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Ahoy, cruise guests!

American Duchess docks in Ottawa

American Duchess cruise guests depart the ship Sunday for shore excursions while the boat was docked on the Illinois River at Allen Park in Ottawa.
American Duchess cruise guests depart the ship Sunday for shore excursions while the boat was docked on the Illinois River at Allen Park in Ottawa.

A cruise ship seemingly straight out of the country's yesteryear pulled up to Ottawa on Sunday.

The American Duchess cruise vessel docked at the west end of Allen Park in Ottawa next to the railroad bridge as part of a nine-day cruise from St. Louis. Other stops include Hannibal, Mo., Alton, Mo. and Peoria.

More than 160 guests are expected to disembark from the cruise ship and visit Ottawa and the surrounding area while visiting the local shops and restaurants.

City officials were invited for a small presentation and tour on Sunday where Captain Randy Kirschbaum thanked the city for its hospitality.

"You've got something to be proud of here," Kirschbaum said.

"This worked out so well and hopefully we can do this again in the future," he added.

The trip wasn't necessarily an easy one for the American Queen Steamboat Company as all eyes were on the water line. Too high and the cruise ship wouldn't have been able to pass underneath bridges along the way and too low and the cruise ship would have run aground.

Yet, the trip was a success and guests began the disembarkment via tour buses and were given maps of Ottawa with local destinations such as Reddick Mansion and The Lone Buffalo restaurant on the list.

American Queen Steamboat Company CEO John Waggoner also met with the group and expressed excitement at including Ottawa on the cruise list.

"We're glad to bring economic development here anytime you can take 166 people," Waggoner said.

Waggoner said the cruise often helps communities along the tour as the guests tend to disembark and explore local shopping districts and restaurants such as in Ottawa's downtown.

Ottawa's Economic Development Director Reed Wilson noted the merchants in Ottawa's downtown stepped up to offer additional hours to meet the needs of the city's 166 guests.

Kirschbaum gifted Commissioner Wayne Eichelkraut a commemorative plate and Eichelkraut returned the favor by gifting the company a key to the city.

"This has been a vision and I'm very glad the vision is happening because this is great. With what I've seen so far, I'm very impressed," Eichelkraut said.

The guests will then go to Chicago before returning to the cruise and leaving Ottawa on Tuesday morning.

What's on the boat?

The paddlewheeler boat was created from a 1995 hull and completely reconstructed to become a cruise vessel, according to the company's website.

And while the exterior represents boats of yesterday, the interior is updated with modern luxury.

The boat features multiple fine dining venues in the Grand Dining Room and River Club and Terrace which overlooks the boat's massive paddle. Guests can socialize at four bars and The Lincoln Library where they gather to play games as a group.

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