With the Mississippi River behaving again, riverboat season has started in Hannibal. The first of the boats officially arrived in town Tuesday afternoon when the "Spirit of Peoria" gently pulled up to the city's riverfront.
An authentic paddlewheeler, the Spirit of Peoria transports its guests on excursions along the Illinois River and Mississippi River.
While the boat docked here Tuesday, its passengers actually arrived in America's Hometown Monday.
"They do not have accommodations to lodge on the riverboat, so they will stay in the hotel, the Best Western Plus. They have an itinerary where they will cruise up and down the Mississippi and return to Peoria on the 17th," said Gail Bryant, director of the Hannibal Convention & Visitors Bureau.
According to the Spirit of Peoria's website, the passengers arrived in Hannibal via motorcoaches after docking in Clarksville late Monday afternoon. After a tour of Hannibal's downtown area, passengers boarded the riverboat for a day of cruising up and down the river on Tuesday, before arriving back in town where they received a formal welcome from the mayor, Tom and Becky, Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors and HCVB personnel.
After spending Tuesday night in Hannibal, passengers are scheduled to have a full day of sightseeing in Hannibal on Wednesday before wrapping up their five-day excursion.
According to Bryant, this is the inaugural docking of the Spirit of Peoria in Hannibal.
"We certainly want them annually, but if we can get them multiple times throughout the year that would be even better," she said.
Additional riverboats will be visiting Hannibal in the weeks and months ahead. The Queen of the Mississippi will dock here for the first time in 2013 on Sunday, Aug. 4. The American Queen will make its initial appearance of the year on Saturday, Aug. 24.
"They have several dates in September and October," said Bryant.
Both boats had planned trips to Hannibal in July.
"They had to cancel their dates because they couldn't go up river," said Bryant, noting high water issues on the river earlier in the month.
Both "queens" paid frequent visits to Hannibal last year. Based on the comments she received, Bryant is not surprised the boats are returning.
"We received positive feedback about their experience in Hannibal from the excursion companies, the riverboat companies and the passengers," Bryant said with a smile. "A lot of the comments were they would like to spend more time in Hannibal. Everyone coming out and joining us to help welcome them only helps contribute to decisions of returning."