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.

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