PADUCAH, Ky. – After being out of commission for over a year due to COVID-19, the cruise industry is slowly starting to dip its toes back into the water. While most major, oceangoing ships won't set sail until next month, smaller boats have already returned to America's rivers.

Along with 109 other passengers and 80 crew members, I recently cruised the lower Mississippi and Ohio rivers from Memphis to Louisville on American Queen Steamboat Company’s American Duchess to get a sense of what cruising is like now – and what it might morph into – as the country attempts to sail out of the pandemic.

American Queen, one of the largest cruise lines operating on American waterways, quietly began offering cruises – at reduced capacity and with enhanced COVID-19 safety protocols – on two of its boats sailing the Mississippi, Ohio and Cumberland rivers in mid-March.

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