Cruise Smaller Rivers in America


(Recently published in Travel Weekly)

The newly formed Grand Majestic River Company will launch an overnight passenger paddlewheeler, the Grand Majestic, in September.

Last year, Capt. Joseph Baer — founder, president and CEO of Covington, Ky.-based Grand Majestic — bought the former casino boat Diamond Lady, which was originally built in Bettendorf, Iowa in 1991 and had been laid up for years.

He said the company is putting “many millions” into the riverboat to transform it into a 70-passenger overnight river cruise boat that will be able to sail along some smaller inland waterways due to its shorter height and lower draft.

“We’re small enough and have a light enough draft where we can drop our stacks and get up into Catoosa,” said Baer, referencing a city on the outskirts of Tulsa, Okla. Baer noted that the smaller size of the Grand Majestic means it can clear some bridges and shallower waters that other overnight passenger vessels sailing the Mississippi River System can’t. He said the company plans to do cruises up to Omaha, Neb.; Sioux City, Iowa; Charleston, W.V.; and into the outskirts of Chicago.

The vessel is getting a complete overhaul, and will feature one main dining room and a separate lounge area that will host entertainment. There will be several stateroom categories ranging from a superior stateroom with access to the main deck, to suites large enough to have their own private dining room, for which full sit-down meal service can be ordered. All passengers will be able to order room service.

The ship’s interiors are being outfitted to make passengers feel that they are stepping back in time, but “not so overdone antique-wise that you feel like you’re staying at a B&B,” said Baer. There will also be modern amenities such as satellite TV and WiFi. Staterooms will be ADA compliant.

Excursions will be included, along with one hotel night prior to boarding the vessel. An example of an excursion, according to Baer, is a visit to Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, which includes a tour of the caves and a picnic lunch.

The Grand Majestic is slated to launch on Sept. 23, 2017, after which it will sail a variation of seven- to 21-night cruises along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, as well as along several smaller tributaries.

Cruises start at $3,800 per person, a price that includes the pre-cruise hotel night.

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