A brand new paddlewheeler started cruising on the Mississippi River last month. The 150-passenger Queen of the Mississippi, which makes seven-night cruises from several ports, has not been affected by the river’s drought-induced low water, which has curtailed some traffic on the river.
While the new American Cruise Line ship brings back old-style cruising on the river, its facilities are decidedly modern. Its staterooms, at 300-square-feet-plus, are more spacious than on other riverboats. Most have private balconies, and each is equipped with telephone, satellite television and Wi-Fi. Fares are luxury level, starting at $3,995 per person double occupancy.
The Queen of the Mississippi is the second sternwheeler to restore cruising on America’s biggest river. Last April, the refurbished 1995-built American Queen, operated by a rival cruise line, resumed river cruising after being out of service for four years.
Information: 800-814-8880, www.americancruiselines.com.
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NEW LIFE FOR OLD SHIP?
On the 60th anniversary of the maiden voyage of the SS United States, a campaign has been launched to save the ship, the fastest passenger liner ever built.
In July 1952, the ship broke the trans-Atlantic speed record, making the eastbound crossing in three days, 10 hours and 40 minutes. The ship, which transported Presidents Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy and their wives as well as dozens of Hollywood stars, lost the eastbound speed record in 1990 to the Hoverspeed Great Britain, a catamaran ferry, but it still holds the Blue Riband for the westbound crossing.
The new campaign undertaken by the Save the United States Conservancy is relying on social networking and an interactive Internet experience to raise funds to restore the vessel, which has been laid up at a Philadelphia dock for some years. For $1 a square inch, supporters can select and “save” their own sections of the ship. The plan also envisions creating a 20,000-square-foot museum and a Center for American Design and Discovery.
MOVIES & MAGIC
In an industry first, Crystal Cruises is offering a complimentary five-hour course in movie-making on Crystal Symphony. Participants will learn to use professional tools and techniques, utilizing the iMovie app on their own iPads. They will shoot one of five documentary-style genres, then edit the footage and add music, graphics, voiceovers and other effects. The course will be expanded to the Crystal Serenity in January.
In another first, the line is bringing aboard magicians from the Los Angeles private magicians’ club, the Magic Castle, both to entertain and to teach magic arts to passengers. Attendance at half-hour performances is by invitation only and limited to 25. The shows will be offered on 13 European cruises this year and on every voyage in 2013.
WITH OR WITHOUT KIDS
MSC Cruises has introduced several plans to make family dining a happier time.
Under one plan, MSC Happy Dinners, kids eat with their parents from the kids’ menu while their parents have their opening courses. When the kids are finished, they are taken to the Kids Club, letting parents finish their meal at leisure. With another option, MSC Fun Time Dinners, kids eat in a separate area from their parents, then are taken to their clubs; children 3-11 eat with the entertainment team. The services are free.
HISTORY ON THE WATER
You might run into John Muir or Meriwether Lewis on some Safari Cruises sailings next year. Impersonators of the early explorers will appear as part of the line’s new Heritage Adventures program.
History will be the theme on a restored replica Victorian steamer the line will add to its fleet in 2013. Named the Safari Legacy, the 88-passenger ship will make two 11-night sailings in Alaska next August, then move to Portland, Ore., for a series of cruises on the Columbia and Snake Rivers until summer of 2014, when it will return to Alaska. The Heritage Adventures program will combine onboard historical presentations with guided tours ashore. Alaska cruise rates start at $7,895 per person, double occupancy; one-week cruises on the Columbia and Snake rivers start at $3,195.
HERE AND THERE
Continuing its $25-million improvement project on its private Bahamian island, Norwegian Cruise Line has opened a stingray encounter and a snorkel adventure on Great Stirrup Cay. Coming soon is a bar partnering with Patron brand spirits.
Viking River Cruises has ordered two more ships for next year, bringing the line’s total of new ships debuting in 2013 to eight. Like the earlier six on order, the two new 190-passenger vessels will have Viking’s “Longships” design with many veranda suites and other state-of-the-art features.
Compagnie du Ponant, a French luxury cruise line, has gone all-inclusive, including all meals, alcoholic drinks, tips, port charges, taxes and fees in the cruise fare. The line has a 64-passenger sailing ship, two 264-passenger liners built in 2010 and 2011 and a third that will enter service next year.
Island Windjammers, successor line to Windjammer Barefoot Cruises, has acquired a second tall ship, the 120-foot, 22-passenger Sagita. That ship will begin Caribbean sailings Dec. 23.
The Great American Steamboat Co., which this spring launched the American Queen on Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio River cruises, has been renamed in honor of the ship. Its name is now the American Queen Steamboat Co.
Social media goes to sea Oct. 12-15 on Norwegian Cruise Line’s second annual #SeaTweetup on the Norwegian Sky out of Miami. Special networking events will held throughout the three-night cruise, including marketing panels and discussions, giveaways and other group activities.