We have done River Cruises in Europe before, but this was our first in the USA, There are some differences in this inclusive cruise package depending on where you book - my friends booked through the National Trust and my wife and I booked through Vacations To Go. My friends had an extra night in New Orleans at the Bourbon Orleans. We had just the one night at the Hilton Riverside included in the package and had to book the extra night on our own. We received a $700 discount plus a $100 Onboard credit. The American Queen docks right outside the Hilton. At Embarkation, our bags were tagged and collected at the Hotel and we didn't see them again until we were in our cabin. Our friend left her expensive carry on bag with the checked luggage at the Hotel and it never made it to her cabin - word to the wise, keep your carry on luggage, jewelry and documents with you.
With flooding in the Upper Mississippi, we were facing a fast flowing current as we were running upstream. On our first night we had a generator problem - I never did find out how that affected the performance of the ship (or boat) however it necessitated our running ashore until repaired - apart from trimming a couple of Willows the boat suffered no apparent damage however we had to wait for the Coast Guard to come up to us and do an inspection before we were allowed to continue - as a consequence we were not able to stop at Oak Alley. Later, upriver, we had to also give up Helena, as our mooring area was underwater. Ship happens!
Our cabin, #202, was great! especially after I saw the size of the cabins my friends were given. Check the size of your cabins - some are really small!. Check it out on the deck plan. Regina Charbonneau, who created the menus, was on board and supervised the kitchens and dining room. From what I have read there have been problems with service and food preparation on previous cruises and I think they, Regina in particular, are making a strong effort to improve food prep and service. I found the food to be very good - the only time I experienced a problem was when I was served a pasta entrÃ©e that was cold. The menu is varied and interesting. The Dining staff were obviously trying very hard to serve everyone promptly, however, as I know most of you who have travelled a lot have observed, we no longer have wine waiters, and the same guy is scrambling to put bread rolls on plates, get extra butter and pour wine - remember wine is complimentary, on this cruise, so I noticed that he was kept on the run refilling glasses that were emptying more quickly than if folks were paying for it , As a regular wine drinker, red wine in particular, I was quite pleased with the quality of the wine, as was my Australian wine afficianado table mate.
The 640 miles of river between New Orleans and Memphis has a long, colorful and sometimes violent history from the Louisiana Purchase to the Civil War. The stops we were able to make were interesting, and as you probably know, 2 buses meet you at each stop and provide Hop On Hop Off free service, which was excellent - average wait time between stops was about 15 minutes.
I find the river itself not very interesting, brown water and tree lined shores that varies little for the whole cruise, with the occasional Pulp mill or Chemical processing plant and of course the non stop barge traffic. Fortunately there is always plenty going on in the boat to keep you amused, when you are not eating!
The evening entertainment was good and there were plenty of onboard activities including lectures from the onboard "Riverstorian".
Excellent trip! I think it gets better each time as the staff gain more experience. You have all the amenities aboard that you would find on a Blue water cruise, and as one wag told me "The only Rock and Roll" is in the Piano Bar.