It was January 12th, 1812, exactly 200 years ago, when the first steamboat arrived in New Orleans. The economic boom that followed shaped a prosperous future for the Crescent City. Tony Lewis, curator of visual arts at the Louisiana State Museum says, "New Orleans by 1840 was the 5th largest city in the United States and that was built almost entirely on the central location as the import and export and the steamboat traffic up and down the rivers."
However, Lewis says steamboats were as romantic as they were functional. "They were considered sort of floating palaces and as fine as any hotel and you look at the menus on these things and there will be pages and pages and course after course of really wonderful food."
Today, American Cruise Lines' Queen of the Mississippi is bringing that romance back! The 21st century boat is a nod to the historic grandeur of 19th century travel. The fully-functioning paddle-wheeler boasts six lounges, private balconies and fine dining. Captain John Ayer says, "We provide a lot of history, a lot of lectures about the environment. We have what we call a river-laurean on board who tells tales of the river systems."
"The attractions and history lessons are a big reason why many people take this cruise, but for other folks the best part is just sitting in a rocking chair, overlooking the mighty Mississippi." Captain Ayer says, "They have great areas to sit and watch the river go by, enjoy the entertainment on board or listen to the lectures and when we pull into the ports, of course we involve them in the history of the ports we pull into."
It's a boat that strikes a balance between modern technology like a "z-drive propulsion system" and the historic charm of a paddle-wheeler on the Mississippi.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times