After a four year hiatus, cruise ships will begin trips up and down the Mighty Mississippi. One of those boats is the Queen of the Mississippi. It left Saturday from St. Louis on its maiden voyage.
"About a year and a half ago my husband started planning this and it was to be for my birthday. So, we sailed yesterday out of St. Louis and we're celebrating today," says passenger Judi Mahaffey.
"We haven't done much cruising in the United States and this is the perfect opportunity here," says passenger Mike Mahaffey.
Passengers like Judi and Mike Mahaffey say they're excited for this unique opportunity to visit river towns on the Mississippi like Hannibal.
"We would kind of just like to explore each stop, walk around and visit the shops. Maybe get to know some of the local people, talk to them, like we've started here. And just get to see things on our own," says Judi.
And the cruise director agrees.
"It's very interesting. You meet a lot of unique guests from all over the United States to learn about the history and that's why we're here," says Stephanie Cora.
She is one of about 35 staffers on board. The Queen of the Mississippi holds 150 passengers. On its maiden voyage there are about 140. The board rooms are just like what you would see on any normal cruise ship. There are lounges for guests to enjoy, as well as a view of the paddlewheel on back. But while there's a lot to do on board, like play mini golf, and watch the river go by.
"It's beautiful, it's been really nice," says Mike.
The real attraction are the stops. The passengers have six more stops on the river on their way to St. Paul, Minnesota. The next stop is Burlington, Iowa. The passengers on the cruise ship aren't the only ones excited about docking in Hannibal.
Businesses in downtown Hannibal opened extra early for the tourists.
Most stores opened their doors at 8 a.m., which is unusual for a Sunday.
The passengers signed up for tours of the downtown area -- bringing their dollars to the Hannibal community.
"It's just a good thing for all businesses because it brings people in. And on Sunday mornings, it's a little bit slower anyway. It's good for people to see what Hannibal has to offer which is a lot of great shops with really unique things that offer a lot of unique purchases," says Fresh Ayers employee Kimi Reed.
Gail Bryant with the Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau says, "It will certainly be a boost for sales tax revenue, so that's why we're excited."
Hannibal has a few opportunities to cash in on these cruises.
There still are four cruises that will stop in the town this year.