A river career that started in the 1970’s as a deckhand has since grown to a lifelong passion and dedication to the industry for Captain Alan Bernstein, and his commitment to the history and culture of the industry and America’s rivers has earned him the bestowment of the 2023 Achievement Award by the National Rivers Hall of Fame. The Achievement Award is the highest honor given by the Hall of Fame in recognition of an individual’s contributions to America’s waterways. 

Bernstein started his river career in the 1970s as a deckhand aboard the Steamer Delta Queen. Bernstein served with Bill Muster and under National River Hall of Fame inductee Betty Blake’s campaign to save the Delta Queen. This first experience sparked his interest to begin a search for a vessel to start his own business, and once he found a boat, he established BB Riverboats in 1979. The B’s in BB Riverboats stand for his father, Ben Bernstein, and Betty Blake’s initials. Bernstein named his first vessel in his fleet the M/V Betty Blake since Blake played a role in helping the Bernstein family start BB Riverboats. 

"My father skipped his High School graduation to experience the river system for the first time aboard the Steamer Delta Queen,” said Alan’s son, Captain Ben Bernstein, who serves as the Chief Financial Officer at BB Riverboats. “He tells all who will listen how the river gets in your blood and becomes a part of you. He crafted an entire career around his love for the river and everything surrounding the industry. 

“To say that our family is proud of all that he has accomplished would be a supreme understatement.  There is no person more deserving of the honor and recognition that this award brings and it showcases all of the dedication, hard work, and passion he has exhibited throughout his illustrious and now Hall of Fame career."

Bernstein received his first master license in 1981 and currently holds a master license of 1600 tons, an Inland Master License of 100 tons, and an Unlimited Master of Towing License for Western Rivers. Bernstein’s ambitions led him to become more involved in the industry as he is now a member of the Passenger Vessel Association and President of the Association in 1988. 

BB Riverboats uses two riverboats inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard: the Belle of Cincinnati and the River Queen. The boats take passengers up and down the river from their home port of Newport, KY.

Bernstein sees merit in opportunities to show the value of rivers to tourists, which he helps accomplish through such roles as on the Executive Board of the Northern Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. He believes in giving back to the community and industry and partners in the regional Tall Stack Festivals in the Cincinnati area. He helped organize and execute the first Tall Stacks festival. He served in the formation of CORBA, attending their first meeting, and helped create the National Steamboat Monument on the Cincinnati Riverfront. The monument displays the original paddlewheel from the steamboat, American Queen. 

Bernstein will be honored at the Passenger Vessel Association Convention on Saturday, Jan. 27 in Portland, Oregon. He joins Big River Magazine editor and publisher Reggie McLeod as a 2023 Achievement Award winner, recognized in November, and becomes the 85th award winner since the National Rivers Hall of Fame’s inception in 1985. To read more about past award winners or to submit a nomination, visit