BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – It docked a bit early, and the anticipation of seeing passengers walk out the nose of the ship was dashed with low water levels, but one of American Cruise Lines’ newest ships landed at Fort Madison Sunday morning to about 150 greeters.
Mayor Brad Randolph was on hand again to greet passengers coming off the boat as were several city councilman including Matt Mohrfeld, Bob Morawitz, and City Manager David Varley.
Randolph and Cruise officials celebrated a second ribbon cutting to honor the American Harmony’s maiden voyage up and down the Mississippi River.
“I think you’ll find that you’ll have a really enjoyable time in our fair community. We have a lot to offer and please take advantage of that,” Randolph told the visitors. “Please ask questions. We’re here to answer any questions you may have in terms of information and we just really appreciate American Cruise Lines choosing Fort Madison as a stop.”
He said American Cruise Lines celebrating this new ship on its maiden voyage is a milestone in itself, which adds to the milestone that’s being created in Fort Madison.
Randolph then presented the captain of the new boat with a green Fort Madison flag to keep on its voyages.
Varley said Hall Towing brought in a barge on Friday and hooked it up initially at no cost to the city.
He said the cruise line had concerns in the middle of the week about river levels and being able to hook up to the pier, so a barge was hooked up to the large cement barriers in the river and the American Harmony pulled up alongside.
Crew hands were out with squeegees pushing the late Saturday, early Sunday morning rain off the barge to allow safer walking for passengers disembarking for one of two tours through the area.
Marietta Stokes of Sammamish, Wash., spoke with Morawitz on the pier and said this was her first trip on this itinerary, but had taken several other cruises before.
Fort Madison Chamber Coordinator Savanna Collier and Fort Madison City Tourism Director Jean Peiton were on hand giving out information bags to the folks heading out on the Trailway buses for historic Fort Madison tours and tours of area agribusinesses.
Collier and Peiton also help with the guided tours through Fort Madison and north Lee County farms.
The city will see its first back-to-back docking days on Sept. 18 and 19th, which are the next scheduled arrivals.