During most of the year the Mississippi Queen and the Delta Queen cruise the rivers of the nation’s heartland, offering trips of various lengths. For more information contact the Delta Queen Steamboat Company, 30 Robin Street Wharf, New Orleans, LA 70130 (800-458-6789). Other companies operating trips on the Mississippi River are American Cruise Lines, 1 Marine Park, Haddam, CT 06438 (800-243-6755) and Padelford Packet Co., Harriet Island, St. Paul, MN 55107 (612227-1100). Of the many types of rooms available on the Mississippi Queen , those on the promenade deck are by far the most luxurious. And they sell out fast. Some additional accommodations on this boat come with verandas that offer a private viewing of the river. Meals ranged from good to excellent, and the diningroom staff was always first-rate. Because the theme of my particular cruise was “A Mark Twain Celebration,” we were treated to a pungent monologue by Roger Durrett, a gifted Twain impersonator. Books on the Mississippi River could easily fill a branch library. I read Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi , Timothy Severin’s Explorers of the Mississippi , and Jonathan Raban’s Old Glory: An American Voyage . Raban—who is English—has a keen photographic eye for details of present-day life along the river. But then he devalues his accomplishment with ill-natured and predictable shots at American culture.