The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

American Queen Steamboat Returns to Cruising the Mississippi River on April 13, 2012

Posted on April 12, 2012 at 01:04 PM

NEW ORLEANS: The Delta Grassroots Caucus wholeheartedly praises the American Queen steamboat’s return to travels along the Mississippi River starting April 13. The American Queen is the world’s largest paddlewheeler steamboat and will bring substantial tourist dollars to Helena-West Helena, Arkansas, Memphis, Tennessee and 14 other communities in the Greater Mississippi Delta region from St. Louis and Cape Girardeau, Missouri, down to New Orleans, Louisiana.

The American Queen’s return to the Mississippi will be among the initiatives we will address at the annual Clinton Center conference on May 3-4, 2012. Contact Lee Powell at 202-360-6347 or Desha County Judge Mark McElroy at 870-877-2426.

The American Queen completed an inaugural training voyage from New Orleans to Oak Alley Plantation, Louisiana on April 10-12 to get feedback from a group of people knowledgeable about travel, tourism and the Mississippi River Delta, including Caucus executive director Lee Powell.

The 418-foot-long American Queen is under the new management by the Great American Steamboat Company, can carry approximately 430 passengers, and is now the only paddlewheel steamer making overnight voyages through the heartland of America.

Powell said “This is great news that the American Queen will be resuming its historic role in cruising the Mississippi and its tributaries after having been docked in Texas for the past several years.”

“The Queen has fabulous dining rooms and great food, observation decks to get a great view of the natural splendor of the Mississippi, a beautiful music hall where talented musicians perform blues, jazz and other music of the Delta region, and a great list of historic ports of call from New Orleans, Oak Alley Plantation, Vicksburg, Natchez, Helena-West Helena, Memphis, to New Madrid, Cape Girardeau and St. Louis, Missouri,” Powell said.

The steamboat tours will emphasize Southern culture, literature, Civil War and other historic tours, as well as Dixieland jazz, blues, bluegrass, rock and roll and the other great musical legacies of the region.

“Traveling on the American Queen this week was a fabulous experience inspired by the majestic steamboats of the Mark Twain era, and what a great sight it was to see the palatial steamboat cruising on the Mighty Mississippi once again,” Powell said.

The steamboat will have tour buses so that the passengers can stop, see the sights of Helena, Memphis and the many other historic locations along the river. “For a small, economically distressed community like Helena-West Helena, to have over 400 prosperous tourists spend some time and tourist dollars and learn about the history and culture of their community is a big plus for their local economy,” Powell said.

“Greatly expanding tourism is one of the bright hopes for a better economic future for the Delta. All the Delta Grassroots Caucus partners from New Orleans to southern Missouri and Illinois congratulate CEO Jeff Krida and the experienced, talented team they have put together to get the American Queen cruising the Mississippi again. They are knowledgeable people with great experience as well as a passion for the historic role steamboats have held and continue to hold in the history of our region and our country,” Powell said.

Caucus Co-chairman, Desha County Judge Mark McElroy said “The Mississippi River is a great super-highway through the Delta and we need to explore more ways to develop the tourist potential for the smaller communities of the Delta like Helena-West Helena and many other stops along the river. Good news for our region has been hard to come by lately so we are glad to do everything we can to promote the resumption of travels by the American Queen.”

“The resumption of business thus far has led to the hiring of 300 people from the Delta region, so this is good to have a new source of jobs,” Powell said. Most of the employees thus far are based in west Tennessee but over time there will be some job opportunities in other Delta areas. The home port is Memphis and the revitalized Beale Street Landing.

The first voyage departs New Orleans and goes to Vicksburg for a 6-night cruise starting on April 13. An eight-day voyage from New Orleans to Memphis leaves on April 19 and stops at Helena on the seventh day.

The 2012 schedule includes 16 voyages along the Lower Mississippi Delta from April to December.

“The cruises inform people about our region and have an educational as well as an economic impact,” Powell said. “People travel on the American Queen not only from all over the region but from all over the country and the world, and they will take back home with them an interest in the Delta region that in many cases will have potential for future returns and/or investments in our region.”

“We were delighted to learn that the Great American Steamboat has already enjoyed heavy purchases of the voyages, and their investment and the already strong sales are hopefully another indication that the economic recovery may be picking up steam,” Powell said. “The American Queen’s return will be a plus for our region’s economy.”

Stops in the Greater Delta Region include:

New Orleans, Louisiana

Oak Alley Plantation, Louisiana

Houmas House, Louisiana

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

St. Francisville, Louisiana

Natchez, Mississippi

Vicksburg, Mississippi

Helena-West Helena, Arkansas

Memphis, Tennessee

Ashport Landing, west Tennessee

New Madrid, southeast Missouri

Cape Girardeau, southeast Missouri

St. Louis, Missouri

Paducah, western Kentucky

Henderson, western Kentucky

Cave-In-Rock, southern Illinois

The American Queen has been docked in Texas for the past several years, where it was maintained by the US Maritime Administration (MARAD), the part of the US Department of Transportation that deals with waterborne transportation.

The American Queen is over twice as large as one of the other famous Mississippi steamboats, the Delta Queen. The Delta Queen is now docked in Tennessee and its future is uncertain, although one possibility is that it may be used as a floating hotel.

(The Great American Steamboat Company does not own the Delta Queen.)

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