Massive cruise ship stops in Dubuque for 1st time

Those walking along the Mississippi Riverwalk on Tuesday were treated to a unique sight — a massive cruise ship from an international company docked along the riverfront.

Viking Cruises made its first Dubuque stop Tuesday morning and docked at the American Trust River’s Edge Plaza. The stop was part of Viking’s maiden voyage on the Mississippi River, which left St. Paul, Minn., on Saturday and will end in St. Louis on Saturday, Sept. 10.

The vessel docked in Dubuque at about 6 a.m. Tuesday. Passengers said the ship was slated to leave Dubuque about 12 hours later.

“We were interested in the maiden year on the first ship,” said Bob Wilson, a passenger from San Diego, who was traveling with his wife, Gina. “We previously traveled the lower Mississippi but not the upper Mississippi. All the towns we’ve visited so far have been interesting — very Americana, very different from the West Coast.”

The Mississippi River vessel is 450 feet long and consists of five decks, according to the Viking Cruises website. It can accommodate 386 guests in 193 rooms, with a crew of 148.

Following the ship’s arrival, Dubuque officials held a ribbon cutting for the Viking vessel. Dubuque Mayor Brad Cavanagh waved to the passengers still aboard and received a loud response from the ship’s horn. He also gave the ship’s crew a book focused on the history of Dubuque in the 19th century.

“I hope you can add this to the ship library, and you can take Dubuque with you wherever you go,” he said.

Cory Burke, the Viking boat’s captain, gave Cavanagh a model replica of the ship. He noted that guests planned to spend the day visiting sites including the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium; Field of Dreams movie site in Dyersville, Iowa; and Dubuque Museum of Art.

“We are very glad to be here,” Burke said. “This marks the first visit of Viking to Dubuque. We’re looking forward to the day ahead and more visits to Dubuque in the future.”

City of Dubuque officials had planned to complete an expanded dock to accommodate the Viking ship, but the dock has not been constructed because of delays in obtaining the necessary permits. City officials previously told the Telegraph Herald that, hopefully, the dock project will begin next year.

Instead, the city dredged along the riverfront to accommodate the Viking ship. In addition to the Viking cruise, an American Melody vessel also was docked in Dubuque on Tuesday.

Viking’s stop in Dubuque came after months of delays. Viking Cruises initially announced the river cruises would begin in June.

The Wilsons said they bought their tickets for the Mississippi River cruise two years ago, initially not knowing they would be on the first voyage on the historic river. They said the trip was delayed a few times, but they boarded in St. Paul on Saturday.

“It’s wonderful,” Gina Wilson said of the ship. “It’s beautiful. The service is outstanding. If you starve on that ship, shame on you. There’s food all the time.”

The Wilsons said they attended a lecture on Dubuque aboard the ship prior to their stop. They planned to spend Tuesday embarking on a guided tour of the city and visiting the river museum.

Also aboard the ship was Martina Butler, of Kennesaw, Ga.

“I’ve never been here,” she said. “I’ve never seen this part of the world before. It’s beautiful.”

Butler had tickets to spend Tuesday at Stonefield Historic Site in rural Cassville, Wis. She was going with Jo and Dan Tront, friends from the same Georgia city.

“It’s different since it’s in the U.S.,” Jo Tront said of the cruise. “We’ve done international (Viking cruises). But it still feels at home. All of the cruises have similar décor.”

The Tronts noted that large crowds had gathered at all of their cruise stops so far. More than 150 people were gathered in the Port of Dubuque on Tuesday morning, taking photos of the ship.

“We’re sitting on the boat taking pictures of all the people, and people are taking pictures of us,” Dan Tront said with a laugh.

Viking is expected to make four other sold-out cruise stops in Dubuque this fall.

According to the Viking website, a cruise set to embark up the river from Hannibal, Mo., on Sunday, Sept. 11, will stop in Dubuque on Sept. 14 before ending in St. Paul. Fare prices on that voyage ranged from $5,299 to $11,999.

Other cruises — which stretch from St. Paul to New Orleans — currently are slated to stop in Dubuque Sept. 20, Oct. 12 and Oct. 18. Fare prices on those cruises ranged from $12,999 to $28,999.