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Crown Cruise Vacations | June 3, 2015

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2013 February

Shore Excursion: Maryhill Museum of Art in Goldendale, Washington

May 18, 2015 | Heidi

Sam Hill wouldn’t have had to ask me twice to live here. Perched high on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River, the French-style mansion was designed to have eight suites and enough room for 250 dinner guests.

The opulent home was built by Hill for his wife. But she never lived here. Her loss. Our gain.

Today, the impressive structure is now the Maryhill Museum of Art. The “Mary” part of the name was in honor of Hill’s daughter, Mary.

“This was in the middle of nowhere when Sam Hill built this house for his wife,” says Ryan Downs, heritage leader for Un-Cruise Adventures. “She never lived here.”

In fact, this area was so undeveloped and off the beaten path that the name of “Sam Hill” supposedly became a catchphrase for someplace way out in the uncivilized boonies, Downs says. “Allegedly, Sam Hill’s wife coined that phrase because he dragged her out here to what she thought was nowhere.”

Who would think to find the world’s largest collection of sculptor Auguste Rodin’s work so far out in the country? And that is only the start of what this museum holds.


Born May 13, 1857, in North Carolina, Sam Hill was a Quaker and a dedicated pacifist. He fell in love with the Pacific Northwest when he took a train ride through the Columbia River Gorge and saw nature’s treasures. Deciding he wanted to live here and create a Quaker farming community, Hill began building his dream home in 1914 and thought his wife and two children might be as delighted as he was to live in Goldendale, Washington.

When it became obvious that his wife wasn’t, Hill abandoned his mansion project in 1917. Rather than let the beautiful facility go to waste, Hill’s friend Loie Fuller encouraged Hill to turn it into an art museum. A pioneer of modern dance living in Paris, Fuller also was friends with well-known artists in France, which helped build the core of the museum’s collection.

In addition, Hill transferred his own art collections to the museum. That accounts for many of the artworks and culture on display of the indigenous peoples of North American. Intricate baskets, beadwork, and ancient petroglyphs are among the array of artifacts from Pacific Northwest and North American tribes.

Although it wasn’t totally completed, the museum was dedicated in 1926 by Hill’s friend, Queen Marie of Romania. The granddaughter of Britain’s Queen Victoria, Queen Marie was in exile at the time.

Hill didn’t live to see his museum be finished. He died Feb. 26, 1931. The museum was still filled with unpacked crates of art. And so it sat. Until 1937 when Hill’s friend, sugar heiress Alma de Brettevills Spreckels, decided to finish it in Hill’s honor. The museum was opened to the public on Hill’s birthday – May 13, 1940.

A $9.6 million expansion was added in May 2012 for a combined interior space of 35,000 square feet.  Located 100 miles east of Portland, the castle-like chateau was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.


One of the things I like most about the museum is its setting and the ability to see fantastic works of art up-close almost as in a private home. Of course, that is what the museum was meant to be.

Some of the collections I particularly enjoyed are:

~ 87 works by Auguste Rodin, considered the father of modern sculpture. The world-class collection of Rodin works includes bronzes, terracotta, plaster studies and watercolor sketches. It is amazing to see such well-known works as The Thinker, The Hand of God, The Age of Bronze and the life-size plaster of Eve from his masterwork, The Gates of Hell.

~ Queen Marie of Romania’s throne, crown jewels, gilt furniture, silverware, wedding dress and icon collection.

~ An unusual collection of about 100 chess sets. With great diversity, the sets represent the many counties, cultures and periods in which chess has been played.

~ One-third life-size mannequins wearing fashions of post-World War II France. The 1946 exhibit shows mannequins wearing fashions created by the country’s finest designers. To make it even better, nine different sets create elaborate backdrops for the mannequins as they showcase both casual and formal wear of the day.

~ A metal chest used by Hill to carry a beam fragment from the original pilgrim ship, Mayflower, from England to the United States. The relic was then placed in a vault within the Peace Arch at Blaine, Washington, in 1921. Two small planks removed from the fragment now rest inside this trunk.

~ The outdoor sculpture garden which was started in 1997. Scattered around museum ground are some interesting sculptures and neat places to rest and contemplate.

I spent the last half hour of my visit sitting on a bench in the garden watching the great Columbia River. I can certainly see why Sam Hill fell in love with the area. Strange that his wife didn’t. But then I never had to walk in her shoes. I am quite happy in my own.

Story and photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch

Shore Excursion: Paducah, Kentucky, floodwall highlights local history

May 12, 2015 | Heidi

Walking ashore at Paducah, Kentucky, I saw a bittersweet image.

