Old-timey planes whizz overhead. Daredevil parachutists breeze through the famed St. Louis Arch. Dazzling fireworks illuminate the sky.
Seems like a fitting end to our American Queen cruise. All too quickly, the boat is docked at St. Louis and our journey from Memphis is coming to a close.
Major waterfront celebrations are going on in St. Louis and we have the perfect front-porch seat to view it all from the American Queen.
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think the three sister Delta Queen boats would stop cruising the rivers, at least not in my lifetime. Once they did, never in my wildest dreams, did I believe they would ever come back. One- the mighty Mississippi Queen – is gone forever. Another one – the historic Delta Queen– is permanently docked as a floating hotel.
But here is the youngest of the three sisters – the American Queen –back on the rivers since April. Now owned by a new company, the riverboat is being welcomed by paddlewheel- cruise-hungry passengers.
I was pleased to see our cruise filled with so many happy travelers. Also, I was happy to see some familiar faces from past Delta Queen cruising days – cruise director Steve Spracklen, riverlorian Karen “Toots” Maloy, musician Bob Schad and Mark Twain speaker Lewis Hankins.
The American Queen is all spiffed up and offers some pluses it never had before. The food is better than ever, the complimentary beer and wine at dinner are a nice treat, the bicycles that can be used ashore free of charge are fun, the Steamcoaches for shore excursions are comfortable and easy to spot, free WiFi is great (when it works) and the no-charge shore excursions are usually more than anyone can do in a single stop.
The boat is still working out a few kinks but it is wonderful to see the paddlewheel riverboat back where she belongs. That is one thing that I heard in every town we visited – the three Queens were very much missed and folks are excited to see the American Queen once again cruising and visiting places along the way.
Now it’s time to pack up and take my memories home with me. Thanks for coming along for the ride. Hope you come aboard on future adventures with me on other ships, boats and waterways around the world.
As Mark Twain said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch