MISSISSIPPI QUEEN
Cruise Review
< GUIDED TOUR >
Boat:
Mississippi Queen
Cruise Line:
Line Delta Queen Steamboat Company Organisations, LLC (future Majestic America Line)
Date:
07/05/2006 - 07/12/2006
Cruise Length:
7 nights
Theme:
Theme 30th Anniversary and Riverventures Cruise
Cabin:
358 (triple, Texas Deck)
Itinerary:
St. Louis - St. Paul (Hannibal/MS, Dubuque/IA, La Crosse/WI, Red Wing/MN)
River
Upper Mississippi River
Review by:
Carmen Winkler
Overall Cruise Experience
This was our 3rd cruise on the Mississippi Queen with five cruises on the Delta Queen prior to this one. It was also our second cruise on the Upper Mississippi River from St. Louis to St. Paul. The first time has been on the Delta Queen. So in general nothing was really new for us. But anyway this was something special. The Delta Queen Steamboat Company has been recently sold (May 2006) by the previous owners Delaware North (DN) to Ambassadors International (AI). AI also has purchased the American West Steamboat Company (Empress of the North and Queen of the West) in January 2006. Before we left for this cruise it was also announced that the future name of these combined companies will be Majestic America Line by the end of 2006. DN made some changes in the entertainment department last year which became effective for this season. They have outsourced the whole entertainment department which is now organized by Peter Grey Terhune Entertainment. As we´ve heard many of the former entertainment staff opted not to return to the boats. So there was something new to expect on this cruise.

We were travelling with our daughter (6 years old on this cruise) who was taking part in the kids´ program called Riverventures.

The Upper Mississippi River is one of my favourite stretches of the Mississippi River system besides the upper part of the Ohio River. If I´m asked for a recommendation which trip to take first this is it. And I also recommend to do this trip from St. Louis to St. Paul and not vice versa. Why, because the landscape is changing on this cruise and it´s getting prettier and prettier the farther you go upriver.

By the way, one major hint: Steamboats are powered by steam and where you find steam you´ll also find soot. So don´t wear any white stuff if you don´t want to wash out the soot daily (soap and water will do it nicely, but there´s also a washer and dryer available at no charge including detergent).

One more hint: Even if you´re travelling in the summer time don´t forget to pack a sweater or a light jacket / knit jacket. Some of the public spaces can be quite cool because of the boats air condition especially in the Grand Saloon.

And a last hint: I´ve listed the websites of each port stop in this review. Order free brochures online before you go steamboating to plan your trip. You also find more steamboat related things to do on our website: www.steamboats.org/traveller/index.shtml.

The Boat
First check my other reviews to get an overview of this boat. The Mississippi Queen was celebrating its 30th Anniversary on this cruise built in 1976. Sure we´re not talking about a new boat. Due to the changes in the last years there hasn´t been done much on the boat. Sure they kept up the needed maintenance and did the needed repairs but there was no major refurbishment since 1996. You might spot some worn out chairs, stains on the carpets and other not so perfect things. Rumors are that the Mississippi Queen will undergo a major refurbishment during the following winter layup (again there are obviously plans to add flat screen TVs to the cabins).

Food and Beverages
A Continental Breakfast is available in the Port Gallery from 6 - 10 am, a Breakfast Buffet is featured in the Grand Saloon from 6:30 - 9 am and a Full Service à la carte Breakfast can be enjoyed in the Dining Room from 7 - 9:15 am (times may vary).

For lunch there are also various options you can choose of. Hot dogs and soft serve ice cream are available in the Calliope Bar (11 am - 6 pm). The Chef´s Light Lunch Bistro is a buffet style lunch with hot and cold choices (make your own sandwiches, soups, hot daily specials, desserts, salads) in the Grand Saloon (11:30 am - 1 pm). An Open Seating à la Carte Luncheon is also served in the Dining Room (11:30 am 1:15 pm).

Dinner is a five course dinner with a selection of two appetizers, two soups, two salads (one is the daily steamboat salad), five entrées and one vegetarian entrée (baked potatoes and steamed vegetables are available each night). Each night you can choose the daily changing bread pudding, ice cream or sherbets and usually a cake or the daily special dessert. Ice water, iced tea, lemonade, milk, chocolate milk and sodas are included for dinner as is coffee or tea for dessert. All other beverages from the bar are charged to your stateroom.

