Published 2:56 pm Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Did you ever wish that there were a cross-country tour where you could ride from one side of the country to the other and make stops at points of interest along the way?

Last week, Demopolis was one of the stops on just such a trip. The American Canadian Caribbean Line’s ship Niagara Prince put in to port at the Demopolis Yacht Basin on its way from New Orleans to Chicago.

The trip from the Gulf of Mexico up the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway to the Ohio, Mississippi and Illinois rivers was actually the return leg of a round-trip cruise spanning 800 miles each way with stops in Mobile, St. Louis and Peoria, Ill.

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The cruise is one of many offered by the ACCL and is entitled the “American Heartland Rivercruise.” Rates vary for the 14-night cruise from $3,605 to $4,425, and prices can range for one-way trips as well.

“We started in New Orleans,” said Ralph Canaday of Lakewood, Colo. “We went with this particular cruise line on Chesapeake Bay a couple of years ago, which was really beautiful.”

“We’ve been on this boat up this route before,” said Richard Glenn of Ojai, Calif. “The other time, it was flooded, so we didn’t see a lot of places, but it was an enjoyable trip. We love the scenery and visiting the little towns. You can sit back and relax in the towns that don’t have the hustle and bustle of the big city. And, you can enjoy your heritage, seeing the past. In that sense, it’s delightful.”

The cruise attracted a wide range of age groups, many elderly who sought to enjoy a trip across America as well as some recent college graduates and students who wanted to go on a once-in-a-lifetime cruise.

“I took a trip in September, and we went to Canada,” said Katie Bell of Westerly, R.I. “We went to Montreal and Quebec, and then back to Rhode Island. (On this trip,) we went from Rhode Island to Chicago, and then from Chicago to New Orleans, and then here, going back to Chicago.”

“I’ve been doing this for about three years now,” said Ashton Sills of Winston, Conn. “I needed some time off in May, because I just graduated from college, from Johnson and Wales College in Providence, R.I. “I just enjoy seeing new places and meeting new people. Everyone seems to be pretty happy all the time! It’s a lot smoother than the ocean cruises.”

The ship features 42 cabins and has a covered deck for cruisers to sit and admire the scenery as well as an uncovered deck to bask in the sun.

Capt. John Hunnewell of Yarmouth, Maine, pilots the Niagara Prince, and has made 10 or 12 trips up and down the Tombigbee on this cruise.

“Our company started doing this back in the early ’90s,” he said. “I personally started as captain around 1999 or 2000. We used to do two or three trips a year for a number of years, and this vessel was donated by my boss to a consortium of colleges, so it was out of service for about three years. They were unsuccessful in selling it for the price that they wanted, so ultimately, our company purchased it back. We are re-inaugurating this trip, and this is the first trip we’ve done in three years. Next year, we’ll be doing a couple more.

“A lot of it is about the rivers and that people want to see these waterways and how they interconnect. It’s a 15-day trip (one way), and we see 19 connecting waterways and a whole lot of commerce and traffic, which fascinates a lot of people. For a lot of people, it’s a real eye-opener to see how much traffic there is.”

If you want to take an unusual summer trip, an out-of-the-ordinary vacation from one end of the country to the other, perhaps you would want to take a trip from New Orleans to Chicago and back. Demopolis is on the list of the cruise’s many ports of call.

For information about any of the American Canadian Caribbean Line’s cruises, call toll-free 1 800 556-7450 or visit the line’s Web site at