What’s a typical day on the river like for
you, and what topics do you share in your
What will cruisers experience on these rivers?
Bobby: I give talks in the show lounge on topics specific to where
we are, which include the history of travel on that river. This could
include talks on James Buchanan Eads, an inventor and self-taught
engineer who designed and built the first road and rail bridge to cross
the Mississippi River at St. Louis; the effect the rivers had on the Civil
War; controlling levies and locks; how to read channel markers; and
several talks that introduce the riverboat vessel itself as well as what
guests will see.
You’ll also find me in the Lincoln library where the maps and charts
are located on the American Duchess. We’re also the audio/visual guys,
so I manage the lights and sounds for shows and movies and serve as
Laurence: I cover a considerable range of topics, often two different
topics daily. Perhaps a casual chat and a more formal presentation,
usually heavily illustrated with slides. Topics include maritime
navigation, geology, archaeology, cultural history including Native
American cultures and peoples, past and present, early explorers,
Lewis & Clark, the Fur Trade/Hudson Bay Company, Oregon Trail,
settlement, railroads, steamboats, highways, dams and hydropower,
wildlife, salmon migration, predators and fisheries, the history of the
Hanford Site's WWII and Cold War history and more!
Additionally, I give art gallery tours and talk about the history of the
vessel while escorting guests to the bridge for a pilothouse tour. I am out
with guests at all hours of the day, including at dawn and sometimes as
late as 1-2 a.m., when we go through the locks. Plus, I typically host at
least one entertainment show most evenings and occasionally perform
a little musical or comedic “shtick” in the Paddlewheel Lounge late
Laurence: On the Columbia, there’s attention to geology and natural
history, as the scenery lends itself to that. And, because of the itinerary,
I’m able to give a presentation with a continuous historic thread. I start
with pre-history and end with the Cold War era. In essence, I see what
I offer as a week-long collegiate-level seminar on the cultural history of
the Pacific Northwest. I also try to keep it focused on storytelling and
drama, and to add in a little comedy now and then.
When on our other rivers or the Great Lakes, every cruise itinerary
is different, so the Riverlorian must cover an even wider range of
material, at least as far as geography is concerned. On the Mississippi
River, it’s more focused on maritime navigation, stories and legends
from the river, and various ports of call, which are always changing.
Jerry: All rivers have their own charm, but following are some features
that set them apart:
• The lower Mississippi is rich in history and has long expanses of
remote areas between the ports.
• The upper Mississippi has beautiful bluffs, great towns and many
locks that must be traversed.
• The Ohio River has quaint villages along with big cities, and large
locks and mild currents.
• The Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers have an abundance of
natural beauty with large lakes and mountains.
Jerry: I rise early, check the weather forecast, go to the chart room
to check on our location and visit with the early-bird passengers. If
we are in port, I give pilothouse tours at various scheduled times. My
Riverlorian chat will be scheduled each day in the Grand Saloon. On
departure from a port, I make announcements from the chart room
about the evening cruise and the next port. While cruising, most of my
time is spent in the chart room answering questions and announcing
interesting sites along the way.
As far as lecture topics, they will depend on where we are and to
some degree, what passengers ask most about. It is not uncommon
for me to change my mind about the topic after a discussion in the
chart room. I also have topics that are general in nature that can be
presented anywhere. The first day out I always present “Discover the
River,” which is an orientation of the cruise, terminology and American
Contact Our Agency to Plan Your Personalized Escape · 19