Before planes, trains and automobiles dominated the landscape of American travel, the riverboat was a key means of moving people up and down our nation’s rivers.
On Tuesday, I got to spend a couple of hours on a sightseeing cruise aboard the Belle of Cincinnati. While a throwback to a long gone era, this riverboat features modern conveniences including a lunch or dinner buffet, a bar and gift shop.
Every summer, this sightseeing boat leaves its Cincinnati home for a summer cruise tour of historic river towns. They stop in Huntington in West Virginia, Ashland and Maysville in Kentucky and Portsmouth and Gallipolis in Ohio. Sightseeing, lunch and dinner cruises are offered at each city.
I opted for just the sightseeing cruise in Gallipolis Tuesday night. The cost was significantly less than the dinner ticket and seemed the wisest option given that the vegetarian dinner option sounded sketchy. When someone uses a phrase like “vegetarian pasta bake” without description on a menu they typically translates to white pasta covered in cheese. I have become such a skeptic about food that I decided to skip it.
I met a friend at boarding time and we were pleased to learn that we could sit anywhere we liked. So we headed up to the top deck. I am afraid of heights but surprisingly had no trouble sitting there or even climbing the stairs to get up there.
The forecast had been for showers so I came prepared with rain gear that was completely unnecessary. Just before boarding began at 6:30, the sun came out and the sky turned blue, a lovely contrast to the puffy white clouds that made me think the Universe was conspiring to make my life better.
The temperature was in the upper seventies but a steady breeze made it feel much cooler. That breeze gave life to several American flags along the boat’s top deck. A DJ played a vast array of music to please nearly any taste. We heard a lot of country music, some disco and oldies. This encouraged a group of, shall we say, older ladies to get up and dance.
Within two songs, they had cleared a dance floor near the DJ and showed us all their line dancing skills. A couple of songs later, the DJ was up teaching them a new dance. By the end of the night, other employees had jumped in on the fun, at one point leading a conga line through the center of the crowd.
I’m not much of a joiner but people watching is one of my favorite activities and this place was ripe with opportunity.
It was festive and fun!
All the same, I found the changing sky positively captivating and loved how the setting sun illuminated the clouds. The slow, smooth glide of our boat was exactly the relaxing change of pace I needed. It’s unusual to move so slowly you hardly know you’re moving at all. Meanwhile, small speedboats zipped by and even an enormous barge seemed to be moving quite fast.
It was a night to remember.
Their last stop of the summer cruise is today at Maysville, KY. After that, they’ll be headed home for a full schedule of cruises offered by BB Riverboats, the company that owns this and other riverboats.
Want to learn more about the company and book a ride? Click here!