There on the floodwall is a beautiful painting of the three sister riverboats – the Delta Queen, the Mississippi Queen and the American Queen.

The mural depicts an actual event.  On a historic July day in 1996, all three of the mighty steamboats docked at Paducah at the same time. The painting commemorates that gathering as local townsfolks welcome the queens and passengers.

As a many-times cruiser on all three boats, the painting brings back memories. Bitter  memories because two of the queens are no longer cruising. The Mississippi Queen was torn apart in 2011 and sold for salvage. The Delta Queen is permanently docked in Chattanooga as a floating hotel. And the American Queen was pulled from the rivers in 2008.

Sweet memories because the American Queen was bought by a new company and began cruising again in April 2012. The beloved passenger boat now makes regular stops again  in Paducah – a glorious sight for riverfolks and local people.

“We are delighted to see the American Queen back in Paducah,” says resident Betty McManus. “We have really missed all three of the boats.”

In fact, some shops in the little towns along the rivers went out of business after the boats stopped cruising four years ago. For the first time since 1811, there were no overnight steamships on America’s rivers.

“It does help our economy when the boats bring passengers here,” McManus notes.

Founded in 1815, Paducah was named for Chickasaw Indian Chief Paduke, known for his kindness and generosity to those traveling down the river by keelboat and flatboat. The famous floodwall is a work of art but the wall is actually the result of a disaster.

In 1937, the Ohio River at Paducah quickly rose above its 50-foot flood stage, cresting at 60.8 feet on Feb. 2. With 18 inches of rainfall in 16 days, along with sheets of swiftly moving ice, the ’37 flood was the worst natural disaster in Paducah’s history.

For nearly three weeks, the town’s 27,000 residents were forced to flee to stay with friends and relatives in higher ground. Buildings in downtown Paducah still bear plaques that show the high water marks.

Because Paducah’s earthen levee was ineffective against the ’37 flood, the United States Army Corps of Engineers was commissioned to build the floodwall that now protects the city from the ravages of flooding.

“Then we decided to paint the wall to make it look better,” McManus says. “Now we have  almost 50 murals that show the history of Paducah.”

Started in 1996 by mural artist Robert Dafford and his team, the scenes on three city blocks of the floodwall were created over the next 10 years. One final panel was added in 2010 to honor the 100-year anniversary of the local Boy Scout troop.

“The paintings are touched up each year,” McManus says, explaining why scaffolding blocks the three Queens mural that I was trying to photograph.

Each mural panel has its own spotlight and an interpretive plaque with a short history lesson on the scene depicted in the panel.

Along with the three Queens panel, one of my favorites is a 1938 scene when the Ohio River froze solidly completely across. The huge freeze brought barge traffic to a halt. It also provided a winter playground for Paducah residents and schoolchildren freed from school by the freezing weather. Look closely and see a black dog scampering over the ice. Reminds me of my own Pepper at home.

Story and photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch


Shore Excursion: Mesmerizing Mykonos a major mecca for travelers

May 4, 2015 | Heidi

I could never understand what Jackie Kennedy saw in Aristotle Onassis. But I can certainly see why the former First Lady fell in love with the Greek island of Mykonos.

Mesmerizing Mykonos is definitely one of the most popular and most-visited Greek isles.

“The first cruise ship docked here in the 1920s,” tour guide Amaryllis said.

But jet setters really put the spotlight on Mykonos in the 1960s. Some say Jackie Kennedy and other luminaries like Grace Kelly, Liz Taylor and Marlon Brando helped introduce Mykonos to world travelers.

Today, Mykonos has a year-round population of about 10,000 and draws almost 1.8 visitors a year, Amaryllis said. July and August are the busiest months and, although the island has a reputation for partying, you can still find a quiet place to watch one of every day’s highlights – the sunset.

People begin lining up hours beforehand at their favorite viewing places, usually with drinks in hands to watch the sun slip from sight. According to mythology, Mykonos was formed from the petrified bodies of giants killed by Hercules. The island took its name from the grandson of Apollo – Mykonos.

The island even has a mascot, Petros the Pelican. The story goes that a pelican was found wounded by a local fisherman after a terrible storm in the 1950s. When the pelican was nursed back to health, the bird decided to stick around. He was given the name of Petros or Peter and soon was a beloved sight around the island.

