The fastest stern wheeler ever launched the 78 stateroom overnight cruise boat QUEEN OF THE MISSISSIPPI begins service Saturday August 4, 2012 out of New Orleans. Her faster speed will allow more  distant port calls from New Orleans than had previously been economic in the tourist trade. There were major shake ups in the river cruise industry after the events of September 11, 2001 but in the last couple of years the big overnight boats have returned to New Orleans and Memphis. 

 These boats are good news on the river and not just for the jobs they represent.
Remember Hurricane Katrina in 2005?
New Orleans was destroyed and in desperate need of housing for police, firefighters, and first responders. The Great River boats were not yet back in service after 9/11 economic downturn. The United States had to charter foreign flag cruise ships to house the emergency personnel attempting to restore New Orleans.

  If a city above Baton Rouge up river had been hit by a different type of disaster these seagoing cruise ships could not reach the affected cities. The purpose built river boats can. So the next time you see a "wedding cake paddle wheeler" out on the river remember they are more than an elegant vacation palace afloat. 

 These are also vessels of the United States Merchant Marine, able to provide barracks or hospital space services should the need arise all over the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys. North of Baton Rouge folks don't worry much about hurricanes. But if you think the Midwest is a quiet place, research the "New Madrid Fault". The greatest earth quake in American history was epi-centered near New Madrid, Missouri fortunately before there were many people living in the region. When that fault line next releases its stored kinetic energy who knows which cities will be in need of the kind of service New Orleans needed in 2005. The YouTube link below will let you watch the launch of the Queen.

Here is a YouTube presentation on the entire American cruise Lines Fleet:

Remember every one of these small ships is American registered and manned by Coast Guard credentialed American Merchant Mariners and each is capable of the civil defense missions we described for the MISSISSIPPI QUEEN. So buy a ticket and give yourself a treat and support American jobs and civil defense at the same time.

In the interest of full disclosure we feel we should tell you that the author of this posting served as Master ,mate and pilot on similar vessels for nearly 12 years, and as a maritime union official. He simply never saw an American registered vessel that he didn't like.