The holidays are over, the dead of winter is here, and no one will blame you for dreaming of getting away from it all on a relaxing cruise. And with just a little patience, you can do just that, right here in Iowa! From late May through October, the Riverboat Twilight will not only take you back in time, it will melt away all the stresses of the modern world.
Inspired by the steamboats of the late 1800's that used to ply the Mississippi River by the dozens, the Twilight is a three deck boat that’s lovely simply to look at with its white and blue color scheme and ornate Victorian trim and décor. Once on board, you’ll find it’s also an experience all its own. It’s a two day trip from LeClaire to Dubuque and back, and while many Iowans have driven the Great River Road along this stretch, traveling on the Mississippi itself is a whole other kettle of fish. From the comfort of a wooden rocking chair on one of the open decks, you can peer down the historic streets of early river towns like Bellevue and Sabula as you glide by, photograph wildlife, or watch other river traffic, all to the soothing sound of the water passing over the bow. Captain Kevin Stier passes along a wealth of information from the wheelhouse over the PA system. He covers everything from details about the boat, notable locations on the shore, the history of travel and trade on the river, to info on the barges and locks that keep the Mississippi a viable commercial route as well as a vacation destination. Pay attention, because there is a quiz! You could win a prize!
There is abundant wildlife easily visible, including bald eagles, pelicans, and cormorants. Much of the time you feel as if you’re in a national park. Yet the Mississippi manages to also blend this natural beauty with manufacturing and shipping, as well as recreation. The river is certainly much livelier than I expected, and there is a great sense of camaraderie between vessels, from huge coal barges down to jet skis and canoes. Everyone seems happy to wave at everyone they meet. The Twilight provides a fantastic platform to take it all in.
It also provides its own amenities. Two Victorian dining rooms host reserved tables for each passenger, and serve delicious meals twice each day, completely prepared on board. The third deck even hosts a bar. If you’d like to enjoy a Mississippi mudslide while the mighty Mississippi slides by, they’ve got you covered. The crew are all extremely friendly and helpful, and you can even visit the captain in the wheelhouse if you feel so inclined.
Once you've landed in Dubuque, the Grand Resort Hotel is your host with fantastic views of the oldest city in Iowa. From your hotel window, you can pick out where you’d like to visit the following day. As the Twilight doesn’t depart until nearly lunchtime, you have most of the morning to explore. Shuttles are provided to various points, but many places are within walking distance, like the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. Like your hotel room, admission to the museum is included in the fare package price.
By the time you step back on shore at LeClaire you may have made some new friends and rejoining regular life and its hectic pace might seem a bit jarring, but you’ll have a whole new perspective on the Mississippi. And you will most definitely be relaxed. Plan your trip now, and give yourself something to look forward to the rest of the winter!
To view the 2015 cruise schedule and book tickets, visit the Twilight's website.
Photo credit: Mark Armstrong