As you climb the steps to the top deck of the Celebration Belle, you can almost envision Mark Twain sitting at a corner table enjoying an ice-cold glass of sweet tea, dapper in his all-white suit and hat. His bushy mustache overflowing his upper lip. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn may be chasing Becky around the spacious area. As the paddle boat pushes away from the dock in Moline, Illinois, Twain and his characters may not be with you physically, but their spirits are along for a 90-minute cruise on the Mississippi River.
I love cruising the Mississippi River. Old-fashioned paddle wheel boats make for a fun time. I can stand at the back of the boat and watch the wheel go around and round, with the water rolling over it.
The Celebration Belle can hold up to 750 people for any type of cruise – sightseeing, dinner and music-themed cruises. The boat runs cruises daily from April 1 through Oct. 31st, with a veterans tribute cruise on Nov. 11 (Veterans Day). A popular cruise is a 100-mile day cruise, which takes passengers from the Quad Cities north to Dubuque, Iowa. Other cruise stops include Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, Missouri, and Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin.
Our cruise had about 100 people, but with the size of the boat, we felt like we had our own section. The weather was perfect -warm temperatures, blue skies with a few white clouds – which provided great views.
The Quad Cities consist of communities in Iowa and Illinois. The Celebration Belle cruise gave great views of the bridges in the area. Both rail and auto bridges cross the Mississippi River. The first railroad bridge was built in 1856, connecting Davenport with the Rock Island Arsenal on the Illinois side. Shortly after its completion, a steamboat crashed into a column, destroying the boat and damaging the bridge. Abraham Lincoln, then a lawyer in Springfield, represented the railroad in a lawsuit.
The Government Bridge was built to replace the railroad bridge. Today, the bridge continues to carry traffic across the river. The bridge has a double-decker design, with trains crossing on the top section, while vehicles travel the lower level.
The Rock Island Arsenal military compound opened as Fort Armstrong in 1816. It currently serves as the nation’s largest military weapons installation. The Arsenal was named to the National Register of Historic Landmarks in 1969.
The Davenport House, named for Col. George Davenport, is open for public tours during summer months. The house was used as the commander’s home.
On the upper portion of the river, we passed the Isle Casino in Bettendorf, Iowa. The casino offers a variety of entertainment for the area, as well as some delicious food at its restaurants.
Lisa and I love seeing water fowl on cruises. The Mississippi River cruise gave us views of white pelicans and cormorants. The birds had their river cruise going, perching on logs floating downstream.
We weren’t the only ones enjoying the nice day on the river. We encountered a few boats traveling upstream. Boaters are friendly with everyone waving to us.
The family-owned business has been providing cruises in the Quad Cities area since 1984. The Celebration Belle was purchased in 1998. The boat was built in 1986.
We enjoyed our tour on the Celebration Belle. We recommend taking a cruise when in the Quad Cities.
Disclaimer: Thank you to the Quad Cities visitors bureau for the complimentary cruise. However, all opinions and views are ours.