Barge Name: River Explorer
By Guest Contributor: Doug
Barges and Vacations - Right On!
I am always searching out new adventures with my wife Carol, and then to share what information we gain with others. After our discovery of river cruising in Europe, we naturally looked to see what was available in America. What we found was a river excursion, as Eddie Conrad likes to call his river discovery product that operates on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers primarily. "I never use the word cruise when referring to my river barge vacations."Says the charismatic Louisiana native, founder, and CEO. "This is why the company is called RiverBarge Excursions"he likes to tell guests.
Eddie is available on most excursions when possible to meet and greet clientele. Conrad's life shifted from a family farming youth, to owner/operator of tug boats on the Mississippi and elsewhere. At one point Conrad operated over 40 of the stout tough river workhorses. And then it dawned on him to combine the tug with the travel industry. The result is unique and surprisingly enjoyable. The concept of barging through Europe is an old one, but what Eddie has formed is entirely different. He has combined what American rivers have had all along - barges and tugs, and he added a hotel and vacation concept.
Are you confused? The barge and bolts of it: Knowing that this may be a hard concept for those unfamiliar with RiverBarge Excursions to visualize - let me try and help with that. Eddie has had two long normal river barges re-fabricated. Out front is the DeSoto Barge, which houses dining, open lobby, some indoor river viewing areas, a library, and offices. Next in line is the LaSalle Barge, which is smoothly seamed to the former barge and it houses guest's quarters. All rooms are large compared to other product cabins at 200 square feet. The cabins have bath plus shower, and nice open viewing of the river. Additionally, a music system and television with VCR is standard. Eddie does need some new movies, but some are available in the library for your informal borrowing as are a wide selection of books and games. To the rear of the LaSalle Barge is the M/V Miss Nari tug boat - can you picture this yet? It may sound quirky unique, and I am sure that would not rattle Eddie Conrad, because he is quite proud of this unique invention he brought to the travel industry in 1998. It only sounds different until you step onboard and then it seems logical, and you wonder why it was not done before. With all three of the above together Eddie calls the invention the River Explorer. It measures an astounding 730 feet. I could barely get most of it in a photo using a wide angle lens from high on the bluff above the Vicksburg, Mississippi port.
Well Mr. Conrad, to help readers clarify the concept I will use the 'C' word. You will be going on a river cruise, but on two barges that are styled into a hotel format. Is this clearer? What further makes the River Explorer unique is that the tug is operative and functional, but no one is aboard. Eddie's genius has the steering and control mechanism atop the LaSalle Barge, and everything is remote or electronically coordinated. All the latest navigation equipment is onboard, and most times you are welcome to come up and have a tour and look around -and some river-chat with the duty officer.
We flew into New Orleans and had decided on a River Explorer excursion from the Big Easy north to Memphis. Along the way we had an opportunity to explore not only the river Mark Twain loved - the Mississippi - but ports like Baton Rouge, Natchez and Vicksburg before coming to our final port of Memphis.
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