ON THE OHIO RIVER_One thing that has surprised us on this cruise is how much we are learning about our own country. While cruising the world and travel in general is always a great educational experience, taking our first cruise on America’s waterways has been enlightening beyond our expectations.
Take, for example, our latest stop — Maysville, Kentucky. With a population of less than 10,000, it’s enjoyed a rich history from its founding by frontier legend Daniel Boone, among others. A manufacturing hub known for tobacco, bourbon and wrought iron, it also played a major role in the Underground Railroad and inspired the work of Harriet Beecher Stowe.
In more modern times, Maysville is the proud home of singer/actress Rosemary Clooney. Her first film, “The Stars Are Singing” in 1953, had its world premiere here at downtown’s Russell Theatre, currently undergoing a renovation. She is also depicted on one of town’s famous floodwall murals near the river.
We are only here for a half-day visit, so we get an early start with the bus tour. Friendly guides are on hand to greet us and talk about what we’re going to see, starting with the famous aforementioned murals, painted over a period of 10 years on the floodwall, each showcasing events of historical importance.
Our first stop is the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center, which houses the second largest collection of miniatures in the world. Viewing the craftsmanship of these miniature houses, rooms and scenes is truly unbelievable. They are faithful down to the last detail — Pam even wanted to join the Red Hat Ladies and have a drink. Wait — didn’t I see that on an episode of The Twilight Zone?
There’s also lots of history on display in what used to be the town library, now part of the museum. The multi-story windows are amazing in their own right.
You could literally spend hours here, but we had to press on to the Old Pogue bourbon history center, located just down the street from the museum. While we aren’t bourbon drinkers, we have a good friend who is, so we had to make a stop here.
Inside were displays and memorabilia that trace the history of the brand through six generations of family ownership, starting in the 1870s. We learned their limited production is only available regionally, and a bottle of their Master’s Select runs $120. Before leaving, we had a $5 tasting of their 91-proof Master’s Select. You immediately feel the heat, then the smoothness. I’m pretty sure our friend would approve.
As the bus was returning to the boat, we spied a group of kids on a street corner selling lemonade — something straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Pam joined the driver and a few others to offer the kids money for their efforts. As we drove off, you’ve never seen kids more excited.
Maysville is the kind of Americana that’s easy to miss as we zip around on the interstates. Kudos to American Queen for bringing it to the forefront.
Sailaway is early today — 1 pm — and the first thing on the daily planner afterwards is that all-time favorite American pastime: Bingo! Since we rarely win games of chance, it’s a perfect time for me to write about the cruise while Pam gets a cup of coffee, finds a chair on the Front Porch and listens to music via headphones. By the way, she is happy with how many coffee machines are placed around the boat.
The river lecture today centers on the tragic story of the steamboat Sultana, which exploded while transporting former Civil War prisoners back home. It was the worst maritime disaster in US history, killing more people than died on the Titanic.
At 3 pm, guests are invited to have a “Slice of Paradise” at the River Bar, where bartender Soli is serving up your favorite frozen drink while one of the ship’s musicians plays guitar. The event draws quite a crowd, and a second bartender is there is handle the overflow. We sip our drinks and admire the passing scenery as we wind our way up river.
Soon after, the skies begin to darken and we encounter our first storm since we left Louisville. The crew scrambles to move furniture as the rain begins coming down in sheets. Soon enough it’s all over, leaving us a dry and cooler evening.
Tonight’s show is “Curtain Up!”, a tribute to Broadway, performed by the American Queen Ensemble, backed by the Steamboat Syncopators orchestra. It’s very impressive, and somewhat refreshing, to watch four talented singer/dancers and a five-piece orchestra be so entertaining without the benefit of an elaborate stage production and scenery changes. They just put on a good show.
Tomorrow we arrive at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, most famous for the Silver Bridge Disaster and the creature known as the Mothman, made famous in numerous books and movies. There’s even a Mothman Museum that’s on our bus tour.
You don’t want to miss my next installment!
PHOTOS by Gerry Barker
- Pogue Bourbon on display (cover)
- Welcome to Maysville mural
- The Red Hat Ladies in miniature
- Rosemary Clooney mural
See sailings here American Queen Voyages Cruises (cruisecompete.com)
See earlier American Queen posts here