On Dec. 2, 1985, however, Petros was hit by a car. The island went into mourning until, it is said, Jackie Onassis donated a replacement pelican. Anyway, the newest Petros can usually be found surrounded by a group of tourists with cameras clicking away.

Mykonos is a very walkable island and that is probably the best way to see it.  Visitors stroll through Mykonos Town where the streets are lined with little shops, boutiques, art galleries, cafes, stylish bars and restaurants. There’s also Little Venice, an 18th century district with grand sea captains’ mansions whose balconies perch over the sea. Most visitors make sure to walk up to the lovely windmills set on a luminous blue backdrop on the hillside above.

“We have had windmills on Mykonos since the 1500s,” Amaryllis said. “We have over 330 days of wind on Mykonos each year. The winds come from the north and are a lifesaver. They keep us comfortable.”

Jackie Kennedy’s favorite boutique hotel called Theoxenia is still a popular place to stay. It was June 10, 1961, to be precise, when America’s First Lady set foot on Mykonos for the very first time. She was said to be there for a quiet visit courtesy of Greek Prime Minister Constantine Karamalis.

Theoxenia is also where Jackie and Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis had an affair, according to the hotel clerk who showed me around. Truth? Who knows.

After John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963,  his widow did marry Onassis on Oct. 20, 1968, on Skorpios, Onassis’ privately-owned island.

Theoxenia itself seems stuck in the ‘60s. It felt very pleasant and sort of weird to be walking around the hotel. Built about half a century ago, Theoxenia is a very plush place as befitting all the celebrities who have stayed and continue to stay here.

Theoxenia has 52 rooms with Pop Art and dramatic colors like orange and deep turquoise. It also has a restaurant, named simply The Plate, plus the Breeze Out pool bar and Breeze In indoor bar. The BHealthy Club has exercise equipment and offers personal fitness training as well as spa treatments and the original impossibly-blue swimming pool outside. Of course, the hotel has all the modern amentias that weren’t available in the ‘60s, like large flat screen TVs and speedy WiFi.

The hotel name is said to honor a theme in Greek mythology of extending hospitality to any guest as though he or she might be a deity in disguise. Theoxenia décor is rather simple and sixtyish as though Theoxenia knows that it can’t compete with the natural beauty of Mykonos. And it shouldn’t want to. After all, the views on this island are amazing and the hotel has one of the best sites on Mykonos – right next to the famous windmills overlooking the Aegean Sea.

It isn’t hard to sit here in a comfy lounger sipping whatever cocktail the young waiter is serving and imagine what it must have been like back in the ‘60s. Serene and stylish, Theoxenia seems a portal to another time.

Story and photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch



MSC Divina offers two mini bowling alleys for sportsters

April 28, 2015 | Heidi

A bowling alley on a cruise ship? Why not? The mini-bowling alley on the MSC Divina certainly has its happy competitors.

The small twin alleys are located in the ship’s Sports Bar, an American-themed spot where passengers can watch pro sports on big-screen TVs while they munch on American food and quaff drinks.

The bar has two lanes with mini-pins and balls. Scoring is done electronically on a big screen. Every aspect of the ten-pin bowling has been carefully designed for fun and easy use on a cruise ship. That includes a traditional-looking bowling surface that is actually made of a tough phenol compound which allows passengers to join in the play without changing shoes.

The more compact size is also a plus for youngsters. But don’t fool yourself. It is still a bowling alley and someone has to be the winner.

Story and photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch

Monkey and Mice

April 22, 2015 | Heidi

When ships stop in Heidelberg, Germany, passengers can see an unusual sight down by the Old Bridge. The unusual sculptures are of a monkey and two mice.

I wasn’t with a tour guide when I saw the sculptures so didn’t know the story of the strange critters. But I was lucky enough to be on the edge of a tour group where the leader was explaining in English.

The story she told is that the monkey holding a mirror in his left hand is meant to remind people not to get too full of themselves. No one is better than anyone else, the guide said, and no one is safe from making themselves a monkey’s rear if they aren’t careful. The monkey actually has his behind turned toward the river and the bridge, all the better to moon approaching visitors.

The bronze sculpture was installed in 1979 by Professor Gernot Rumpf. But there had been a bridge monkey in Heidelberg as far back as the 15th century, according to historic records.

A plaque next to the statue read, the guide said, something along the lines of “As you look at me, don’t laugh because if you were to look at other human beings or even into a mirror, you might just see something equally funny.” Good lesson.

The sculpture was created with a big empty space in the monkey’s head. That way people can stick their heads inside the monkey’s head, making it quite a popular photo spot.

