The Queen of the Mississippi returned to the Port of Paducah this week -- one of many riverboat visits scheduled this year, bringing in out-of-state tourists.
Fowler Black, sales director for Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the 2019 boat schedule features visits from two companies, American Cruise Lines and American Queen Steamboat Company, during late June to mid-December. He estimates 3,500 to 4,000 passengers will visit Paducah this year on the Queen of the Mississippi, American Duchess, American Queen and America.
"It's those four vessels that we're expecting this year," Black said. "We've got 18 visits on the schedule as of now, (but) that will change based on how the river behaves and other circumstances."
The 150-guest riverboat arrived Monday and departed early Tuesday evening. It was originally set to arrive over the weekend, but plans changed due to high water. A scheduled docking visit for today was cancelled.
"Nothing is for certain when it comes to the river," Black added.
Black said riverboat passengers are unique visitors in the sense they don't stay in hotels, which are often the basis for calculating tourism numbers. He provided a "conservative" figure that each riverboat passenger spends $75 a day, for an estimated economic impact of almost $1.4 million in direct spending in Paducah over the past five years.
Two passengers, Barry and Lisa Bjork of Greenbank, Washington, said they visited the National Quilt Museum in downtown Paducah on Monday. The couple is celebrating their wedding anniversary on the river cruise.
"All the women basically want to go there, but the men, not as much," Barry Bjork said of the quilt museum.
"It's something else. It's known all over the place. Lisa said, 'Oh, they've got that quilt place there.' All of our friends knew where this was."
The Bjorks spent time Tuesday walking around, looking into the art shops. Lisa Bjork said it's relaxing to travel on the river. They both praised the preservation of homes in Paducah, while Barry Bjork noted local history, in particular.
"I just think it would be a wonderful place to live because it's small, the people seem totally friendly, getting along with each other, and then you've got all the arts," Lisa Bjork said. "So, I think it would be a great place to live."
She said they have traveled a lot, particularly road trips, but wanted to travel on the river especially and get a view of the heartland.
Queen of the Mississippi also attracted some local interest at the riverfront. Several people stopped to take photos on their cellphones.
Longtime Paducah resident Ed Bach was showing Paducah's downtown and riverfront to his cousin, Patty Kuhns of Rockledge, Florida, and her husband, Richard Kuhns, who are in town visiting on the way to Seattle. The group walked near the riverboat for a glimpse.
Richard Kuhns said the riverboat reminded him of the old western TV series, "Maverick."
"I think (it's) beautiful," Patty Kuhns said.
Visit paducah.travel/event for more information on riverboat dockings and other events.