Thursday, August 16, 2001

Mississippi Queen makes Louisville a home port in '02

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE — A huge steamboat will make Louisville a home port while cruising the Ohio River, and officials are trumpeting the economic gains long before passengers are whistled aboard.

        The Mississippi Queen will ply the river on seven-night cruises between Louisville and Pittsburgh next year, said a spokesman for the Delta Queen Steamboat Co., which operates the boat.

[photo] The Mississippi Queen, shown docked at Waterfront Park in Louisville, will be making Louisville-Pittsburgh trips bext year from mid-July to early November.
(Enquirer file photo)
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        The Delta Queen Steamboat Co. was based in Cincinnati until its move to New Orleans. The boat will make 16 cruises between Louisville and Pittsburgh, the other home port for the voyages, starting in mid-July of 2002 and ending in early November, company spokesman Jim Lida said Wednesday.

        “It clearly makes Louisville one of Delta Queen's stars of the Ohio River,” Mr. Lida said in a telephone interview.

        The Mississippi Queen, built in 1976, can carry 420 passengers and a crew of 156. At 382 feet long and six decks high, the Mississippi Queen is the second-largest steam-powered paddlewheel riverboat, Mr. Lida said, trailing only the American Queen, a sister boat in the company's fleet.

        The riverboat will dock at Louisville's downtown wharf, where the cruises will start or end. Cruises will make stops in Cincinnati and Marietta in Ohio and Huntington and Wheeling in West Virginia, Mr. Lida said.

        Louisville has been a port of call for the Mississippi Queen and other steamboats operated by the company, allowing guests to spend parts of a day visiting the city before continuing on their journey, Mr. Lida said.

        By making Louisville a regular turnaround point in cruises up and down the river, guests will have more time to explore the city, Mr. Lida said.

        Louisville officials predicted the city will reap financial benefits from the steamboat's increased stops and longer stays.

        On trips leaving from Pittsburgh, the boat will arrive in Louisville on Fridays, Mr. Lida said. Passengers can visit Louisville throughout the day and spend one more night aboard before their stay on the vessel ends Saturday, he said. The boat then departs Sunday, with new passengers, for the journey upriver to Pittsburgh, he said.

        The city has plenty of attractions a short distance from the waterfront, including museums, restaurants and night spots, said Mike Bosc, spokesman for Greater Louisville Inc., the metro chamber of commerce. The cruises will also showcase the city's Waterfront Park.

        “They will be seeing what is one of the premier waterfront developments in the country,” Mr. Bosc said.

        Kathy Bernson, a spokeswoman for the Greater Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau, said officials are hoping to line up group tours of attractions around the city for the boat's passengers.

        “We think it will have a strong economic impact,” she said. “It will give us the opportunity to showcase our community to new visitors.”

        The choice of Louisville as a home port for the start or end of the cruises was driven partly by its location, Mr. Lida said.

        “It was geographically desirable,” Mr. Lida said. “It made the most sense in our planning to make those seven-night cruises between Louisville and Pittsburgh.”

        Mr. Lida said the company decided on the extended cruises after studying trends in vacation habits.

        The Mississippi Queen also will make cruises next year between Louisville and Memphis.

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