Twenty-five riverboat dockings are tentatively scheduled this year.

When many people in Hannibal think of the start of “boat season” they envision the ice melting enough in the waning days of winter that they are able to slip their jon boat into the Mississippi River. When Gail Bryant, director of the Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau, ponders “boat season” she envisions the summertime arrival of large riverboats that are filled with passengers eager to explore American's Hometown.

Although the Spirit of Peoria docked on the Hannibal riverfront earlier in the month, Bryant says the return of the large riverboats with overnight accommodations for their passengers officially begins Tuesday, July 25, when the American Queen docks at noon.

“We love having the riverboats come to Hannibal,” said Bryant. “It is such a wonderful opportunity for our visitors to see something extra. It’s not every day you get to see a huge riverboat docked along the mighty Mississippi. It is also exciting to welcome our visitors from all around the world into our historic community.”

Currently 25 dockings are scheduled during the upcoming “boat season.” Bryant is quick to note that number is not chiseled in stone. The 2016 “boat season” featured 17 dockings and 10 cancellations.

“It is always hard at the beginning of the season to say whether or not there will be more dockings than in years past,” she said. “This is due to the ever-changing adventure that is river travel. We never know what Mother Nature will have in store a month from now. High or low water levels to the north or south of us can affect whether a boat can reach Hannibal, even when our water level is perfectly normal.”

Because the docking schedule is subject to change, Bryant encourages people wanting to see a riverboat to check the HCVB's website – VisitHannibal.com – or call the HCVB – 573.221.2477 – for the latest docking schedule.

“We have tourists that enjoy coming to Hannibal while the large riverboats are docked,” she said. “We always suggest that visitors coming from out of town check our website before coming to see if there have been any last-minute changes from the boat.”

The changeability of the docking schedule is already evident. The Queen of the Mississippi had been scheduled to kick off “boat season” on Sunday, July 23, but advised the HCVB this week that its first appearance would be postponed until 1 p.m. Sunday, July 30.

Three new riverboats – the America, Louisiane and American Dutchess - are tentatively scheduled to make their inaugural dockings in Hannibal this year, according to Bryant. The America's initial docking will occur at 7 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 19. The American Dutchess, which is the sister ship of the American Queen, will make its initial appearance at noon on Tuesday, Aug. 29. The Louisiane's first visit will take place at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 18.

 

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com