No passport required to cruise the Ohio River on a paddle wheeler

For a town with out stoplights, supermarkets or a Starbucks, little Augusta, Kentucky, at the bucolic southern financial institution of the Ohio River, is a going down position.

Now not most effective is a former Leave out The us a local daughter, the one-time seat of Bracken County counts amongst its 1,200 electorate the oldsters of George Clooney. In reality, Nick and Nina, each of their 80s, nonetheless are living lower than two blocks from the place their two-time Oscar-winning son went to school. Dad, a three-time Emmy nominee, is a former anchorman at KNBC in Los Angeles. Pouring much more nation gravy on Augusta’s claims to status, the longtime house of Nick’s sister and George’s aunt, Rosemary Clooney, is now a museum devoted to the past due, mythical entertainer.

Seen from the highest deck of the American Countess, a rainbow straddles Kentucky and Indiana over the Ohio River. (Picture by way of David Dickstein) 

Even with all this megastar energy, Augusta maintains an enthralling Anytown U.S.A. feel and appear. So humble is that this hamlet within the Heartland, evaluating it to Mayberry from the previous “Andy Griffith Display” or Disneyland’s Major Boulevard, U.S.A. isn’t a stretch. And if Augusta seems like the type of position that welcomes strangers with banners and bands, you’d be spot on with that, too.

We all know this as a result of 152 passengers and a staff of 95 got a grand reception when the American Countess paddle wheeler docked at O’Neil Touchdown on a contemporary Saturday morning. Previous within the cruise the majestic river boat had visited the ports of Pittsburgh, Belpre (Ohio) and Huntington (West Virginia), however their welcomes have been hardly ever as heat. Similar with Madison (Ind.) and Louisville (Ky.) days later.

Capt. Mike Blitgen maneuvers the American Countess in Huntington, W.Va. (Photo by David Dickstein)
Capt. Mike Blitgen maneuvers the American Countess in Huntington, W.Va. (Picture by way of David Dickstein) 

Most effective 5 instances will a big riverboat pay a talk over with to Augusta this 12 months, so town pulled out all of the stops for the uncommon match. Stores opened early, locals arranged a crafts honest and singers carried out beneath a pop-up cover on the nook of very Mayberry-sounding Major Boulevard and Riverside Force. Even the mayor aroused from sleep earlier than break of day to lend a hand direct site visitors and say a couple of phrases to a shuttle author hailing from his previous stomping floor of California.

“I ran an import/export trade in Anaheim from 1969 to 2004, and now I are living in a the town other folks say is essentially the most gorgeous they’ve ever observed,” stated the Honorable Michael Taylor as he lifted a plastic cone in order that a pickup truck may make a left flip. “I wouldn’t business this for all of the international.”

The Grand Lobby is the hub for socializing on the American Countess riverboat. (Photo by David Dickstein)
The Grand Foyer is the hub for socializing at the American Countess riverboat. (Picture by way of David Dickstein) 

American Queen Voyages is the one primary cruise line that makes a prevent in Augusta, and the contest is the lesser for it. The city could also be the poorer for it; Augusta’s tourism director, Janet Hunt, estimates that each and every riverboat passenger pumps a mean of $100 into the native economic system. Mayor Taylor stated that’s vital for a the town as small and far off as Augusta.

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With seven vessels, 8 come 2023, AQV’s fleet is kind of part the dimensions of its essential river rival, American Cruise Traces. The gathering is constructed from 4 paddle wheel riverboats, two boutique coastal crafts and one expedition deliver with a 2d debuting subsequent 12 months in Alaska. A large participant in small-ship North The us cruising, AQV sails the Mississippi, Illinois, Tennessee, Cumberland, Columbia and Snake rivers along with the Ohio. Lake and ocean locations come with the Nice Lakes, New England, the southeastern U.S., Canada, Costa Rica and Mexico. Alaska and British Columbia are the backdrops of AQV’s expedition cruises.

Viewed from the top deck of the American Countess, a rainbow straddles Kentucky and Indiana over the Ohio River. (Photo by David Dickstein)
Seen from the highest deck of the American Countess, a rainbow straddles Kentucky and Indiana over the Ohio River. (Picture by way of David Dickstein) 

The entire above have the makings of a memorable journey, however there’s a explanation why AQV’s brand is a purple paddlewheel and that till a 12 months in the past, the cruise line went by way of the title of American Queen Steamboat Corporate. Contemporarily designed paddle wheelers make up AQV’s core product. The flagship is the six-deck, 417-passenger American Queen, supposedly the biggest steamboat ever constructed at 420 toes in duration. The fleet’s latest riverboat is the four-deck American Countess, which goes as much as 245 visitors in 123 staterooms. The vessel is 361 toes lengthy, however that wasn’t the unique size. At the start built as a on line casino boat for Harrah’s, the then-named Kanesville Queen become out of date in 2007 when Iowa allowed gaming on land. The 11-year-old boat used to be bought for scrap, however discovered new lifestyles by way of her present homeowners who added a 60-foot midsection and an absolutely new inner. After many delays because of the pandemic, the American Countess used to be after all introduced in March 2021.

Her transformation from floating on line casino to floating lodge is spectacular, and even supposing the vessel is sans slot machines and gaming tables because of interstate rules, there’s a number of different venues. But even so the purser and tours table, the primary deck has a big and extravagant eating room, theater, health club, present store, and living room with 24-hour espresso, tea and ice cream. Deck 2 has a library, card room and buffet-style eating place. A therapeutic massage room is also at the so-called Cabin Deck, however will stay dormant till AQV indicators with a brand new well being and wellness operator. Deck 3 has a chart room with delightfully nerdy navigational fabrics. The deck additionally has an outside strolling monitor that equates to a mile for each and every 7 1/2 laps. The Solar Deck on 4 is the place the pilot home is, and there’s a sign-up sheet on the entrance table for excursions of the captain’s place of business.

