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The Celebration Belle 5/18/2021

by Chris Guenzler

Our day started with us staying in due to the heavy rain that was pounding the Davenport area. We went to breakfast at the Machine Shed Restaurant where I had a waffle and sausage patties and Elizabeth had cinnamon French Toast. We returned to the room and wrote the prior two days' worth of stories during the day. We took a break for lunch at Subway and drove to Walmart to get new umbrellas. I finished the second story before it was time to get ready for the Celebration Belle cruise. The reason we chose to do this was that we had taken this cruise during Train Festival 2011 when it was offered as a event where we had one of the greatest sunsets of our lives. We had been looking for the opportunity to do it again and making memories. Thankfully it stopped raining late afternoon and we drove surface streets most of the way from Davenport to Moline.

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.

Our Trip

We arrived early, parked the car in the parking lot, went inside and checked in. We were given two boarding tickets then my lovely wife bought a couple of lapel pins and a Christmas ornament. We sat on the very comfortable couch until they called us to board.

The Celebration Belle brochure.

My extremely beautiful wife looking so lovely tonight ready for her second trip aboard the Celebration Belle.

This plaque caught Elizabeth's eye as she is a member of the Navy League of the United States, an organization started in 1903 whose mission is citizens in support of sea services. The Madison, Wisconsin chapter honored the Celebration Belle crew and family. At 5:50 PM, they called us to board the ship and they took our tickets and gave us a table number.

The Celebration Belle before we boarded.

A gaggle of Canada Geese along the shore as we waited to leave.

The author looking good.

The author's wife looking stunning and beautiful.

Aaron provided musical entertainment for the seventeen passengers during the cruise. At 6:30 PM, the cruise started.

The boat started the cruise by turning to go up the Mississippi River.

The best thing that ever happened to me, sitting across the table.

Views as we travelled up river.

The paddle wheel.

The new Interstate 74 bridge being built. Salads were passed out to everyone followed by the main course of chicken, prime rib, potatoes and vegetables.

Views while we ate. Cheesecake was the dessert and then we were free to enjoy the boat. The two of us went up to the top deck. The boat turned around to head down the Mississippi River.

The trip back to the Interstate 74 bridge. I had the chance to go into the pilot house and talk to the captain who liked my Pittsburgh Penguins mask as he was a hockey fan. He told me that we would go down the river to the Government Bridge before turning around there.

Construction of the new bridge so that eastbound traffic would not be sharing the current new bridge.

Going under the original highway bridge.

Looking down the river.

Looking back at the construction.

One of the barges that moves material up and down the Mississippi River.

Looking down the river.

The tugboat Gregory David attached to the barges.

The Rock Island Arsenal.

Looking toward downtown Davenport.

A different view of the Rock Island Arsenal.

Looking down the Mississippi River.

Rock Island Arsenal side of the river.

Davenport and the Government Bridge which has a road on the top level and Iowa Interstate Railroad and a train crossing the lower bridge.

Rock Island Arsenal side of the river.

We are closing in on the Government Bridge.

More views of the Rock Island Arsenal.

The train slowly crossed the Government Bridge.

The Rock Island Arsenal.

Slowly but surely crossing the bridge.

More views of the Rock Island Arsenal.

Downtown Davenport as the train continued.

Industries along the north side.

More views of the Rock Island Arsenal.

The train continues crossing the Government Bridge.

Two final views of the Arsenal.

The train finished crossing the Government Bridge.

The Isle Casino on the north side of the river as we returned to the boarding site. We purchased T-shirts since we did not do so before. Aaron's choice of tunes were not ones that we really liked. Our server, Lori, was excellent but the main course was not as good as we remembered it to be. We did really enjoy the whole cruise and it was fun experience to share with my wonderful and loving wife. The boat docked and we were the first two people off. We returned to the car and took the Interstate back to our hotel room and called it a night.