New riverboat set to ride Mississippi in New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS — Few experiences capture old New Orleans and the Mississippi River quite like a paddlewheel riverboat coming round the muddy bend with its tooting whistle horn, towering smoke stacks and water-churning propeller.
This month the first new riverboat in more than a decade is set to launch in this Louisiana port city. A plunge in tourism after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 forced the New Orleans Steamboat Company to sell off one of its two boats, but the arrival of the City of New Orleans is a sign of the steadily rising tide of tourists each year to this Southern city of Mardi Gras fame.
“People come from all over the world. It is astonishing. They really want to see the river,” said Adrienne Thomas, marketing director for the company, which also owns another riverboat, the Natchez.
A century ago, countless paddlewheel riverboats plied the Mississippi and its tributaries. Today, New Orleans has two: the Natchez and the Creole Queen, which is operated by New Orleans Paddlewheels.
Now the city of New Orleans is coming full circle, back to the state where it was built in 1991. For years it operated as a casino boat in Rock Island, Illinois, until the mid1990s. But after that state legalized onshore casinos, the boat became obsolete.