According to legend, if you touch the fingers of the Bridge Monkey, it will ensure your return to Heidelberg. If you touch the mirror, you will have money in your future. If you touch the mice, that is a guarantee of fertility. I think I touched all of them so who knows what my future holds. Returning to Heidelberg would be my hope.


Story and photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch

Cruise Destination Trivia: Identify the landmark stone structure

April 16, 2015 | Heidi

Travelers may recognize this place. Or they may think they recognize it. See if you know what and where it is.

A hint: It is not the famous prehistoric site in England although it was patterned after it. This stone structure is on an American river.

Don’t look at the answer below until you’ve formulated your own response. Congratulations if you are correct. If not, you sure are not alone. Might be time to explore the beautiful areas along the Columbia River.




(Answer)   Famed road builder Sam Hill constructed this memorial in 1918. He intended for it to be a landmark to honor the dead of World War I and to be a reminder that war is hell and that world powers should never again engage in such terrible folly.

Residents of this quiet place along the Columbia River in the state of Washington went off to fight for their county. And some never returned.

A Quaker and dedicated pacifist, Hill hoped that “The Great War” would be the war to end all wars. Wonder what he would think if he returned to the world today and saw that wars and rumors of wars still plague his beloved America and other countries?

Hill chose to model his war memorial after Stonehenge, the famous prehistoric site in England. One of the wonders of the world, the original Stonehenge is a ring of standing stones set within earthworks.

However, Hill chose to replicate Stonehenge based on a mistaken legend about the original in England.

“At the time Sam Hill built his Stonehenge, people believed that the place in England had been used for human sacrifice,” said Ryan Downs, heritage leader for Un-Cruise Adventures.

Hill’s message at his Stonehenge was that humanity is still being sacrificed to the god of war. Using slabs of reinforced concrete, Hill built his Stonehenge the way he thought the Druids would have built theirs if they had access to 20th century technology. The altar stone for Hill’s Stonehenge is aligned with sunrise on the summer solstice.

The dedication plaque on the Washington state Stonehenge is inscribed:

“In memory of the soldiers of Klickitat County who gave their lives in defense of their country. This monument is erected in the hope that others inspired by the example of their valor and their heroism may share in that love of liberty and burn with that fire of patriotism which death can alone quench.”

Located off U.S. Highway 97 about two miles from where it enters Washington from Oregon, Stonehenge was dedicated on July 4, 1918. Joining Hill’s original war memorial are nearby monuments that were later added to honor soldiers of Klickitat County who died in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

“Stonehenge did what Sam Hill wanted it to do,” Downs said. “It makes people contemplate the high cost of war.”

If you visit, look down the hill in the direction of picturesque Mount Hood. At the base of the bluff overlooking the Columbia River is Hill’s final resting place, a concrete crypt.

“The man loved concrete,” Downs said. “Seems appropriate for his grave.”

There is no easy path down the hill to the burial site. Some say Sam Hill intended it that way because he wished to be left alone in the countryside he loved so much.

Story and photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch


Longtime ‘Riverlorian’ happy to be back on American Queen

April 6, 2015 | Heidi

When the three sister steamboats – the Delta Queen, the Mississippi Queen and the American Queen – stopped cruising, Karen “Toots” Maloy not only lost her beloved job, she also lost a piece of her heart.

“I didn’t quit the Delta Queen and she didn’t quit me,” Toots said. “I thought the Delta Queen would outlast me, I really did.”

As “Riverlorian” – a historian specializing in the nation’s rivers and riverboats – Toots had worked the queens for 33 years. She knew every nook and cranny of the boats, the rivers and the towns along them. It was her life.

She had no idea her river journey was about to come to an end. “I really didn’t expect it,” she said. “We had heard rumors but I really didn’t think it would happen.”

When the ships’ owners ran into financial problems, the three popular boats were grounded. In 2008, the Delta Queen lost her exemption from the Safety at Sea Act, a 1966 law prohibiting wooden vessels from carrying more than 50 overnight passengers. Congress needed to provide an exemption for the boat, but that never materialized. The Delta Queen is now a riverfront hotel in Chattanooga.

The magnificent Mississippi Queen was scrapped for junk in 2011. And the youngest sister, the American Queen, was pulled from the rivers. “For the first time since 1811,” Toots said, “there were no overnight steamships on America’s rivers.”

Not only did the three Queens have loyal cruisers who would return again and again, the boats were a major economic boost for riverboat stops and were an important home-away-from-home for its many crew members. “Do you realize how many of us met our spouses on the boats?” Toots asked. “I met my husband (banjo player Mike Gentry) on the boat.”

