Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Boat dock to nowhere

Why are people still surprised to learn that we’re building a $37-40 million boat dock for riverboat cruises that have long been out of the business?

It must be a failure of the media. We hadn't been told of this startling news. Oh, wait. John Branston told us a year ago [Away All Boats: Beale Street Landing is missing a key ingredient, December 18, 2008]:
Beale Street Landing, the Riverfront Development Corporation's $30 million project at Beale Street and Riverside Drive, has a serious problem before it even opens.

The riverboat cruise business is disappearing. The Majestic America Line steamboat company in Seattle is going out of business. Two years ago, Majestic America acquired the New Orleans-based Delta Steamship Company and three steamboats — the Delta Queen, the American Queen, and the Mississippi Queen — that docked in Memphis en route to Cincinnati, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge. That leaves RiverBarge Excursion Line and its floating barge hotel as the only overnight touring boat on the river.

The American Queen, loading passengers and supplies at the Mud Island River Park boat landing, July, 2005.

But we still have the RiverBarge Line, right? Oh, wait. Oops:
RiverBarge Excursion Lines, Inc. has been forced to curtail all operations for 2009 due to economic conditions. Rising costs and very soft bookings have forced this decision...

We want to assure our guests that RiverBarge Excursion Lines, Inc. deposits all payments for excursions in a special escrow account at the Whitney National Bank. This escrow account is overseen and regulated by the Federal Maritime Commission. As soon as these funds are made available to us, guest refunds will be processed.

RiverBarge Excursions would like to express our gratitude to all guests who have traveled with us in the last 10 years and thank you for your support and for being a part of the RiverBarge Family.

A huge floating hotel, the double-barge River Explorer docks at Mud Island in November, 2007. Photos by Michael Cromer.

Someone needs to clue in the RDC. According to their website they're still living in hope:
Because the Beale Street Landing project is under design, the former Delta Steamship Company has increased its dockings in Memphis by 40%. They are trying to build their market here in anticipation of the new docking facility, adding a strong economic development aspect to the project that benefits the City for years to come.

Obviously, the RDC hasn't updated their web page in two years.
But what if these riverboat companies actually do somehow come back to life? Won't we then need a place for them to dock?

Nope. We have a perfectly respectable, and more authentic, riverboat landing at Mud Island -- the one the cruise companies had been using for years. And there's a snack bar and gift shop right nearby!

Further reading

1 comment:

Nori said...

It is still within the realm of physical possibility that the Delta Queen and American Queen may resume cruises in the near future. For news on the situation as it develops, please log onto Steamboats.com, or similar steamboat networks.