“Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river...”
If those words from that old Credence Clearwater Revival song, “Proud Mary,” always make you think of New Orleans, then a cruise on the Paddlewheeler Creole Queen is something you should not miss. And even if you aren’t a Credence Clearwater fan, a dinner cruise on the Creole Queen is the quintessential NOLA experience.
There is just something magical about floating down the Mississippi River on a paddlewheel-bedecked riverboat reminiscent of an 1850s era steamboat, dining on delicious Creole cuisine while being entertained by a live jazz band. All you need are ladies in hoop skirts carrying parasols to complete the picture.
You can enjoy your dinner in one of the three elegant dining rooms or lounge under the stars with a drink on the top deck. A brilliant sunset is the cherry on the sundae.
The Creole Queen took her maiden voyage in 1983 and is an authentic paddlewheeler powered by a 24-foot paddlewheel and a fuel-efficient diesel/electric system. She will hold around 800 passengers on her three decks, and the boat's three dining rooms can seat a total of up to 360.
The two-hour jazz dinner cruise is offered nightly, or you can opt for a daytime historical cruise (offered twice daily) that includes a lecture by an acclaimed historian and a stop at the Chalmette Battlefield, the site of the famous Battle of New Orleans in 1812. Other specialty cruises occur at different times of the year, and you can even arrange to have your own private party aboard the paddlewheeler. It is not uncommon to find a wedding or wedding reception in the Kings Room in the stern of the vessel overlooking the red paddlewheel, or in the elegantly decorated Queens Room on deck above.
Dinner is a lavish affair offering an array of typical New Orleans dishes, from jambalaya to red beans and rice to seafood pasta to gumbo. Cajun baked chicken or beef brisket are offered at the carving station, as well as corn muffins, corn maque choux, and green beans. Bread pudding for dessert completes the meal. Wine, beer, and assorted cocktails—including Hurricanes and Brandy Milk Punch—are also available.
Passengers are treated like royalty. Our server, Sian, has even learned to speak French so she can better serve the French-speaking customers. Food and Beverage Manager Eric Perelli sees to it that everyone is happy, well-fed, and enjoys their cruising experience.
Bands vary depending on the night. Saturday nights find bigger-name local bands, such as the Cool Bone Brass Band, aboard. And Sullivan’s Band plays in rotation with others. During our cruise, we enjoyed the cool jazz sounds of Dr. Michael Torregano and Sullivan Dabney's Muzik Jazz Band.
Captain Don Rojas steered the riverboat the night we were aboard.
If you’re in town and want to discover the true essence of the city of New Orleans, skip Bourbon Street and drift down the river with the sounds of jazz music in the air. I’m sure Huck and Tom would agree.
Big wheel keep on turnin’,
Creole Queen keep on burnin’.
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river.
The Paddlewheeler Creole Queen docks at the Poydras Street Dock, right next to the Riverwalk outlets and behind the Hilton Riverside Hotel. Call (504) 529-4567 for more information or to buy tickets, or go to creolequeen.com.
Photos by Kathy Bradshaw.