The wine list for dinner had a selection of US wines with prices ranging from $ 22 - 47 for a bottle and $ 22 - 24 for non-alcoholic wines. Selected wines were also available by glass ($ 6 - 9). Sparking wines and champagne ranged from $ 36 to 150 per bottle (sparkling wine is $ 7.50 per glas). A variety of after dinner drinks (coffee with alcohol) is available from $ 5.75 - 7 per cup.

A late night snack is served in the Upper Paddlewheel Lounge at 11 pm. Other chances to grab some snack are usually at Happy Hour in the Paddlewheel Lounge or the cookie tray in the Port Gallery where you also get iced tea, ice water, coffee, hot tea and hot chocolate the whole day through. An afternoon tea is served in the Forward Cabin Lounge daily.

The quality of food has improved quite a bit since last year. Meats were cooked to perfection. Service was fast and we didn´t encounter any longer waits between the courses. Especially the entrées for dinner have been changed. There´s still a Traditional River Fare but this could need a bit more phantasy. The old Southern Cuisine style Traditional River Fares are unfortunately gone. Another disappoinment was the dessert at the Captain´s Dinner night. This was my personal favourite, the Mississippi Mud Pie. Unfortunately with the changes in the menues this dessert is gone (only available on the menue for the Great Steamboat Race).

There are three bars, the Calliope Bar, the Golden Antler Bar and the Paddlewheel Lounge. There are daily specials starting at $ 3.75. Local beers were $ 3.50, premium beers $ 4. Ice water and lemonade should be available for free at each bar.

Entertainment
This was the point which was of major interest for us. As stated before DN has outsourced the entertainment department to Peter Grey Terhune Entertainment. Some of the old entertainers returned, many didn´t. The most obvious is that the Steamboat Syncopators have been cut down from five to four people (piano, drums, bass and saxophone/clarinet, no brass anymore). Also the entertainers in the Paddlewheel Lounge are now a duo instead of a trio. But there are still four excellent singers for the nightly show.

I couldn´t find any major chances in the overall entertainment. There´s still music in the Paddlewheel Lounge in the afternoon and past 9 pm. The nightly shows are running twice a day. And dance music is played in the Grand Saloon after dinner. Calliope concerts are played at departure and during lockings (at daylight time). Games and all the fun stuff haven´t been cut down.

Please notice, that there is no onboard photographer anymore.

Room
The staterooms on a steamboat usually are not really spacious. This is also valid for the Mississippi Queen. In our inside triple we had a chair and two chests of drawers (metal). There is some open hanging space covered with a curtain but no closet. The hanging space included a sufficient supply of wooden hangers. There are plenty of mirrors (two in the bathroom, one on the bathroom door, one above one chest of drawers). The bathroom is of the kind "sit on the toilet while you brush your teeth". A shower with a shower curtain, a tiny sink, a hotel style towel rack and a mirrored medicine cabinet, that´s it. Luxury Face & Body Soap (by Marietta Corporation), Conditioning Shampoo (by Lord & Mayfair) and Almond Lotion (by Lord & Mayfair) is provided in the bathroom along with tissues. There´s a small travel size hair dryer, a iron and a iron board provided in each room. A twice a day refilled ice bucket and plastic cups are available in the room. The information folder also includes free stationary and postcards. The inside triple staterooms have two single beds and a Pulman type of bed folding out of the wall. Our suitcases did not fit under the beds. We stored the ladder, the iron board and the life vests underneath the beds. A two channel radio is broadcasting music and news. The news channel is also used for broadcasting (or rebroadcasting) the Riverlorian talks and the shore tour talk.

As this boat was built 30 years ago - long before cell phones, digital cameras, laptop computers and other modern electronic devices were invented - the designers didn´t think of some extra electric outlets in the room. The only ones we were able to find were located in the bathroom. So in case you need to charge your electronic devices think of packing an extension cord with extra outlets.

Day 1 St. Louis, MO
As we´ve spent the night before in St. Louis (www.explorestlouis.com) we arrived early at 11 am at the landing (right below Eads Bridge). Our bags were directly carried to our cabin which wasn´t officially available prior to 3 pm. Although check-in usually starts at 1 pm we were able to check in immediately. A light lunch buffet was served in the Grand Saloon starting at 12 pm. A wine tasting started at 1 pm in the Grand Saloon (til 3 pm). Nate Shafer and the Steamboat Syncopators provided some Welcome Aboard Music in the Grand Saloon starting at 2:15 pm (til 3 pm). At 3 pm cruise director Phil Westbrook gave a brief orientation in the Grand Saloon and released the passengers to their staterooms. A calliope concert performed by Prefessor Nate Shafer also started at 3 pm. The Paddlewheel Duo (Paul Penta and Drew Nugent) started their Embarkation Celebration at 3:30 pm in the Paddlewheel Lounge. Hors d´oeuvres were available for this occasion. The fire and boat drill at 4:30 pm was smooth and easy. You just have to put on your life vest and be checked by your stateroom attendant in front of your stateroom. Early seating dinner started at 5:15 pm (main or late seating dinner at 7:45 pm). Dress code was semi-formal or casual dress. Shorts and T-shirts are not permitted. Todays show in the Grand Saloon was called "Up A Lazy River". Phil Westbrook introduced the staff and entertainers of this cruise followed by some Dixieland music performed by Nate Shafer and the Steamboat Syncopators (main seating 6:45 pm, early seating 8 pm). Dance music was provided in the Grand Saloon starting at 9:15 pm and the Paddlewheel Duo invited to the "Night Owl´s Club" in the Paddlewheel Lounge at 9:30 pm. The movie theatre presented "The Unsinkable Delta Queen" at 9:45 pm, a movie you should watch (if you don´t have it on video as we do). Departure was scheduled for 7:30 pm but we have been delayed first by some missing papers issued by the Coast Guard and then by some late arriving passengers. The Delta Queen which has been in St. Louis also because the previous cruise has been the Great Steamboat Race departed at about 9:30 pm with a great calliope concert which we watched from the Calliope Deck. We finally departed at 10 pm heading for the fuel dock shortly above St. Louis.