With the loss of her cruise job, Toots retreated to her cabin outside of Everton, Arkansas. To occupy her time and earn a living, Toots turned to a hobby she had started on the boats.  “I made cards and decided to take my handcrafted designs to the local farmers market.”

Soon she branched out and began creating her own jewelry, which proved to be even more successful. Called “Out of Sync Designs,” each piece of her jewelry tells its own story through the use of natural gemstones, vintage buttons, crystals, pearls and other elements of nature.

Then – out of the blue – Toots got a phone call that made her soul sing. “I couldn’t believe it. I was thrilled,” she said. “I was so happy that I can’t even put it into words.”

The American Queen had been bought by a new company and was going to begin cruising again in April 2012. Toots was asked if she wanted to be a guest lecturer on the cruises. Silly question. With her wealth of information, Toots is a popular speaker

Toots’s handcrafted jewelry is carried in the ship’s gift shop as is her book “The River: More Your Friend and Less of a Stranger.”

“My jewelry has been selling so much that I can’t keep up with making it,” she said with a happy smile.

Seeing the American Queen once again cruising is a dream come true. “We have to thank those people with vision for doing this,” Toots said. “It’s like my heart has been given an extra beat. I can’t thank them enough.”

Story and photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch

Crown Cruise Vacations Offers Great Deals on Holland American Line’s 55-Day Grand Mediterranean Voyage

March 31, 2015 | Heidi





Crown Cruise Vacations President Ross Spalding says Holland America Line’s 55-Day Grand Mediterranean Voyage is just that – a grand voyage.

Departing March 11, 2016, round trip Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the 55-day voyage on the ms Prinsendam will spend numerous days at sea as well as these many interesting ports:

  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA
  • Funchal (Madeira), Portugal
  • Malaga, Spain
  • Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy
  • Trapani, Italy
  • Valletta, Malta
  • Pylos, Greece
  • Thira (Santorini), Greece
  • Piraeus (Athens), Greece
  • Kavala (Neapolis), Greece
  • Cruising The Dardanelles
  • Istanbul, Turkey
  • Istanbul, Turkey
  • Mytilene, Nisos Lesbos, Greece
  • Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey
  • Katakolon (Olympia), Greece
  • Kerkira, Nisos Kerkira (Corfu), Greece
  • Durres, Albania
  • Kotor, Montenegro
  • Venice, Italy
  • Venice, Italy
  • Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • Cruising Strait of Messina
  • Scenic cruising Stromboli
  • Naples (Pompeii), Italy
  • Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy
  • Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Italy
  • Monte Carlo, Monaco
  • Sete, France
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Gibraltar, British Territory
  • Huelva (Seville), Spain
  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal
  • Horta, Azores, Portugal

Prices for this grand voyage start at US$7,999 per person, double occupancy, for Interior; $9,999 Oceanview; $16,999 Vista Suite; $23,999 Signature Suite; $41,999 Neptune Suite.

Throughout the ship there are restaurants to suit every mood, from a casual lunch by the pool to authentic Italian cuisine to a legendary experience at Le Cirque to a perfectly grilled porterhouse steak. Savor the many diverse restaurants and delicious menus inspired by the latest trends.

If you prefer a private dining experience, 24-hour In-Room Dining is complimentary and simply a phone call away.

As You Wish®

As You Wish dining is all about flexibility and freedom.

  • Pinnacle Grill
  • An Evening at Le Cirque
  • La Fontaine Dining Room
  • Lido Restaurant

Facilities vary by ship.

  • Greenhouse Spa and Salon
  • Fitness Center
  • Casino
  • Lido Pool
  • Showroom at Sea
  • Explorations Café (powered by The New York Times)

Each New Day, a Wealth of Cruise Activities and Indulgences

Every day aboard a Holland America cruise ship brings a wealth of cruise activities and indulgences, along with the freedom to partake in as many — or as few — as you please.

It’s an opportunity to try something new that surprises you, every day.

Dabble, discover, daydream — do everything, or do nothing at all.

Lounges & Entertainment

Evenings on board brim with choices. Take in a thrilling show in the lounge, try your luck in the Casino, or sing along in the piano bar. Explore the varied gathering places to suit every taste.


Care for a refreshing drink by the pool? An exotic cocktail in a late-night lounge? Choices abound.

