Mississippi River cruises will once again dock in Burlington. What there is to know:

It’s been two years, but cruises on the Mississippi River will soon dock in Burlington again.

The Greater Burlington Partnership invites the public to the riverfront to welcome paddlewheel boats.

Scheduled moorings in Burlington are: American Duchess on August 7 and American Countess on September 3 and October 14.

Indiana-based American Queen Steamboat Co. halted trips at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The once-a-month dockings this season in Burlington were scheduled to begin this month; however, the AQSC canceled a visit by the US riverboat Queen scheduled for Wednesday.

The AQSC had been operating paddlewheelers under SafeCruise protocols since March, including cleaning and sanitizing standards and working with local, state and federal health agencies, according to a spokesperson for the American Queen Steamboat Company.

The AQSC began requiring all guests and crew to be vaccinated on July 1.

With “enhanced security measures”, the company is proceeding with a gradual restart of operations across its entire fleet. The American Queen will be the fourth steamship to be launched.

The American Duchess was first, in March, followed by the American Countess. The American Empress was launched on June 14.

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Burlington tour guides will receive training; passengers welcomed by two songs

The large riverboats that ply the Mississippi River are the responsibility of Chelsea Lerud, executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau of the Greater Burlington Partnership. She coordinates the volunteers needed to show passengers around the community each time they dock at the river.

“Boats arrive in the middle of the night. Passengers disembark around 8 a.m. Ships will leave around 4 p.m.,” Lerud said.

The CVB is preparing with an update/training of the guides on Wednesday. It has a number of tour guides who assist on mooring days.

Welcome center ambassadors sing two songs to passengers – “The Song of Iowa” to the tune of “Tannenbaum” and reworked the lyrics to “When You’re Smiling,” Lerud said.

The “When you smile” version, with lines from:

“Go see Snake Alley, and our Cobblestone Street;

And our museums, they are simply unbeatable;

So when you smile, keep smiling;

And we will all smile with you”,

was composed specifically for this purpose by then-Ambassador Ginny Burrus, who enjoyed sharing Burlington’s unique architecture, geography and landmarks with visitors.

All local tour guides will be required to present their vaccination card or undergo a rapid test (by boat staff) on the day of docking, Lerud said.

Stops in Burlington include the Des Moines County Heritage Center, Mosquito Park, Snake Alley/Garrett-Phelps House Museum, Downtown Burlington and the Port of Burlington Visitor Center, Lerud said.

For passengers, “masks are no longer required on board after boarding, but face coverings must be worn when boarding and on board shore excursion coaches per CDC transportation guidelines,” according to a press release from American Queen.

Deborah Hoelzen Bowen is a teacher at the Heritage Center Museum. As a guide, she and others stand ready to help steamboat tourists and answer their questions.

Visitors “are always amazed at what a wonderful place the building (the heritage center museum) is,” she said.

“The Bart Howard Room is quite unusual, and people familiar with Bart Howard will listen to the radio play ‘Fly Me to the Moon.’

Guides also take tourists to different places if they wish to explore.

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New riverboats carrying visitors to Burlington, including the Viking

The Duchess is a sister ship to the American Queen built in 2017 on the hull of the former river casino on the Isle of Capri, formerly moored in Bettendorf, and last moored in Burlington in 2019.

The American Countess is a refurbished ex-game boat and debuted for the AQSC in March.

The American Duchess will operate at full capacity of 166 guests.

The company describes the American Duchess as a “boutique-style riverboat” that offers “exquisite dining, beautiful decks, and exceptional amenities.”

“American Queen Steamboat Company has released its 2022 and 2023 seasons for bookings in early 2021 to meet pent-up demand for nearby cruises. Burlington is a featured stop on Mighty Mississippi routes sailing from Minneapolis to New Orleans and on sailings from Minneapolis (Red Wing) to St. Louis (Alton) aboard the American Countess, American Duchess and American Queen,” Matthews said.

In 2022, even more ships will ply the waters of the region. Viking, a river, ocean and expedition cruise line, will launch its first U.S.-based river vessel, Viking Mississippi, in August 2022.

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The five-deck Viking Mississippi was built specifically for the Mississippi River and will carry 386 passengers in 193 outside cabins.

Trips will navigate the Lower and Upper Mississippi River, between New Orleans and St. Paul, and stops in Iowa will be Burlington, Dubuque and Davenport.

Viking’s river cruises slated for 2023 have already started selling out, so the company has opened sales for Mississippi cruises in 2024.

The cruise line is preparing to bring more than 5,800 guests to the region in 2022 and more than 17,600 in the first full sailing season in 2023.

Iowa Travel Industry Partners (iTIP), a new statewide organization charged with representing the travel, tourism and hospitality industry, announced Friday that it has hired Lerud as interim director.

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