Day 2 Steamboatin´ to Hannibal
We were ready for breakfast at 7 am. I haven´t felt much of the paddlewheel vibration in our stateroom this night so I assumed that we´ve spent a lot of time fueling. The Mississippi Queen is burning bunker C oil which is very heavy and has to be heated before it´s ready to be pumped. This is taking a good amount of time. When we headed for breakfast my assumption proved to be true as we just left Mel Price lock above Alton, IL. The Steamboatique opened at 8 am (- 8 pm) and the Beauty Shop at 9 am (-noon and 2 - 6 pm, both have daily changing opening hours). Shore Tour Manager Ben Hook gave his Tour Talk at 9 am in the Grand Saloon (also broadcasted in your stateroom and rebroadcasted at 3 pm). At the same time the Youth Counselors invited parents and kids to the Library Clubhouse for an informative talk about the Riverventures program for the kids followed by a tour of the boat at 9:15 am. We got a printed program for the kids´ activities for the whole cruise. Some of the activities are for all of the passengers, some are for kids only. Also at 9 am the A.M Miler´s Club (daily) invited those passengers who already were in need of some exercise to a morning walk on the Observation Deck (8 laps equal a mile). At 9:45 am the kids visited the engine room with the Chief Engineer. As we´ve never been inside the engine room we of course joined our daughter in that activity. The Mississippi Queen has an engine room viewing area and usually the engine room itself is not accessible for the passengers. This was also the first step for the Cub Pilot License. We then joined Bill Wiemuth, the Riverlorian (river historian, www.riverhistory.com), at 10:15 am in the Grand Saloon for his program called "Welcome to the Mississippi" (the Grand Saloon was really crowded so be there early to grab a seat, also broadcasted in your stateroom and rebroadcasted at 4 pm). The Upper Paddlewheel Lounge had hat making supplies available (10 am - 4 pm) for the hat contest later on the cruise. We spent quite a time working on our hats nearly missing lunch. Although this was a steamboatin´ day don´t worry you won´t get bored of looking on the river. There are a lot of activities planned the whole day through which you might join if you like to. The Calliope Capers were one of the magnets this afternoon. Everyone was invited to play the calliope and is to receive a nice diploma at the end of the cruise. You don´t have to be a perfect piano player. All you have to do is hit five keys and play five tunes. The Steamboat Race was held in the Grand Saloon (place your bets - $ 2 - on your favourite boat and win the bucket). Kite flying is another favourite on steamboats. Paper kite kits are provided and it might be a good idea to check the river charts for low hanging power lines or bridges lying ahead. Card players met in the Upper Paddlewheel Lounge (daily). The kids met at the pool for a pool party in the afternoon. It was time to get dressed up for the Captain´s Champagne Reception (4:30 pm early seating, 6 pm main seating). Compared to our previous cruises this was a bit disappointing. As there is no onboard photographer anymore there wasn´t anybody taking photos with the captain. There was also noone available taking a photo with your own camera. The nightly show was called "Steamboat Jubilee" featuring the Peter Grey Terhune Singers Josh Dickman, Crystal Kellogg, Laura Sable and Glenn Springs accompanied by Nate Shafer and the Steamboat Syncopators (8 pm early seating, 6:45 pm main seating). A couple of movies were shown in the theater this day (King Kong 10 am / 3 pm, The Color of Money 12:30 pm, Upper Mississippi - Twain´s River 5:30 pm / 6:45 pm, Hoodwinked 9:15 pm for the kids). A special booklet recalling the history of the Mississippi Queen published for this 30th Anniversary cruise was delivered to the stateroom this night together with the Steamboatin´ Times for tomorrow and an information sheet about the special guests on this cruise. By the way the Steamboatin´ Times is a daily paper delivered to your stateroom each night including a time table for all activities held on the following day. Additional information is provided on the cover sheet.

Day 3 Hannibal, MO
We arrived at about 7 am in Hannibal, MO ( www.visithannibal.com). Three shore tours were offered. "Mark Twain´s Hannibal plus Museum Tour" (Adult $ 20, Child $ 15, duration 2.5 hours) - a narrated sightseeing tour on the Twainland Express plus a self guided tour through the museum buildings- started at 8 am. The "Mark Twain´s Hannibal plus Cave Tour" (Adult $ 32, Child $ 27, duration 2.5 hours) - a narrated sightseeing tour on the Twainland Express plus a stop at the Mark Twain Cave (no museum tour) - departed at 8:30 am. The last tour "Mark Twain´s Hannibal Tour" (Adult $ 10, Child $ 7, duration 30-40 min) - the narrated sightseeing tour on the Twainland Express only - started at 9 am. We opted to do none of the offered tours but to explore the town on our own. After breakfast we first attended the Riverlorian talk in the Grand Saloon at 7:30 am called "Mark Twain and the River". As we went into town we missed the 9 am pilot house tour. We directly went to the museum complex and explored the museum on our own and some of the gift shops. The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum complex (www.marktwainmuseum.org) is only two blocks from the landing and easily accessible. For those needing an internet access the Public Libray is located on Bird / corner 5th street. Brochures of Hannibal were available at the shore tour desk or handed out by the greeting comittée of Hannibal. By the way a lot of Tom Sawyers and Becky Thatchers and women dressed in historic costumes were availble for photos right at the landing. Other activities offered this morning were the A.M. Miler´s Club and a Golf Putting Contest in the Grand Saloon. The Mississippi Queen departed shortly after noon. A couple of activities were scheduled for this afternoon. Kids could take part in a scavenger hunt and win prizes. The pilot house tour for the Cub Pilots License was also scheduled for this afternoon (if you have kids taking part in this program then go and join them as this pilot house tour is while cruising). The Grand Saloon featured the Chef Demonstration, a cooking demonstration and don´t forget to pick up a recipe card. The arts and crafts "department" called all for making Mardi Gras Masks in the Upper Paddlewheel Lounge. At 3:30 pm the repeat passengers were invited to the Paddlewheel Steamboatin´ Society of America "Welcome Back" Reception in the Grand Saloon. The Paddlewheel Duo held an All-American Sing-Along in the Paddlewheel Lounge (songbooks are available and can be kept as souvenirs). Tonights show was called "By Request" featuring cruise director Phil Westbrook and Nate Shafer and the Steamboat Syncopators. Movies featured today in the theater were Rocky (10 am / 3 pm), Rock Island Arsenal History (5:30 pm / 6:45 pm, 55 min) and Shrek 2 (9:15 pm Junior Steamboater Movie plus pajama party).

Day 4 Steamboatin´
We started "late" today as we didn´t get up before 7 am. Due to a locking the Captian´s Navigational Talk had to be rescheduled as the Kids´ Knot Tying Class (part of the Cub Pilot License). The kids made visors in the Upper Paddlewheel Lounge and an impromptu bingo game was organized (kids were allowed to play but not for money :, they got prizes instead). Special guest Carol Ann Miller presented her "1970s and 80s Fashions & Memories" in the Grand Saloon with passengers acting as models. Carol Ann Miller has one of the largest private collections of historic clothing and accessories and is adding lots of (funny) historical informations too. We finished our hats before lunch. Lunch was the traditional steamboatin´ picnic today (both in the Dining Room and the Grand Saloon) with Phil Westbrook and Paul Penta playing Country Music in the Grand Saloon. Special drinks were available for that event. This is one of my favourite lunches! After lunch it was time for another Riverlorian Rendevous (meet the Riverlorian in the Chart Room to chat and answer your questions about the river). Following was Bill Wiemuth´s program called "Early Days of Steamboating". Most kids went down to the theater watching "Chicken Run" as Junior Matinee Movie. The social hosts were available on the Calliope Deck for another kite flying. At 2:30 pm William Sackett, our second special guest, presented his show "Proudly We Hail" in the Grand Saloon. As this was the 30th Anniversary cruise all passengers were invited to a "30th Anniversary Cocktail Party" to join the Mississippi Queen officers, entertainers and special guests for music, hors d´oeuvres and cocktails (4:30 pm early seating, 6 pm main seating). Tonights show was featuring the Peter Grey Terhune Singers in "Memories", a musical journey through the early 1900s til the 1940s. Besides the Junior Matinee Movie "Glory Road" (10 am / 3 pm), "The Riverboats" (5:30 pm / 6:45 pm) and "Platoon" (9:15 pm) were shown in the theater today.

