Louisville, KY

Louisville, Kentucky is gearing up for the great steamboat race

Anita Durairaj


Photo by Morgan Petroski on Unsplash

The great steamboat race between the Belle of Cincinnati, the Belle of Louisville, and the American Duchess is scheduled for Wednesday, April 28, 2021. This is supposed to be one of the oldest river traditions organized by the Kentucky Derby Festival and the BB Riverboats company and it will take place in Louisville, Kentucky. Fittingly, the steamboat race is called the Kentucky Derby Steamboat Race.

According to BB Riverboats, general admission and VIP tickets for the race are available for purchase on their website. Here is the cruise schedule for April 28, 2021, as noted on their website,

  • Sailing: 5:45 - 8:00 pm
  • Boarding: 4:45 pm
  • Race Begins: 6:00 pm

On the Louisville side, you can purchase tickets on the Kentucky Derby Festival website.

Here is some additional information on the Kentucky Derby Steamboat Race.

A Time-Honored Tradition

This Louisville tradition first began in 1963 and it has been taking place ever since on the Ohio River as a part of the Kentucky Derby Festival events. The race involves 14 miles roundtrip down the Ohio River.

Originally, the competition was between the Belle of Louisville and Delta Queen but after Delta Queen retired from service, the Belle of Cincinnati came into play. Typically 2 vessels will be pitted against each other. However, this year there will be a third vessel, the American Duchess. The American Duchess actually won the race in 2018.

In the last 10 years, both the Belle of Cincinnati and the Belle of Louisville have won approximately an equal number of times. The Belle of Louisville won the last race in 2019.

Regardless of who wins, it is meant to be fun and not a serious competition.

Tickets and COVID-19 Rules

You can buy tickets aboard the Belle of Cincinnati, the Belle of Louisville, and on a Chaser Boat called the Mary M. Miller. Due to COVID-19 and limited capacity seating, tickets aboard the Belle of Louisville are very limited.

On the other hand, you can still purchase tickets for the Belle of Cincinnati. For the Belle of Cincinnati, standard tickets can cost $75 for an adult and $55 for children from the ages of 4 to 12. There is a special ticket called the 4 Roses VIP Ticket which includes a meal, reserved seating, and a special bourbon tasting for the 4 Roses Bourbon. The VIP ticket is $120 for adults and $90 for children.

The Chaser boat tickets on the Mary M. Miller are cheaper. You can sign up for a simple sightseeing cruise which costs $29.99 for adults and $14.99 for children or you can get a meal on the cruise for $59.99 for adults and $28.99 for children. The meal will be a southern-style barbecue buffet. The Mary M. Miller will not be a part of the race but you will still be very close to the action as it chases after the 3 steamboats.

As of now, there has been no mention of tickets that can be purchased aboard the American Duchess. Usually, the American Duchess provides complete cruise packages for its passengers entailing several days of Kentucky Derby events in a package so it is possible individual tickets cannot be purchased just for the steamboat race on its own.

COVID protocols will be followed on all the boats included limited capacity, temperature checks, contactless ticket scanning, and attention to cleaning.

At the end of the race, there will be an Awards Ceremony which is only limited to the media and judges. The winning steamboat will get to hang the coveted pair of Golden Antlers.

Enjoy the race!!

Sources: Cruise Critic, discover.kdf.org, BB Riverboats

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