Travel Scene: French-flavored cruises coming to a port near you
A new upscale cruise line with a French flavor will be plying the Mississippi River this coming season, with stops scheduled at southeastern Minnesota river communities.
The company, French America Line , has been launched by a team of river cruise veterans and is refurbishing a 150-passenger vessel and will relaunch it in August as the Louisiane.
The ship that has been purchased and is now undergoing a multimillion-dollar rehab is the former Columbia Queen . It was built in 2000 and sailed the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest as part of the former Majestic America Line.
Travel Weekly reports that the owners of the new line are creating a French-inspired ambience on board, as a nod to the French influences in and around the Louisiane's home port of New Orleans.
Amenities aboard the Louisiane include two dining venues — the main Orleans Room and the more casual French-style bistro Veranda — which will offer regional French and standard American favorites as well options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and 24-hour room service. Laduree macarons will be served onboard and Vosges chocolates will be offered at turndown.
The Orleans Room will be transformed nightly to host a cabaret show, and there will be a full-service spa for massages and body treatments, and nail and hair services, reports Travel Weekly.
French America Line is headed by chairman Christopher Kyle, former president of the American Queen Steamboat Co., and Tom Markwell, president, and former managing partner at Haimark, a coastal and river cruise operator.
The ship, with a crew of 64, will sail its inaugural cruise Aug. 22, after which it will sail a variety of cruise lengths ranging from 5 to 10 days on the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland and Red rivers, as well as along the Gulf Coast.
Its itinerary will include four cruises in the fall between St. Louis and St. Paul, involving stops at regional Mississippi River towns.
Ten-day, one-way "Jewels of the Heartland" upstream cruises from St. Louis to St. Paul are set Sept. 16 and Sept. 30, with stops at Red Wing and La Crosse, Wis. Eight-day return "Midwestern Majesty" downstream trips on Sept. 25 and Oct. 8 from St. Paul to St. Louis will include stops at Winona.
Depending on the cruise, prices range from about $3,600-$4,600 to $6,300-$8,000 at the top-deck suite.
Riverboats along the Mississippi were all but extinct several years ago but are making a comeback now, with several other cruise lines planning itineraries this summer.
And next year, the largest cruise line of them all — European-headquartered Viking Cruise Line — will launch Mississippi River cruises.
Viking is in the process of building six 300-passenger vessels over a several-year period to sail the Mississippi, from a home port in New Orleans.
The company has dozens of ships and runs cruises throughout Europe and Asia and has greatly expanded operations in recent years. We've hosted several popular Post-Bulletin cruises aboard Viking ships, on voyages beginning in Amsterdam in Europe and along the Yangtze River in China.
Disney to add two new ships
Still on the subject of cruising, Walt Disney Co. has announced plans to add two new ships to its cruise line .
The ships, to be completed in 2021 and 2023, will expand Disney Cruise Line's fleet to six. The ships will include 1,250 staterooms, according to the Los Angeles Times. They will be the first ships added to the fleet since the launch of the Disney Dream in 2011 and Disney Fantasy in 2012. Disney Cruise Line was launched in 1998.