Day 5 Dubuque, IA
Again we "slept in" til 7 am. As it was Sunday a non-denominational service was held in the Grand Saloon by a passenger who is a pastor (usually the cruise director is doing the service). Honoring the 30th Anniversary of the boat todays Riverlorian talk was called "The Legend of the Mississippi Queen" recalling the history of the company and the boat followed by the usual Riverlorian Rendezvous for further questions. A MQ birthday bingo was open to kids who were to win prizes instead of money. We arrived early in Dubuque ( www.traveldubuque.com) and got a great show by the deckhands trying to tie up the boat. As the moorings aren´t ideal for a boat of this size the deckhands had to swim in the Mississippi River. All fast was shortly past 11 am (scheduled 1 pm). In Dubuque three shore tours were offered. The "A Slice of Americana" (Adult $ 65, Child $ 55, duration 4 hours, departing at 1 pm) is a bus tour to the "Field of Dreams" movie site ( www.ghostplayers.com or www.fieldofdreamsmoviesite.com), a visit to the National Farm Toy Museum ( www.nationalfarmtoymuseum.com) and the Breitbach´s Country Dining (Iowa´s oldest bar and restaurant since 1852, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breitbach's_Country_Dining) including a piece of delicious apple pie. The "Delight in Dubuque" tour (Adult $ 66, Child $ 56, duration 3.5 hours, departing at 1:15 pm) leads you to the Mathias Ham House and includes a visit of the historic downtown area Cable Car Square and the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium ( www.rivermusem.com). "An Adventure at Every Turn" (Adults $ 25, Child $ 10, duration at least 2 hours, departed at 1:30 pm) is a visit to the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. For those who wanted to explore the town on their own a walking & jogging map with a self guided walking tour and brochures were provided at the shore tour desk. The city of Dubuque also offered a trolley bus for a decent fare. As we´ve been in Dubuque quite a couple of times before we opted to do it on our own again. Anyway we met up with a friend who showed us around. It´s quite a walk but one of my recommendations for Dubuque is the Fenelon Elevator (http://dbq.com/fenplco/) right at the food of 4th Street. Riding the cable car up the bluff you have a wonderful view over the city of Dubuque and it´s a great photo opportunity. And the end of 4th Street you´ll also find Cable Car Square ( http://partners.dubuque365.com/cablecarsquare/index.html) which is a nice shopping area with antique shops and more. Highly recommended is also the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium which is within a walking distance from the boat. For those staying aboard a couple of activities were provided like a 1976 Trivia, another pilot house tour, a Scavenger Hunt and an Old-Tyme Sing-Along. We watched the departure and were a couple of minutes late for dinner. Tonights show was called "An American Songbook" featuring Paul Penta and the Steamboat Syncopators (a collection of truly American songs and great stories and I can only highly recommend this show!). The Paddlewheel Lounge featured an Irish Sing-Along with Phil Westbrook followed y the Night Owl´s Club. Today´s movies were Showboat (10 am / 3 pm), Chronicles of Narnia (12:30 pm Junior Steamboaters Matinee), Mississippi Locks & Dams (5:30 pm / 6:45 pm) and Jerry Maguire (9:15 pm). At 9:15 pm kids met in the Chart Room for the Chart Reading (part of the Cub Pilot License). All passengers (including kids as far as they were allowed to by their parents) were invited to the Night Watch at 9:30 pm where Riverlorian Bill talked about nightly navigation on the river.

Day 6 La Crosse, WI
This is the day you have to get up early and spend your time outside on the deck. This is the most prettiest area on the Upper Mississippi River and a great place to spot lots of wildlife and especially bald eagles (I saw at least five this morning). The kids started with arts and crafts in the Upper Paddlewheel Lounge. Riverlorian Bill gave a talk about "The Grand Excursion" at 9:30 am followed by the Riverlorian Rendezvous. Bingo was played in the Grand Saloon later (kids were invited too). The Mississippi Queen docked about one hour early at noon in La Crosse ( www.explorelacrosse.com also have a look on the webcam on this website which is showing the boats while in town). The shore excursions offered to day were "Taste of Norway" - a visit of Wisconsin´s Norwegian Valley - (Adult $ 50, Child $ 44, duration 3.5 hours) and "Heart of the Amish Country" (Adult 40, Child $ 30, duration 3.5 hours). Both tours left at 1 pm. La Crosse is a wonderful town which welcomes the steamboats with great enthusiasm. People dressed in historic costumes line the levee (I loved the newspaper boy), a band is playing and historic cars were on display. Don´t miss the little Riverside Museum at the north end of the riverfront park. La Crosse is also the home town of one of the other two steamboats plying the Mississippi River, the Julia Belle Swain ( www.juliabelle.com). Those who stayed aboard could participate in Line Dancing, Trivia and other games. Phil Westbrook entertained in the afternoon in the Paddlwheel Lounge (Broadway Bacchanal). The boat departed at 5 pm. This night was the Captain´s Champagne Dinner (Captain is present for the main seating and gives a toast on the early seating). Unfortunately the change in the menue also eliminated the traditional Captain´s Dinner dessert, the Mississippi Mud Pie, my absolute favourite. Gladly they kept the lagniappe, so don´t hurry after dessert. Tonight´s show featured the Peter Terhune Singers in "It´s My Party". A Mardi Gras Party was held in the Grand Saloon at 9:30 pm. Lots of fun and games hosted by our special guests William Sackett and Sheri Conner. Those who made masks earlier on the cruise were invited to take part in a parade. Movies of today were Annapolis (10 am / 3 pm), The Pink Panther (12:30 pm Junior Steamboaters Matinee), Lewis and Clark (5:30 pm / 6:45 pm) and All the President´s Men (9:15 pm). This night you also find the Disembarkation Hints, the comment cards and the tipping guidelines plus envelopes in your stateroom. Recommended tips are $ 4.50 per night per passenger for the stateroom attendant and the waiter/waitress, $ 3.25 per night per passenger for the bus person, $ 5.75 per couple per cruise for the Dining Room Captain, $ 4.25 per couple per cruise for the Maitre D´ and $ 5 per bag for the porters (a box where you can drop the envelopes for the porters can be found at the purser´s office).

