American Duchess makes maiden voyage stop in ‘The Red Carpet City’

Published 6:00 am Sunday, August 20, 2017

The city of Vicksburg is going to be one of the stops for the latest addition of river royalty.

The American Duchess, the American Queen Steamboat Co.’s newest riverboat, was in Vicksburg Saturday to give local officials a tour of the boat, which will be making 28 stops in the Red Carpet City during 2018.

“We are committed to the Mississippi,” said Bob Buesing with American Queen Shore Excursions.

Beusing told a small crowd of about 20 local officials and invited guests gathered in the boat’s salon area that the American Queen Steamboat Co. officials consider the city a partner in their efforts to make their river cruises interesting. He said the Duchess’ visits to the city are expected to provide $1.8 million in revenue annually to the city.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said city officials plan to continue that partnership, which began in 2012 when the American Queen returned to the city.

“We have every intention of keeping the tradition of Vicksburg being a stop with our hospitality and our cultural experience, and showcasing our amenities, which our visitors can enjoy from the downtown area to the military park and to all the (tour) stops they make,” he said.

“We want to continue to make certain that your accommodations here will be enjoyable and become a life experience for you to stay on the Mississippi River and stop in Vicksburg. We’re honored and excited about the selection of Vicksburg and being a stop for two of your steamboats. We want to make certain we are the preeminent tourist stop in Mississippi.

Built on the hull of a former casino boat that was renovated and expanded, the American Duchess was christened Aug. 14 in New Orleans, and is the first all-suite paddle wheeler on U.S. rivers, according to American Queen Co.’ website. It can accommodate 160 guests and carries a crew of 96.

The boat has two dining areas. The first, said Nicola Volpe, vice president for hotel operations for the company, is capable of seating all of the boat’s passengers.

“It is open seating, where guests can come in and sit at any table,” he said.

He said the second restaurant, called the River Club & Terrace, is by reservation only and seats 50 to 60 people. Guests are also able to dine on an open terrace.

Both the main dining area and adjoining bar have high ceilings. Another lounge area is the Lincoln Library, on the second level, “where you can get a book and a drink and sit down and relax,” Volpe said.

The boat’s suites range from 180 square feet to 550 square feet for the boat’s loft suites, which include a lower level with a full bathroom, small dining area, a lounge with a queen sofa-bed and desk area, and sliding doors to access a private balcony. The upstairs loft area has a semi-private bedroom, full bathroom and closet space.

“We discussed putting a boat on the Great Lakes or another boat in the west, but we decided to add another boat to the Mississippi River,” Buesing said. “We are 80 percent sold out (for Mississippi tours) for 2018.

“We’re very proud of this vessel we’ve made.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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