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The Grand Dining Room is the elegant option between two restaurants on the American Countess. (Photo by David Dickstein)
The Grand Eating Room is the chic choice between two eating places at the American Countess. (Picture by way of David Dickstein) 

Staterooms are on the second one and 3rd decks, and typically get started at beneath $3,000 consistent with individual, double occupancy, for a nine-night cruise that starts with a lodge keep within the town of embarkation. Maximum cabins at the American Countess be offering a veranda, and if privateness is necessary to you be sure you ebook one on Deck 2. This non-exhibitionist used to be startled by way of an influence walker who innocently peered into my Deck 3 unit as I used to be converting for an early dinner on my first day aboard. It used to be a snappy lesson on what an “out of doors stateroom with open veranda” in point of fact approach. In a method it used to be a satisfying marvel as I found out how spry those most commonly septuagenarian passengers can also be on a river cruise, and with a sliding door that opens to the strolling monitor, workout and socialization alternatives abound.

AQV river cruises are famous as all-inclusive, however we’ll upload an asterisk: Airfare, airport transfers and gratuities are further. What’s incorporated, then again, is beneficiant. Limitless alcoholic drinks, guided hop-on/hop-off bus excursions, 24-hour room provider and web are a part of the fare along side the aforementioned lodge evening and the trip from there to the vessel. Additionally incorporated are well-maintained bicycles at each and every stopover and day by day enrichment from other folks well-versed in river lore. Nightly leisure used to be tough at the cruise from Pittsburgh to Louisville; most effective one of the crucial 3 featured singers had the best stuff, and the four-piece band performed with a “I hate my lifestyles” blasé angle.

At the plus facet, non-compulsory “top rate stories” are effectively arranged and unusually rather priced. A favourite in this itinerary is a talk over with to the Ark Come upon in Williamstown, Kentucky. From Cincinnati, or within sight Madison, Indiana,. when the NFL Bengals have a house recreation, $119 will get a relaxed seat on a luxurious motor trainer for the hour or so experience each and every means, a buffet lunch on the vacation spot and a price ticket to peer the biggest trees body construction on this planet.

A visit to the Ark Encounter in Kentucky is among the premium shore excursions offered by AQ. (Photo by David Dickstein)
A talk over with to the Ark Come upon in Kentucky is without doubt one of the top rate shore tours introduced by way of AQ. (Picture by way of David Dickstein) 

Constructed to biblical proportions, the primary enchantment is a life-sized reconstruction of Noah’s ark, considered 510 toes lengthy. The Christian-themed enchantment is heavy on evangelizing, however there’s lots for non-believers, too. The fee features a petting zoo and a stroll via a habitat populated with kangaroos and wallabies. Camel rides are further and humanely run. Meals is superb with one deal with that in point of fact places the “ark” in “outstanding.” Even though there’s no point out of Uncle Leroy’s hand made fudge within the bible, the candy stuff bought inside of Noah’s scriptural deliver is a spiritual enjoy all on its own.

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Again at the boat constructed for people, the American Countess serves up first rate chow as effectively. The craft beer fried hen, buttermilk frog legs and tempura hen livers are tasty, and for the ones extra respectful of Noah’s efforts, the latkes, lentil soup and crammed chili are divine vegetarian choices.

Hop-on/hop-off buses are provided at each stopover of an AQV river cruise. (Photo by David Dickstein)
Hop-on/hop-off buses are supplied at each and every stopover of an AQV river cruise. (Picture by way of David Dickstein) 

Getting one’s fill on American historical past could also be gratifying regardless of the waterway. River cruises inside the U.S. are a residing study room, overlaying the Civil Conflict, Mark Twain, jazz, Lewis and Clark, business, structure — you title it. And if a selected topic doesn’t excite, there’s regularly one thing else simply across the river bend. Again the place we began, fascinating Augusta, Kentucky, is a historical past hotbed. Constructed on an historic Indian burial mound, the town used to be populated with numerous antislavery sympathizers. Two properties that served as Underground Railroad safehouses are identified at the unfastened bus excursion and can also be explored additional by way of foot or motorbike. Different issues of ancient passion value visiting are the Baker-Chook Vineyard, the oldest business property vineyard within the country, and the 1811 Prison, the oldest lockup within the state nonetheless on its authentic basis.

Essentially the most-visited museum in Augusta celebrates the lifetime of Rosemary Clooney. Her transformed space holds the biggest selection of “White Christmas” memorabilia, and for Heather French Henry, aka Leave out The us 2000, being the museum’s curator is a technique to give again to somebody who used to be very particular in her lifestyles.

“Rosemary used to be a super mentor and pal who helped me transition into my public position as Leave out The us,” Henry stated whilst maintaining a tally of the door to welcome visitors coming off the American Countess. “The second one name I won after successful the crown used to be from Rosie, and one piece of recommendation she shared used to be to by no means disregard the place you got here from. This museum lets in us to drag again the curtain on what Rosemary Clooney intended and nonetheless approach to Augusta, The us and the sector.”

A beautiful sunset on the Ohio River enhances the good life aboard the American Countess. (Photo by David Dickstein)
A good looking sundown at the Ohio River complements the nice lifestyles aboard the American Countess. (Picture by way of David Dickstein) 

With the road to take a selfie with Kentucky’s most effective Leave out The us a number of other folks deep, the impromptu interview throughout the museum used to be wrapped up. A couple of hours later the American Countess used to be heading west to but any other nook of the rustic that many would by no means talk over with if now not for river cruising.

American Queen Voyages can also be reached at www.aqvoyages.com or 866-522-1166.