Cruising Aboard the Queen of the Mississippi

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    Built in 2012 in Maryland, Queen of the Mississippi is the first newly built paddlewheel riverboat designed specifically to cruise the Mississippi in some 15 years. Sailing the Mississippi or Ohio Rivers on this small boat is unlike any ocean cruise you've ever been on. Created to invoke a sense of yesteryear, Queen of the Mississippi offers a cruise experience that's relaxing, educational and friendly. You'll gain fascinating insights into how important the rivers are to the people who call them home, and into the growth of the United States as a country.

    Photo by Dori Saltzman, News Editor.
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    Holding 150 passengers, intimate Queen of the Mississippi boasts three lounges, a sun deck and a main dining room serving delicious Southern-style cuisine.

    Photo by Dori Saltzman, News Editor.
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    One of the boat's most prominent features is its bright red paddlewheel, used to help propel it through the water. (It has a regular motor, too, but that's less picturesque.)

    Photo by Dori Saltzman, News Editor.
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    When Queen of the Mississippi pulls into a town, it's not docking at some distant location; it's mooring within walking distance of the town. From a window in the Paducah River Heritage Museum, you can see the flood wall murals with the boat right behind them.

    Photo by Dori Saltzman, News Editor.
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    Due to Queen of the Mississippi's small size, it's easy to get to know everyone onboard. Most passengers are 65 or older, very friendly, have traveled extensively and are from all over the United States.

    Photo by Dori Saltzman, News Editor.
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    Passengers turn to onboard "riverlorians" for lectures on life along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, as well as information on how dams and locks work.

    Photo by Dori Saltzman, News Editor.
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    There are seven cabin categories onboard Queen of the Mississippi, including the standard double cabin with balcony. Standard doubles, which are available on decks 2 through 4 are each 304 square feet with beds that can be configured as two singles or one king.

    Photo by Dori Saltzman, News Editor.
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    Queen of the Mississippi features 11 cabins with balconies sized specifically for solo travelers, as well as one window-only cabin for singles. The spacious cabins have plenty of storage space and never feel too cramped.

    Photo by Dori Saltzman, News Editor.
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    Evening entertainment is often a three- or four-piece band playing golden oldies or smooth jazz. Passengers are encouraged to get up and dance.

    Photo by Dori Saltzman, News Editor.
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    Need to stay in shape during your time onboard Queen of the Mississippi? A small fitness area on the outside upper deck has four exercise machines, including two elliptical trainers, a life cycle and a bench-press machine.

    Photo by Dori Saltzman, News Editor.
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    The fourth-deck Sky Lounge, an airy space that's perfect for sipping a refreshing beverage during tea time, also doubles as the location for an afternoon lecture on riverside ecology.

    Photo by Dori Saltzman, News Editor.
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    On our Ohio River cruise, we passed through four locks. Passengers congregated on the outer decks to watch as the boat was raised. We often saw herons and swallows nearby and usually passed a barge or two on our way in and out.

    Photo by Dori Saltzman, News Editor.
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    Queen of the Mississippi can easily moor close to the cities and towns it visits. In Newport, Kentucky, the boat tied up just downhill from the city's aquarium and a cute outdoor mall complete with street performers, retail shops, a movie theater and several eateries. A two-minute walk brought passengers to the main attractions.

    Photo by Dori Saltzman, News Editor.
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    It's not uncommon for Queen of the Mississippi to pass barges and other small boats while sailing up or down the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. These barges can be longer than a single football field and carry coal, sand, corn and other essentials.

    Photo by vadim kozlovsky/Shutterstock.
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    A favorite pastime for many passengers is whiling away the hours in a rocking chair at the front of the boat. It's the perfect spot for sitting quietly with a book or watching out for birds with binoculars provided onboard.

    Photo by Dori Saltzman, News Editor.
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    Desserts are rich and tasty. Here, a flourless chocolate cake is topped with a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Lunch and dinner are always accompanied by two choices of dessert, and warm cookies and other sweets are available from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m., when root beer floats are served.

    Photo by Dori Saltzman, News Editor.
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    The crew onboard Queen of the Mississippi truly want passengers to have the best experience possible. If that means surprising someone with a birthday cake and paper cone hat, so be it.

    Photo by Dori Saltzman, News Editor.
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    Another favorite area for many onboard Queen of the Mississippi is the top deck, where loungers are set out in the sun and tables are tucked away beneath an overhang to provide shade when needed. And when the river is high, it almost feels that you can reach right out and touch the underside of a bridge as you pass beneath it.

    Photo by Dori Saltzman, News Editor.
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    The last night of any cruise is always sad, but Queen of the Mississippi tries to make it extra special with surf and turf on the menu.

    Photo by Dori Saltzman, News Editor.
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