October 2008


It was eerily quite around the boat during this morning’s disembarkation. Usually, this time is bustling and busy and noisy and guests prepare to return home. But today, guests sat visiting with each other quietly, waiting for their assigned bus to be announced ready for boarding. Many roamed around the boat taking some last photographs. There was a pall of sadness hovering over us all. Any yet, we all looked at each other, hugged, and bid farewell with the connection and bond of having shared something very special together. I will miss our cruise guests. They have been delightful and entertaining. I wouldn’t trade for the stories and experiences we’ve shared together.

We roamed around and visited with other crew members who also were preparing to depart as we watched the bustling boat grow more still and quiet. I have often expressed the belief that it is the steam engine that gives the Delta Queen its life, but I realize now it is even more so her guests. These ardent fans, passionate travelers, and returning friends are the heart of this precious experience. I will miss them all.

The boat finally grew so quiet that it became disturbing, and so Laura and I began to gather our things and laboriously haul them over to the American Queen. Both boats will go down together, but due to passenger restrictions, we will ride in a stateroom aboard the AQ. At the cities along the lower river, we will continue to conduct Tribute Events to thank the towns for the years of support.

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Laura and Bill and a beautiful river sunset

 

This is Laura Sable writing this post (unbeknownst to Bill!) and I wanted to say a big thank you to Bill. He has worked tirelessly on the Delta Queen this year. He has brought so much joy to the guests and crew with his talks, music, card tricks, enthusiasm and overall passion for this boat. So, thank you, my love. You are my hero!

Laura

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Good friends (Laura, Bobby, Traci, and Fred) on a special day.

Good friends (Laura, Bobby, Traci, and Fred) on a special day.

We arrived into Memphis early on the 30th for on a lovely autumn day. Due to the low water, we could not dock in the harbor at Mud Island but instead moved up to the alternate landing a couple miles upstream at the beautiful Greenbelt Park that extends along the riverfront.

Before the media began to arrive for the event, Laura and I joined a few friends for a walk through the park down towards town. We crossed into town and caught the trolley just for fun down to Union. The Peabody Place mall is being converted into hotel suites, but Starbucks was still open!

During coffee, I had to find a quiet corner to do an on-air interview with Chuck Roberts on CNN Headline News. I think it turned out pretty good. To watch it online, CLICK HERE. 

Back onboard, I met with various media including Candice Ludlow from Memphis National Public Radio affiliate WKNO. She produced a piece picked up on the national broadcast of All Things Considered. It is a lovely piece and can be listened to by CLICKING HERE.

For our Memphis Tribute Event, we were honored to have Pete Avioti from the mayor’s office and Congressman Steve Cohen, supporter of the Delta Queen’s exemption extention bill. A nice crowd gathered down at the landing for the proceedings. Afterward, the Delta Queen departed for an evening dinner cruise. Captain Gabe Chengery played the calliope. It was hard to realize it was the boat’s final departure with passengers aboard. We headed downriver past the beautiful Memphis skyline and rounded the bend toward a symbolically perfect sunset. It was an agonizing and lovely evening.

Laura and I had to really lock in our emotions to present the “Delta Queen: A Musical Journey” show we wrote for this special season. We celebrated the boat’s incredible life in story and shared some of the array of songs we have discovered written about her. Many stuck around late into the evening to enjoy more music and memories from Phyllis Dale and friends. There were many hugs, tears, and hopeful sentiments. It was a night I will always remember.

Tomorrow these final passengers disembark. The American Queen will end her cruise here in Memphis and embark another group of guests. Together, the two will drift their way to New Orleans and into the pages of history.

Stay tuned…

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Phyllis Dale, Cindy Chengery and Captain Gabe Chengery during the Pajama Party.

Phyllis Dale, Cindy Chengery and Captain Gabe Chengery during the Pajama Party.

It has been a pleasure this last cruise to have two real “Red-Hot Mamas” aboard the Delta Queen: Cindy Chengery and Phyllis Dale. Cindy wowed the guests earlier in the cruise with a wonderful mainstage show and Phyllis has regularly been holding court at the piano in the Texas Lounge in the evenings. These ladies are true steamboaters and it has been a delight to have them add a special spirit to this cruise. Late last night, they hosted a “Pajama Party” in the Texas Lounge and it was a riot. It was way too dark to get good video, but here’s a taste:

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One of my favorite duties (who I am kidding – it is so much fun, it cannot be called a duty) is performing card magic and comedy while portraying a Riverboat Gambler. I do a show before each dinner seating back in the Betty Blake Lounge. The guests have loved it. Other than Mark Twain, is there a more “steamboaty” character than the Riverboat Gambler? The character gives me the freedom to really play around and have fun with the guests. This is one of the elements of my life on the DQ that I have looked forward to the most and thus will miss the most.

–END–

I gave my final presentation this morning and my heart was heavy.

Passengers drifted ashore to learn more about the fault beneath us and the incredible earthquake centered here back in 1811-1812 which included more than 2,000 aftershocks over a four month stretch. Several were strong enough to be felt hundreds of miles away.

I wanted every precious moment with this wonderful boat and didn’t even step ashore.

Entertainers Traci Vaughn and Fred Bishop.

Entertainers Traci Vaughn and Fred Bishop.

Captain’s Dinner Show
Traci Vaughn and Fred Bishop are delightful entertainers. I have enjoyed their talents and their friendship for many years. They put on a terrific show to wrap up their steamboat performances. I will always be thankful that I worked for a decade in a place where every night I could attend a wonderful show by some of the best entertainers around. What a collection of talent these boats have employed over the years. It has been my true delight!

–END–

Kite madness!

Kite madness!

Passenger (and passionate steamboat enthusiast) David Dewey acquired some kites and kindly offered them up for anyone interested. As you can tell from the photo of David wrestling with his, some efforts were more successful than others.

Later that evening, steaming down the river, I took an abandoned kite, made a few strategic modifications and successfully got it aloft. We used to have kite-flying as an activity and gave out logo Delta Queen Steamboat Company kites. Standing back there alone, bundled up against the cold, flying my kite, watching the sun set, I also floated away on a windfall of memories…

 

Entertainers Traci Vaughn and Fred Bishop.

The Kite Master.

Like the time about 30 guests had kites flying off the back of the boat when someone turned back toward the front and noticed a bridge approaching. Some scurried to real theirs in as others just shrugged in giggling defeat. The kites hit the bridge, slid underneath and 90 percent of them successfully popped out the other side as if the bridge were a mere inconvenience.

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