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Train Festival 2011 Dinner Cruise on the Celebration Belle 7/23/2011

by Chris Guenzler

My final Train Festival 2011 event would be taking place on the waters of the Mississippi River aboard the Celebration Belle Dinner Cruise. I wanted to experience a trip on the Mississippi River and this would be my chance. Nathan, Gene, Bob, Elizabeth and I detrained from Iowa Interstate QJ Iowa City Trip and headed straight to the boat.

Celebration Belle History

Celebration River Cruises is a family owned and operated business. The Schadler family is involved in every aspect of the boat's day-to-day operations from cooking the food fresh daily, helping serve their guests, keeping the engines running smooth and even piloting the vessel. Joe Schadler started the excursion boat business in Davenport, Iowa in 1984 with the Queen of Hearts, a three-deck 400 passenger boat. Mr Schadler had the boat made to order at Tucker Marine in Cincinnati, Ohio. As word got around and the passengers began coming from miles around, Joe saw a need for more space. So in 1986, he purchased river front property in Moline, Illinois and moved the operation to Moline. A few years later in 1993 after spending much of his boyhood watching and helping his father on the boat, Joe's son, Scott became a full partner in the business. With Scott's business sense and Joe's knowledge of the industry, the business began to flourish. As the business grew, the need for a larger vessel became apparent.

In 1998, the Schadlers purchased the Celebration Belle, the largest non-gaming excursion riverboat in the Upper Mississippi River. The 750 passenger Celebration Belle was built in 1986 by Patti Shipbuilding of Pensacola, Florida. The larger boat also made way for new and exciting cruises. One such cruise that has become popular is the 100 Mile Day Long Cruise from the Quad Cities to Dubuque, Iowa. This cruise overwhelms its passengers with three homemade meals and live entertainment. And with the popularity of the 100 Mile Day Long Cruise came other special cruises such as the Big Band Cruise and our Captain's Prime Rib Dinner & Dance Cruise. We have also added new ports to include cruises south to Hannibal, Missouri and north to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. We also had an increase interest in privately chartered cruises for wedding receptions, proms and corporate outtings. The Celebration Belle has significantly boosted tourism along the river. Visitors from as far as 1,000 miles away come to the area to cruise the Mississippi River. We have a large number of motorcoach groups that come to the Celebration Belle every year. The Schadler's host many international groups, including the King and Queen of Sweden. In 35 years of business, the Schadlers have been involved in the Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois economy as restaurateurs and boat operators. They have demonstrated that their love of the river equals entrepreneurial success. Their pioneering spirit has been instrumental in making the Mississippi River a major national tourism attraction.

The Celebration Belle. One is given a table number and luckily Nathan was assigned to my table. I sat down but found no water and after Nathan arrived, I found a glass of ice and went to the drinking fountain to fill it.

There was a two piece combo who played guitar with a drum machine and sang but were playing much too loudly for where we were sitting. The gang plank was raised and since our other table guests had not arrived, Bob and Elizabeth joined us at our table.

The boat had left the dock.

Looking up the channel that goes to the south of Rock Island Arsenal as the boat turned to head south down the Mississippi River.

Leaving Train Festival 2011 behind.

The Government Bridge.

Downtown Davenport to the north.

Rock Island to the south.

The Centennial Bridge.

The other railroad bridge in Rock Island is the Crescent Bridge, which carries a rail line across the Mississippi River between Davenport and Rock Island, formerly owned by the Davenport, Rock Island and North Western Railway, a joint subsidiary of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad and Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, which was split in 1995 between then-joint owners Burlington Northern Railroad and Soo Line Railroad, with BN getting the bridge and the Illinois-side line, and Soo Line getting the Iowa-side line..

The swing span was open allowing for this unique view.

The swing span.

The southern part of the bridge.

Another view of the swing span.

The southern part of the bridge.

The northern part of the Crescent Bridge. With those pictures, I returned to my table and it was time for our table to be called for dinner. You joined one of the four buffet lines and made your way to the end, where the carver sliced the prime rib any way you wanted, so I got a nice thick piece.

The food on my plate.

Nathan, Bob and Elizabeth.

Looking back at the Interstate 280 Bridge.

Views of the pilot house 800 passenger Celebration Belle, the larest non-gaming riverboat on the Mississippi River, built in 1986.

Looking south down the Mississippi River.

Boats on the river.

The houses along the river are built on stilts.

After this river marker, the boat would make a 180 degree turn to start back up the Mississippi River to Rock Island.

You could see Buffalo, Iowa further south along the Mississippi River.

More views down the Mississippi River.

These people were drinking in their boat.

Trees along the shore of the Mississippi River.

Here is the same boat.

Making the turn to head north up the Mississippi River.

Three views of Buffalo, Iowa.

The view looking back south down river.

The Interstate 280 bridge ahead of the boat.

Bob and Elizabeth.

Me and Elizabeth.

Bob and I, after which I then cracked some pirate jokes that made everyone on deck laugh.

A look back.

A look ahead. We had a boat and a wave rider come by, who fell off his ride and was so drunk that he could not climb back up on it, to much laughter aboard. I yelled "Drinking and boating don't mix!" That brought a good round of laughter from the passengers aboard the deck of the Celebration Belle.

The view ahead. Now we will just enjoy the sunset.

The start of a most beautiful sunset.

The sunset and the Crescent Railroad bridge.

Looking up river at Davenport.

More views of this fantastic sunset as we returned towards Rock Island.

A final view of Davenport.

Another sunset view. With that, it was time to return to our table until we arrived back at Rock Island. It had been a great trip on the Celebration Belle and we returned to Motel 6 where my air conditioner was now not working so I was moved to another room on the second floor at the back of the hotel with very slow and poor internet, after which I called it a night.