New Orleans is commonly referred to as “The Fishbowl.” It’s a magical city surrounded almost completely by water. If any one of the sides ruptures, the bowl fills. This happened to a certain extent during Katrina, but thankfully, the city came back stronger than ever with more to offer.
One of the sides of the fishbowl is the mighty Mississippi River, the fourth longest and tenth largest river in the world. The Mississippi is the primary river of the US’s largest drainage system, which leads from the border of Canada all the way down to New Orleans, with countless stops along the way.
The Mississippi has been a part of the lives of many folks, ranging from Pre-Colonial Native Americans, to the Cajuns and Creoles of Louisiana today. It has served as a vital transportation route, key trade corridor, and its mouth has served as one of the US’s most important ports for decades.
Creole Queen Steamboat on the Mississippi River in New Orleans
By King of Aviators (File http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Steamboat_Natchez_009.JPG) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
The Mississippi, with its rich history, has become an extremely popular tourist attraction for those visiting New Orleans. Various tours and cruises cater to tourists’ every whim, but a few in particular can bring you back into the golden ages of the mighty river. Two companies provide an authentic paddle powered Riverboat dinner cruises along the banks of the Mississippi overlooking New Orleans.
The New Orleans Creole Queen is a paddlewheel style cruiser who took her main voyage in 1983. The Creole Queen’s capacity is over 800 passengers, and offers numerous amenities such as climate controlled decks, authentic wrought iron decorations and traditional creole food and drinks. The ship offers nightly jazz dinner cruises along the Mississippi river from 7pm till 10pm. Dinners cost a flat rate, but that doesn’t include the drinks that you won’t be able to resist on the promenade deck!
While the New Orleans Creole Queen is a paddleboat by definition, it isn’t as traditional as the Steamboat Natchez, the only steam powered vessel in the New Orleans corridor of the Mississippi.
The Natchez is actually the latest of several boats named after the small Mississippi town. The current incarnation, the S.S. Natchez, was built in 1975. If you’re ever walking around the French Quarter and hear what sounds like a mixture of carnival music and a church organ, chances are that’s the Natchez’s musical calliope playing the sounds of the river. Much like the Creole Queen, the Natchez offers nightly dinner cruises, accompanied by a traditional jazz band.
Of the two majestic riverboats that sail the banks of New Orleans, one thing can be said -- they embody the spirit and essence of a city so far different from the rest of the country.
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This article was written by Eric Kneff, who is associated with Pearl Wine Co., a New Orleans wine bar. He has an interest in New Orleans tourism and history.