First cruise ship stop means big business for La Crosse

After multiple cancellations due to high water, the paddleboats are back! The Queen of the Mississippi is just leaving the dock at La Crosse’s Riverside Park.

This is the first boat that was able to make it this season after four visits planned for July were all canceled because of high water. When the ships with hundreds of passengers don’t dock, area businesses lose out.

The American Cruise Lines ship is making its way up the Mississippi River.

“[It’s] a very restful and peaceful way to travel,” said Dawn Long, one of the passengers, as she sat in the park during the stop.

Right around 7 a.m., the Queen of the Mississippi arrived in La Crosse ahead of schedule.

“As with the river, it’s unpredictable,” said Janet Dahl, with Explore La Crosse’s Tourism Services.

When the water levels are too high, the boats can’t make it under some of the bridges along the route.

“The downtown businesses are very thankful when they can make it in port because they get all ready so it is a big disappointment when the boat doesn’t come,” Dahl said.

In a 2017 La Crosse County Convention and Visitors Bureau report, there were 18 total big boat visits. In all, 2,774 passengers visited the area.

When the 150 passengers got off the Victorian-style paddle wheeler, Explore La Crosse was ready to tell them about nearby attractions.

“I went down to the visitors center and then she told me about the gardens, and I went through the lovely gardens and they were beautiful,” Long said.

Dawn and Paul Long traveled all the way from Greensboro, North Carolina, for the cruise. Even though the boat is in town for just a few hours, that’s enough time to grab some lunch, go shopping or sightseeing.

“Every day we stop someplace and do a tour of the town,” Long said.

The hope is to get people to enjoy their stay and have them return, which Dahl says has happened in the past. But first, they have to make it to the dock.

“We’re thankful the river is down a little so hopefully the rest of schedule will go as planned,” Dahl said.

From here the Queen of the Mississippi is scheduled to head north to its final destination in St. Paul. But it is scheduled to return to our area on Monday.

There is an opportunity to see the American Queen on Saturday. It is scheduled to dock between noon and 5 p.m. To see if it’s on schedule, you can call the La Crosse County Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800-658-9424.

A full schedule of the shore stops can be found here.

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