Sailing the Mighty Mississippi
The week of March 24, 2013 I took a trip that would have made Mark Twain smile. That’s when I was a guest lecturer on the American Queen steamboat, the former sister boat to the Delta Queen.
My five nights onboard this grand paddle wheeler started in Memphis and ended in Baton Rouge. Along the way we stopped for day trips in Helena, Arkansas, Vicksburg, Natchez and St. Francisville, Louisiana, where comfortable buses were waiting to take us on tours. Although the boat was going all the way down to New Orleans, I opted to disembark in my hometown (where Elton John just happened to be giving a concert the night we docked). But while I was sailing, I got to see what had so impressed the father of American Literature — the goings-on in the Mississippi River, as viewed from its middle.
And there’s no better way to watch the barges, cities, small towns, cotton and sugarcane fields, fishermen and waving townsfolk than from one of the four decks of the American Queen. This boat is truly a floating palace, with every modern convenience imaginable, including a workout room and pool. And it also has some of the nicest, most attentive crew members you’ll find.
To me, the boat’s most impressive room was (big surprise!) the opulent J. M. White Dining Saloon. Fashioned after what had been a drawing card on the 19th century J.M. White, the “most luxurious steamboat ever built,” the two-deck high dining room was complete with festoons, an arched ceiling, white tablecloths and fresh flowers. At every meal I felt as though I’d been transported back to steamboating’s Golden Age.
Thank you, American Queen, for an elegant trip back in time.
For information on the American Queen Steamboat go to www.americanqueensteamboatcompany.com.