We welcome the news that Cruise West intends to offer cruises on the Mississippi River and its tributaries in 2011. We hope it succeeds where others have floundered.

The last decade has not been kind to river cruising in the country's midsection, though this mode of travel has been thriving everywhere else.

Since the previous century, the operators of overnight riverboats on the Mississippi have followed the wake of the historical Delta Queen. When new boats entered the market, they were scaled-up and enhanced versions of 19th century, flat-bottom paddle-wheelers.

For better or worse, the product was always wrapped in nostalgia.

Cruise West, by contrast, will enter the market with the 102-passenger Spirit of America (the former Spirit of Glacier Bay), which looks like a small ship of the 20th century, not a riverboat of the 19th.

Maybe that will make a difference. At this point, it certainly can't hurt to try.

This column appeared in the June 21 issue of Travel Weekly.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI