, 2016

NATCHEZ — Visitors traveling on the American Queen steamboat cruise apparently are saying they want more time in Natchez, but making that happen might be a logistical problem.

Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Kevin Kirby said he is working with the American Queen to lengthen the amount of time the steamboat stays docked in Natchez, possibly even making Natchez an overnight stop instead of just a day stop.

The American Queen has been receiving feedback from passengers to suggest a longer stay is warranted, and Kirby said the company is working on a way to extend their passengers’ free time in Natchez.

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Kirby said no riverboat is currently staying overnight.

“(Some) arrive early in the morning or late at night, so first thing in the morning you go ashore,” Kirby said. “But nothing full day, overnight, full day, so far.”

If the American Queen decides to pass over other stops on the river, it could increase port time either enough to stay a night in Natchez, or by just a few hours, depending on the details of the schedule.

Longer stays in Natchez could also happen as temporary measures to deal with uncooperative river levels at other ports.

The only problem, Kirby said, is logistics.

“Everybody’s kind of working on it, but the catch is you have so many days, and they have to get to Memphis and they have to get to New Orleans,” Kirby said.

Steamboat travelers are presently strapped for time, Kirby said, preventing them from seeing everything that interests them in Natchez.

“We want to let the experience be greater so the individual walks away more satisfied,” Kirby said.

The American Queen’s hop-on, hop-off buses allow visitors to make short trips to a variety of places. Touring any one place in depth means that a visitor misses out on many other things Natchez has to offer, Kirby said.

“So that’s the challenge: how to take advantage of all the stories that need to be told,” Kirby said. “Their excursions try to craft an inclusive tour but the clock is ticking. They have so many hours in port.”

Having an overnight stay, Kirby said, might come with both pros and cons. The rushed nature of the Natchez trip might inspire steamboat passengers to return for independent vacations.

“They get a snapshot when they come on the queen, and then say, ‘Hey, this is a long weekend, let’s plan an independent trip to Natchez,’” Kirby said. “So we’re also talking about how to take advantage of how (the schedule) currently is.”