When is a cruise not a cruise? When it’s a RiverBarge excursion.
Right from riverside arrival, moving down the levee to the
river, this experience is different. What lies ahead is a barge
actually two barges linked together followed by a “pusher” nearly
800 feet of barge that will be home for the next eight days.
“This in not a cruise”, said owner Eddie Conrad. “We don’t even
use that word anywhere in our literature. This is an experience of
seeing America from a different perspective. We take you from the
reality and environment of everyday life and offer a view of life
on the river and the surrounding regions.”
In the process of doing this, the atmosphere aboard is
completely relaxed and casual. Dressing for dinner may be putting
on a clean sport shirt. And the result is that, within a day or so,
everyone is chatting, comparing travel experiences and spinning
yarns at happy hour, adding up to a comfortable and relaxed
experience. All helped along by the warm, friendly service staff of
people who are ready to answer any need that arises.
One of the river delights are the days of “barging”: sitting on
the Sky Deck watching the commercial barges go up and down the
river; identifying the various birds that line the shores along
with the occasional wildlife sighting (binoculars are in every
cabin); relaxing with a drink at the Bridge Bar; having a
cappuccino and homemade cookies in the lobby; wandering into the
“galley” dining room to dine when and with whom you like.
Who should go? Anyone interested in the history and culture of
the rivers of America and the towns that grew up along their banks.
Anyone who would be unhappy donning jacket and tie for dinner.
Anyone looking for a stress-free getaway.
Who should not go? Anyone looking for a party cruise with
late-night revelry. Anyone looking forward to gambling in the
casino. Anyone who is finicky about their food and is looking for
The public rooms are located forward on the two barges (DeSoto)
with the top deck (Sky) open mainly for river viewing, shuffleboard
and a jogging/walking track. Deck two (Platinum) has a large open
lobby with leather sofas and chairs for relaxing or reading and
small banquette areas along the sides for viewing. Forward is the
Guest Pilot House where passengers can get a captain’s-eye view of
the river on comfortable swivel chairs. Behind the purser’s desk is
the small gift and sundries shop and the Galvez Library.
On deck one (Royal) is the Sprague, a two-story entertainment
facility that is the center for music and lectures from the large
raised stage. Entertainment is gathered locally along the river and
the content changes depending on the itinerary. The Nashville to
St. Louis run offered a Bluegrass band, Old Time Banjo National
Champion Dan Knowles, the guitar thumb picking National Champion
Eddie Pennington on other nights, piano virtuoso Patrick Joyce in
St. Louis and a grand dance evening with the Jerry Ford Big Band
Happy hour centers around the Crevasse Bar that runs the entire
width of the barge. When the weather is balmy the action moves to
the Bridge Bar on Sky Deck.
Dining aboard the RiverBarge is in The Galley. Breakfast and
lunch are served buffet-style while dinner is a sit-down affair.
Selections are limited but usually offer a fish, chicken or meat
plus pasta; salads; and a vegetarian dish. This is down-home
cooking with some New Orleans dishes added to the menu. Don’t look
for gourmet dining.
The residential barge, (LaSalle), has 98 identical staterooms
(200 square feet) containing queen or twin beds, full tub/shower,
satellite TV and VCR, telephone, mini refrigerator, hair dryer,
binoculars and large picture windows. Staterooms on deck two have
sliding doors that open to a balcony.
Both barges have elevators with easy access throughout the barge
for wheelchairs, and there is a free, self-service laundry for the
Sky deck on this barge has the pilot house where most of the
time an open bridge policy allows passengers to visit and query the
captain about the barge and the river. A small gym with exercise
machines is one of the under-utilized areas, at least on our
cruise. But this is offset by the popular Bridge Bar, with a
sheltered outdoor seating area and a snack bar. For relaxing after
a shore excursion two hot tubs sit at the aft end of this deck.
Itineraries explore the Mississippi, Ohio and Cumberland rivers
and the Gulf Coast Intercoastal Waterway without repeating an
itinerary, making it convenient to book two excursions back to back
(10 percent discount on the second voyage). Fares include
gratuities on board as well as on the included shore excursions.
The only additional fees would be from bar and gift shop