Steamboat Natchez touring in Vicksburg next week|[11/12/05]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 12, 2005

People looking for a quick cruise on the river can get away for a couple of hours on the Steamboat Natchez on Wednesday when the boat, which normally operates from the foot of Canal Street in New Orleans, visits Vicksburg.

Two, two-hour rides from City Front are being offered aboard the Natchez, making its first trip down the Mississippi since 1982.

The New Orleans Steamboat Company added Vicksburg as a stop on the steamer’s Hurricane Relief Tour, just before it is scheduled to dock in Natchez on Friday.

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The tour is raising money for the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, established by the former presidents in the weeks following the devastating Aug. 29 landfall of Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans.

The first cruise here will cost $20 and will be from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., with boarding starting at 1:30 p.m. The second cruise will cost $40 and will be from 7 to 9 p.m., with boarding starting at 6 p.m. Tickets are half-price for children.

The Natchez will feature entertainment from the New Orleans-based Dukes of Dixieland jazz band and vocalists Luther Kent and the Pfister Sisters. Also on board will be chefs from the public television and Discovery Channel cooking series, &#8220Great Chefs of New Orleans,” Daniel Bonnot and Willy Coln. There also will be other cooking demonstrations and a cash bar.

The Natchez, New Orleans’ only steam-powered paddlewheeler, usually offers river jazz tours of the Crescent City. It left the city to avoid Katrina and began its downriver voyage on Nov. 2 in Louisville, Ky., with stops including Cincinnati, Evansville, Ind., Memphis and Baton Rouge. The boat is to return to New Orleans on Nov. 23, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund has raised more than $100 million in relief from corporate and individual donations since early September.