  • Ocean Bar
  • Explorer’s Lounge
  • Atrium
  • Crow’s Nest
  • Casino
  • Showroom at Sea
  • Java Bar & Café and Oak Room

Crown Cruise Vacations guarantees the lowest rates and recommends this Holland America Line grand voyage. Call one of our agents to ask for details and specifics. Prices are as subject to availability per person, cruise only, based on double occupancy and are in U.S. dollars. Not combinable with any other rate or promotion. Offers are subject to availability can be withdrawn at any time. Airline-imposed personal charges such as baggage fees may apply. Air: Checked air bag fees could be up to $150.

Sophisticated cruise specialists at Crown Cruise Vacations provide exclusive offers, exceptional value & unparalleled service and can assist with experienced cruise information and bookings for current promotions or any time. For more information and to book a cruise call 1-877-283-1114 toll-free USA/Canada, +1-609-945-9801 direct dial or visit

Shore Excursion: Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee

March 24, 2015 | Heidi

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — When 18-year-old Elvis Presley walked into Sun Studio for the first time, he was asked who he sounded like. His reply, “I don’t sound like nobody.”

When he sang, “That’s all right, momma,” listeners agreed. Sun Studio became known as the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll.

“It was phenomenal,” said studio tour guide Mic Walker. “You’re walking on hallowed ground when you come in here.”

On July 5, 1954, Presley recorded his first single, “That’s All Right,” at Sun Studio in his hometown of Memphis. A popular shore excursion for riverboats, Sun Studio has changed little through the years. It has the same acoustic ceiling, the original lights and the old floor that so many legends once trod — Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B. King, Rufus Thomas, Howlin’ Wolf, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison, among others.

Radio engineer Sam Phillips started the Sun Label in 1952 and shared his tiny office with his secretary Marion Keisker. Legend has it that Keisker is the one who was working when a young Presley plopped down $4 to make his first recording.

On a hot summer day in 1953, a shy Presley stopped by the studio to make a recording of “My Happiness.” Local lore says the recording was intended as a birthday present for his mother. More likely, Walker said, the teen was hoping to be discovered. He was yearning for stardom.

And that’s exactly what he found — more than anyone could ever dream.

So impressed was Keisker that she kept a back-up tape of Presley’s singing. In the studio log, Keisker noted Presley was a “good ballad singer.” The story goes that Keisker pestered Phillips until he gave a listen to the unpolished Presley tape. The rest was history.

In the small studio, you can peek into the control room and stand behind the same microphone Presley used. Playing in the background on an old Ampex tape deck are bits of songs recorded at Sun. Old instruments are scattered around the room. A guitar with a dollar bill stuffed between the strings is how Cash produced the “chuffing” sound to imitate trains on his recordings.

Ringo Starr has been quoted as saying, “If it hadn’t been for what happened at Sun Studio, there wouldn’t have been a Beatles.”

There also might not have been an Elvis.

At the time, Presley was delivering electrical appliances for Crown Electric. “He probably stopped by here while he was out delivering or maybe after work,” Walker said. “Crown Electric was less than a mile from here so it was easy for Elvis to come by.”

Without Sun Studio, would Presley have made that first recording? Would someone have noticed his talent and given him a chance?

“That’s something we’ll never know,” Walker concludes. “What happened at Sun Studio was history.”

For more information: Contact Sun Studio at or the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau at

Story and photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch

AmaCerto double balconies in ship cabins make for double viewing fun

March 17, 2015 | Heidi

The balcony of my ship’s cabin on any cruise is one of my favorite places to sit and watch the water roll. But sometimes outside temperatures or a drenching rainstorm can make the balcony an unpleasant place to sit.

That’s why I was pleased to learn of AmaWaterways exclusive twin balconies. My AmaCerto stateroom had both an inside balcony and an outside balcony. I could choose to sit inside and watch the river and the sights along it. Or I could sit outside.

The double balconies also meant a whole wall of sliding glass doors for excellent water views from anywhere in my room.

Founded in 2002, the family-owned AmaWaterways gets its name from the Latin word for “love” – Ama. AmaWaterways has 19 custom-designed vessels and will add a new one in 2015, along with even more river cruises in Europe, Asia and Africa.

Resembling a luxurious long yacht, the AmaCerto can accommodate 164 passengers and sails to Austria, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Hungary and Slovakia. Debuting in 2012, AmaCerto looks big enough to be comfortable but small enough to easily dock along the rivers. The ship’s name is pronounced Ama-Cherto. The Certo part is a musical nod as in concerto. The three decks of the AmaCerto are named Piano, Violin and Cello.

Story and Photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch