Sunday, September 26, 2010

Another Mississippi cruise idea is floated, but will it stay afloat?

Guilford, Conn.-based American Cruise Lines says it will be offering week-long cruises on the Mississippi, Ohio, and Cumberland rivers, starting in August 2012. Six itineraries on the schedule would have Memphis as an end point. Prices for a seven-night trip range from $3,595 (single) to $6,285.

A schedule announcement and a web page doesn't guarantee that the cruises will actually happen. Earlier this year, Seattle-based Cruise West had said they would offer Mississippi cruises starting next spring, but that company has since suspended operations and shut down.

In a press release [PDF] the company says they are building a new five-deck stern-wheeler to accommodate these cruises. A sharp-eyed reader noticed this statement about the boat:
As on all true riverboats, a stage and bow ramp will give the ship access to the many interesting ports without docking facilities.

Real Mississippi riverboats are designed to load/unload passengers and cargo at sloped landings along the river's edge -- like our historic cobblestones, and the landing right across the harbor on Mud Island. The slope of these landings could easily accommodate the great fluctuations in the river's level. So, contrary to what the RDC has implied in their marketing, Beale Street Landing wasn't really needed. We have a perfectly good, authentic riverboat landing for the large boats, and the historic cobblestone landing for smaller ones.

Instead of budgeting over $37 million for a new dock, we could have spent a fraction of that upgrading the Mud Island facility, already used by the large boats, and rehabilitating the historic cobblestones for all other boating uses as was originally promised by the RDC.

For more, see this Commercial Appeal story.

Friday, September 10, 2010

CA: Overnight cruises on Mississippi River put on hold

By Wayne Risher, The Commmercial Appeal [link]
September 10, 2010
A cruise company's troubles have cast doubt on plans to bring overnight cruises on the Mississippi River back to Memphis next year.

The small-ship cruise line Cruise West announced it had suspended new bookings while the company is restructured.

Cruise West posted a statement on its website that said it would continue to operate its U.S. flagships through October, but it gave no information about future offerings.

It said company executives would not respond to questions from the media.

The shutdown came less than three months after the Seattle-based company said it would launch cruises on the Mississippi stopping in Memphis starting next March.

In June the company began accepting advance bookings for two seven-day itineraries for the 102-passenger Spirit of America: New Orleans to Memphis and Memphis to Nashville.

The New Orleans-Memphis cruise was touted as spotlighting plantations, mansions and Civil War sites of the iconic South. The Memphis-Nashville cruise was to focus on the music heritage of destination cities. Prices started at $3,499 a person.

Memphis hasn't had overnight cruises since the Delta Queen stopped running in October 2008.

The Memphis Riverfront Development Corp. has a new docking facility under construction at the foot of Beale Street, but it won't be completed until late next year.

Cruise West said the first step in its restructuring was terminating its "Voyages of the Great Explorers" cruise when the Spirit of Oceanus docked in St. John's, Newfoundland, on Wednesday.

"Additional assets may be sold and other steps are being pursued toward a restructure," the statement added.