American Cruise Line’s newest, modern riverboat — American Melody — embarked on its inaugural season with the Queen City being one of its 20 featured stops along the Mississippi River this week.
American Melody guests boarded the vessel for ACL’s “22-Day Complete Mississippi River Cruise” departing Friday, Sept. 3 from Natchez and celebrated the Labor Day weekend exploring the lower Mississippi.
“The cruise had originally been scheduled to operate from New Orleans, LA to St. Paul, MN, but due to Hurricane Ida, guests will embark in Natchez, MS,” an ACL press release stated. “Throughout American Melody’s inaugural season, guests will cruise the country’s most iconic river, while being treated to complimentary pre-cruise nights on board, festive cocktail parties, Mississippi-inspired gourmet dinners, and special inaugural season gifts.”
Once the 175-passenger riverboat docked Thursday, passengers were bused around the community for excursions and exploration.
Frank Klipsch, Director of City Partnerships and Special Projects for ACL noted that it is the longest serving and largest river cruise company on the Mississippi River, boasting 13 ships that operate in 30 states around the country.
In addition, each ship is built in Salisbury, Maryland at the company’s affiliated shipyard, Chesapeake Shipbuilding and ACL’s vigorous build schedule has contributed to ACL tripling its size in the last six years.
ACL’s budding partnership with the Queen City makes for a sweet melody itself as the Mississippi Delta’s history and culture, Greenville’s economic development and ACL’s amenities and modernization could all be a collective catalyst for tourism.
As much is indicated in ACL’s economic impact report and through the relationship developed between the former Davenport, Iowa mayor, Klipsch, and Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons.
“Mayor Simmons was a friend of mine and I was a two-tern mayor in Davenport, Iowa, so I knew him through that time. But, also, I was the chair of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative — the hundred mayors on the (Mississippi) River,” Klipsch highlighted. “So we got to know each other and Mayor Simmons does a great job representing the community and part of that was making sure we knew about Greenville and that’s one of the stops we’ve added onto this cruise.”
He added once passengers disembark in the Minneapolis area, specifically Red Wing, Minnesota, another group of passengers will board as the American Melody gets set to traverse the other direction toward the lower Mississippi.
Thanking Simmons, Washington County Economic Alliance executive director Will Coppage and others for the partnership and collaboration received by ACL, as well as the “great excursions” its guests will be experiencing, Klipsch said, “ACL is very proactive and we are expanding and making an amazing economic impact,” referring to ACL research and economic impact reports.
As stated in the ACL’s economic impact briefing, ACL began working with cities and towns along the Mississippi River in 2010, when the company began planning its inaugural season on the river.
According to the briefing, the total economic impact in river towns is projected to be $45 million between the company’s four ships on the river system this year. It is projected by 2022, that will increase to $73 million with the introduction of the fifth ship and extended shoulder season schedules.
“This growth continues linearly with the introduction of each new vessel through 2026,” the briefing states.
It also highlights the success ACL’s operating history has yielded by relying on “close partnerships with communities and local impact.”
“In each port of call, ACL works closely with government and business leaders including: shore excursion providers, hotels city governments and tourism bureaus, food, alcohol, and consumable supply vendors, fuel and maintenance companies, main street associations, restaurants, and local businesses,” the briefing also stated.
Not to be forgotten is the American Queen Steamboat Company, whose vessels still dock in Greenville on a more regular basis and have been since 2015.
Local steamboat coordinator Anne Martin Vetrano noted that while ACL has docked with Greenville in the past, Thursday’s docking is the only one it will have in the city this year.
The American Queen Steamboat Company, Vetrano said, has three vessels — American Queen, American Countess and the American Duchess. The largest of those is the American Queen, reminiscent of the Delta Queen that traversed up and down the Mississippi River years ago.
“So the Countess and the Duchess come all the time and the Queen has been late getting back into the port. They had some mechanical issues early in the year and because of mechanical issues or hurricanes, the Queen has yet to dock in Greenville, but if all goes well, it will be making its first docking in Greenville this season on Sept. 25,” Vetrano noted.
As the local steamboat coordinator, she handles all of the cruise ships that come into town, mainly those that require tour guides or scheduling with museums.
She said of her duties, “I work with our local attractions to make sure the museums are open and with the cruise ships to make suggestions on what they might want to see while they’re docking in Greenville.”
Vetrano has the responsibility of ensuring trained tour guides are provided for the cruise line buses as they transport passengers around town.
“We also take passengers over to the B.B. King Museum in Indianola,” she said. “We’re always looking for new and different ways to tell people about the Delta and share our story and want people to go back home knowing way more than before they ever got here. Our first and foremost focus is to make sure the passengers have a good time when they come to the Delta.”
Passengers from the American Melody likely did just that as tour guides reported they “had a ball” and brought family members along for the journey who were first time visitors of the Delta.
“The general response today was, “We’re having a good time, thank you so much” and one of the big things that they loved today was all of the agricultural activity that they got to see because harvest is going on,” Vetrano shared from her conversation with a tour guide. “We’re known for our hospitality and it doesn’t matter where you come from or where you’re going, we are going to show a visitor a really good time.”