River Explorer cruise brings curious to city

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 8, 2002

PASSENGERS board the River Explorer docked at City Front Friday after touring Vicksburg.(The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[04/06/02]Gwynn Molzahn didn’t want to be stagnant in her later years so she got moving.

At 71, the Houston, Texas native was one of 180 people who hopped on the River Explorer to learn more about the Deep South.

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The ship arrived in Vicksburg at 4 a.m. Friday and was scheduled to depart today at 7 a.m.

Molzahn and the others boarded the Explorer in Memphis, Tenn., on Wednesday for an excursion focusing on southern culture. The boat will also make stops in Natchez and Baton Rouge before reaching its final destination of New Orleans Thursday.

“You get to learn a lot and you get to meet a lot of new friends,” Molzahn said. “People shouldn’t stop learning just because they get older.

Doug Ruth, guest relations coordinator on the vessel, said that is the point of the excursions.

“We don’t want people to just stay on board. We want them to get out and see everything,” Ruth said. “We do about 10 of these a year and we want to try and expose them to the food, music and the people.”

That is just what Tillie and Larry Shifflet of Richmond, Va., plan to do.

“We had not seen this part of the country before, and the culture and food seemed like a good combination,” Larry Shifflet said.

Tillie Shifflet said although their hometown offers plenty of Civil War history they were impressed with the Vicksburg National Military Park.

The tour also offered glimpses of the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum, the Old Court House Museum and other historic downtown spots.

“The park was a really great experience,” Larry Shifflet said. “We knew it was here but we didn’t know it was so impressive.”

But kicking back on the River Explorer isn’t a bad gig either, Molzahn said.

The ship is comprised of two oil barges, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t first-class all the way.

From the 200-square-foot staterooms that include a balcony, TV, VCR and mini fridge to the elegantly paneled library filled with books and videos, this is river travel at its best.

“I really was expecting to rough it a little, but this is really plush,” Molzahn said.

That doesn’t mean she will be staying on board for very long.

“The people in the towns are always so gracious, so it is great to get out there and mingle,” she said.