American Duchess Cruise: Doll museum brings back childhood memories for many visitors

ABOARD THE AMERICAN DUCHESS – Mike Bakarich was happy when his wife Carolyn opened her Yesterday’s Children Antique Doll and Toy Museum in 1986. “I finally had a place to sit,” he says with a smile. “She had dolls all over the house so I was glad when she got them out of the house and they weren’t taking up my seats.” After a year, Carolyn moved her museum to a historic 1849 building in downtown Vicksburg …

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American Duchess Cruise: Vicksburg man starts bottling Coca-Cola, changes soft drink world

ABOARD THE AMERICAN DUCHESS – Once upon a time, Coca-Cola drinkers could only get their cold beverage by visiting a soda fountain. On a summer day in 1894, however, a young candy merchant and soda fountain operator changed all that. Joseph Biedenharn had an idea that quickly changed the soft drink industry. The Vicksburg businessman put the popular drink in bottles so that people anywhere could enjoy it whenever and wherever they wanted. “Now people could buy …

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American Duchess Cruise: Museum honors three cousins who became world famous

ABOARD THE AMERICAN DUCHESS – Three little boys growing up in small town Louisiana showed early musical talents. But the three cousins probably had no idea that their names would one day be known worldwide. The three youngsters from Ferriday were Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart and Mickey Gilley – sometimes known as the Killer, the Preacher and the Cowboy. “We’re proud of all of them,” says Linda Gardner, director of the Delta Music Museum & Arcade …

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American Duchess Cruise: Visiting amazing collections at The Towers in Natchez

ABOARD THE AMERICAN DUCHESS – The beautiful antebellum house known as “The Towers” doesn’t have any. Towers, that is. One of the landmark towers that gave the historic Natchez home its name was destroyed in a 1927 fire. The other tower was taken down that same year. But Ginger Hyland and her husband James are determined to do something about that lack of towers. “We’re returning the towers,” she says. “I’m so excited, I can’t stand it.” …

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American Duchess Cruise: Riverboat offers contemporary rather than traditional décor

Aboard the American Duchess – The mighty Mississippi has a new royal lady traveling along its muddy waters. Launched in August 2017, the new 166-guest American Duchess has already made her beautiful presence felt. “I think riverboat cruising is more popular than ever,” says American Duchess Riverlorian Steve Spracklen. “It’s a good way for people to see some of these small American towns along the river and to get away from all the noise and news going …

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American Duchess Cruise: Haunting story of mansion never finished because of Civil War

Aboard the American Duchess – Like a magnificent jewel, the Longwood mansion nestles atop a Natchez hillside. But the opulent home hides a secret inside. “It was never finished,” tour guide Cindy says. “All that was ever finished was the basement and that’s where the family had to live.” The largest octagonal house in America, Longwood was the unfulfilled dream of wealthy planter and physician Haller Nutt. “To me, it is a story of romance, tragedy, triumph …

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American Duchess Cruise: ‘Steamcoaches’ add to riverboat shore excursions

ABOARD THE AMERICAN DUCHESS – Here comes the American Duchess Steamcoach rolling down the road. The road? Yep, the popular riverboat has personalized steamcoaches decorated to look like their namesake. And they sure are getting second looks whenever they pass by. The colorful motor coaches are painted to closely resemble the exterior of the American Queen – big sister to the American Duchess – complete with the big red paddlewheel and “passengers” waving from the decks. People …

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American Duchess Cruise: Riverlorian Steve Spracklen shares amazing river tales

“I loved that profession (riverboat pilot) far better than any I’ve followed since … I hoped to follow the river the rest of my days and die at the wheel when my mission was ended.” Mark Twain ABOARD THE AMERICAN DUCHESS – Growing up in Joplin, Steve Spracklen thought he’d like to be a musician. He also was a great fan of a fellow Missourian named Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as legendary writer Mark Twain. “I …

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American Duchess Cruise: Admiring my Loft Suite and meeting my River Butler

His name is W. Gerard Williams. He is my River Butler and he seems to be everywhere. When I checked into my Loft Suite aboard the American Duchess, Gerard was there to show me the cabin’s light switches, in-room safe, mini-fridge stocked with complimentary water and sodas, Keurig coffee maker with eight one-cup coffee pods, TV controls, two telephones (one upstairs and one downstairs), balcony door lock, thermostat and other grand features of my amazing stateroom. On …

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American Duchess Cruise: New Orleans hurricane exhibit packs powerful punch

Scrawled on well-worn blue jeans are a man’s name, social security number, blood type, wife’s name, hotel where she was evacuated for safety and the hotel phone number. Claudio Hemb wanted to ensure that his body would be identified and his family notified if he perished in Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters. “Seeing all these things is horrifying,” says Margaret Thompson of Atlanta. “I saw it on the news but this museum just touches my heart and soul.” The …

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