Cruise West is resuscitating the dormant Mississippi River cruise business with two new itineraries on the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, and Cumberland rivers, starting in March 2011.
Cruise West will use the 102-passenger Spirit of America, formerly the Spirit of Glacier Bay.
"This market has been underserved since 2008 with the departure of Majestic [America] Line," Cruise West CEO Dietmar Wertanzl said in a statement.
Indeed, no cruise line or operator has attempted to re-enter the Mississippi River market since Majestic America Line ceased operations under Ambassadors International at the end of 2008.
Majestic's demise took three Mississippi ships — the 176-passenger Delta Queen, 436-passenger American Queen and 412-passenger Mississippi Queen — out of service.
"Many of our loyal customers asked us to bring the Cruise West small-ship experience to the Mississippi and other heartland rivers," Dick West, Cruise West's chairman and managing director, said in a statement. "My family is extremely proud to offer guests the opportunity to sail an American-flagged ship on one of the most iconic American rivers."
Unlike the three large paddlewheelers Majestic operated on the Mississippi, which ranged in length from 285 feet to 418 feet, the Spirit of America is 207 feet in length with four decks, including an upper sun deck and three lower decks with 51 cabins.
Originally named the Spirit of Nantucket and built in 1984, the ship was acquired by Cruise West in 2006 and renamed the Spirit of Glacier Bay in 2008, when it was repositioned by Cruise West from the East Coast to Alaska.
In its new location, the newly named Spirit of America will sail two seven-night itineraries, one along the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Memphis and the other along the Mississippi, Ohio Tennessee and Cumberland rivers from Memphis to Nashville.
There will be eight departures in 2011, with prices starting at $3,499 per person. The New Orleans-Memphis cruise departs March 19 and April 16, the reverse itinerary April 9 and May 7. The Memphis-Nashville departures are March 26 and April 23, the reverse itinerary April 2 and 30.
Majestic also had three vessels that sailed in the Pacific Northwest along the Columbia and Snake rivers — the 223-passenger Empress of the North, 142-passenger Queen of the West and 150-passenger Columbia Queen.
After the demise of Majestic, Cruise West remained one of the only cruise lines with operations on America’s inland waterways, continuing its itineraries along the Columbia and Snake rivers on the 96-passenger Spirit of '98 and 84-passenger Spirit of Discovery.
In 2009, American Safari Cruises joined Cruise West in the region with a nine-day river cruise from Lewiston, Idaho, to Astoria, Ore., aboard the 36-passenger yacht Safari Explorer.