Steamboats are once again rolling on the river and will be docking in Greenville this weekend. This marks the sixth year the steamboats with the American Queen Steamboat Company will be stopping in the Port City.
The boats have not visited Greenville since March of 2020 because of COVID-19. But the American Duchess will be returning Saturday, April 3. The tour may look a little different but the hospitality remains the same.
“We are elated that the riverboats are returning,” said Wesley Smith, executive director of the Greenville Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “They are following strict COVID protocols for the safety of their passengers and the towns they visit.”
After suspending river cruising for over a year, the company is slowly returning to normal but with very specific guidelines for passenger and tour guide safety. While certain safety standards are adhered to on the boat, once in port, those guidelines are extended to the tour guides. All passengers and tour guides must wear a face mask at all times, the tour buses are sanitized between groups, tour guides must take a rapid COVID test and it be negative, before they are allowed on the bus and passengers are divided into groups of smaller numbers and they stay with their designated group while riding the bus to and from the attractions.
The tour itself has been altered to offer the safest experience for the passengers. The only location they will visit is the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola. In the past, passengers have had the option to take a Hop On Hop Off tour in downtown Greenville, visiting attractions such as the Greenville History Museum, the E.E. Bass Cultural Arts Center, The 1927 Flood Museum, the Hebrew Union Temple, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and the Writer’s Exhibit at the William Alexander Percy Memorial Library. The American Queen Steamboat Company has made adjustments to their tours in ports all along the Mississippi River.
“They have a great plan in place and we are happy to have them back,” Smith added.
The company has said they hope to return to their normal tour itinerary in July.
Even the tour guides are excited the riverboats are returning and are ready to welcome the guests.
“We love welcoming tourists from all over the world to Greenville and sharing our rich history. We’ve missed it,” said Anne Martin Vetrano, local tour coordinator. “We have our face masks, and southern hospitality, ready!”
The American Duchess and her sister boats, the American Queen and the American Countess are expected to dock at the city waterfront about 25 times this year. All of the tours will take place during the afternoon.
Residents are encouraged to come to the city waterfront downtown to see the boats, but tours are not permitted at this time.