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Spirit of Peoria ready to set sail for the season

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A new season aboard the Spirit of Peoria is underway and the paddlewheel boat will again offer some of the most unique entertainment to be found in central Illinois.

With some new events planned, including themed cruises with flowing juices, owner and Capt. Alex Grieves believes this could be one of the Spirit’s best years on the Illinois River.

Thanks to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, one of the nation’s farthest reaching newspapers, the Spirit is hearing from future customers from across the United States and even from Europe, keeping phones as busy this early in the season as he’s seen it, Grieves said.

“We’re underway and set to go for another summer. We’re excited to get going, especially after the long, cold winter we just went through,” said Grieves, who is in his 21st year at the helm of the boat that is now in its 26th year docked at the foot of Main Street in Peoria.

After a few private cruises in April, including a prom or two, the Spirit of Peoria started its regular sightseeing cruises last weekend. With its first themed cruise of the season tonight (May 9, Rock and Roll) and its Mother’s Day cruise on Sunday, “we’re really getting ramped up quick.”

Grieves said there will be more themed Moonlight Cruises on Friday nights throughout the summer, including a craft beer tasting cruise, a wine tasting cruise and a bourbon tasting event. Others are a Ragtime Dinner Cruise, a couple murder mystery cruises, Jimmy Buffet Night cruises titled “Tropical Rock & Roll for Your Soul,” and PianoStravaganza featuring Johnny Maddox.

For the 19th year, Riverlife Gospel Cruises sponsored by Hands of Love Ministry and hosted by The Kramers are scheduled several times during the summer.

Live music will be performed on many cruises, including known performers such Barry Cloyd, TJ Jones, Brian Fox Ellis, the Brazillionaires and others.

“We’re really going to have some fun events this year and I think we’ll appeal to a lot of people.

Again this year the Spirit will have several multiple-day trips, including two to St. Louis, a couple to Starved Rock State Park, and one to Hannibal, Missouri, which Grieves said was a popular excursion last year.

Numerous single-day trips also are scheduled throughout the summer.

The season will end with the Spirit of Peoria’s participation in the Centennial Festival of Riverboats Oct. 14-19 in Louisville, Ky. Grieves said boats were invited to participate in the event, which is to celebrate the Belle of Louisville’s 100th birthday.

The Festival will include a riverboat race, hot air balloons and fireworks.

“We are very excited about that event and feel honored to be invited. It’s going to be a great event,” Grieves said.

While he said the Spirit of Peoria itself is in great shape, Grieves said he plans to take advantage during the trip home from Louisville to stop at the shipyard in St. Louis for some maintenance work and repairs to keep it ship-shape. It will be the largest amount of work done of the Spirit since it was built 26 years ago in Paducah, Ky.

For more information about the Spirit of Peoria’s schedule, including more details about the cruises, visit


About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).