Day 7 Red Wing, MN
This is the last full day of the cruise. Again this is a day which is worth getting up early. In the morning you´re cruising Lake Pepin and you have a wonderful chance to spot wildlife and bald eagles. At 9 am the Disembarkation Talk was held in the Grand Saloon. Luggage tags have been hung on the doors in the morning already. At 9:30 am Bill Wiemuth shared his favourite steamboat stories in his Riverlorian talk and was available for questions later. While Bill was speaking we pulled into Red Wing ( www.redwing.org) at about 9:45 am. Unfortunately it was raining today. Again we´ve been early as arrival was scheduled for noon. Kids started with arts and crafts and prizes at 10 am in the Upper Paddlewheel Lounge. Our special guests Sheri Conner and William Sackett invited to share their "Mississippi Queen Memories" with the passengers in the Grand Saloon. From noon til 2 pm a continious slideshow called "Anniversary Cruise Photo Scrapbook Slideshow" run in the Grand Saloon. As this year there is no onboard photographer various Bill Wiemuth did take photos and those were available on CD in the gift shop ($ 20). The first shore tour "Culture & Traditions of Red Wing" (Adult $ 50, Child $ 41, duration 3.5 hours) featuring the Red Wing Stoneware ( www.redwingstoneware.com), Stoney End Harps ( www.stoneyend.com) and Falconer Vineyards Winery ( www.falconervineyards.com) departed at 12:30 pm. At 12:45 pm the "Real Red Wing" (Adult $ 45, Child $ 35, duration 3 hours) started to visit the Goodhue County Historical Society (www.goodhuehistory.mus.mn.us), The Sheldon Theatre ( www.sheldontheatre.org) and the Historic Pottery Place Mall ( www.rwpotteryplace.com). Red Wing is easy to explore on your own as the boats are docked right in the center of the downtown area. A jogging and walking map was provided at the shore tour desk. Some tents were built up next to the landing giving informations about Red Wing and selling stuff. Visit the St. James Hotel ( www.st-james-hotel.com) to have a look on their steamboat memorabilia and have a look on the name of the rooms (wireless internet is available in the lobby and shopping area). The Riverfront Centre ( www.riverfrontcentreshops.com) featuring various shops including Red Wing Shoes and the free Red Wing Shoe Museum is only two blocks away from the landing. For those who stayed aboard Laura offered a 1996 Trivia. At 4:15 pm the Huck Finn Party started in the Grand Saloon with a Floozie parade, the crazy hat parade (those you made throughout the cruise), the Buck Bucket (bring a dollar bill with your name and cabin number on it) and more fun stuff. Departure was scheduled for 5 pm. Tonight´s show featured special guest Sheri Conner in "The Magnificent Mamas". The Paddlewheel Duo invited to a Farewell Party at 9:30 pm in the Paddlewheel Lounge. Movies of today were King Kong (10 am / 3 pm), Dr. Doolittle (12:30 pm Junior Steamboater Matinee), The Wrath of God: Flooding (5:30 pm / 6:45 pm) and Fargo (9:15 pm).

Day 8 St. Paul, MN
Bags had to be out by 2 am this morning (which of course we did before we went sleeping last night). Cabins had to be left by 9 am. We arrived somewhere during the night at Lambert´s Landing in St. Paul. Breakfast is only available in the Dining Room until 8 am. After a very disappointing experience last year (no cutlery, no clean up of empty tables, all in all a real mess) this year the last breakfast was really nice and relaxing. We said a last good bye to our waitress Sheila which entertained us each night and hurried to the airport to pick up our rental car for additional three nights in the Twin Cities (St. Paul www.visitstpaul.com and Minneapolis www.minneapolis.org).