American Duchess has a branded hop-on, hop-off bus that travels with the riverboat to the different ports. The buses are comfy, with ample air conditioning and large windows. Passengers can use the buses for tours or get off when they feel like it for independent exploration. In some cities such as St. Francisville, Nottoway and New Madrid, walking tours are also included.
Premium shore excursions are also available for purchase. On the Mississippi, the line has some interesting ones, like touring Angola Prison in St. Francisville, Louisiana; a "front lines of the Civil War" tour in Vicksburg; and a B.B. King-themed tour in Greenville, Mississippi. Tours range from $39 to $99 per person. On our cruise -- the Cumberland River round trip out of Nashville -- premium excursions included a visit to the Hotel Metropolitan, a onetime haven for traveling African-American musicians and artists; and a visit to a tobacco farm, winery and distillery; as well as a tour of Nashville on the departure day of the cruise. One of the highlight tours was a trip to the historic Ryman Auditorium to attend a taping of the Grand Ole Opry, which was included in the price of the cruise.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
The Show Lounge on Deck 1 is the main entertainment hub for the ship and can seat every passenger for the nightly shows. It's not as formal a theater as you might find on the line's other boats, but it's perfect for the intimate shows and guest performers the ship brings onboard. Unique to the ship is the stadium seating, with good sightlines throughout, and an alcove above the stage where the musicians can play. On our sailing, we had a trio of singers and five musicians onboard, which made for a good mix of voices and styles in terms of song selection and energy levels. Our nightly shows included "Riversong" (songs about America's rivers), a show focused on songs from the stage and screen, a variety show that spanned the decades, a "Sock Hop" and Country concert. Shows started at 8:30 p.m. and generally ran for an hour, give or take.
After the main show, the band takes a quick break and reconvenes in The Lincoln Library for another 45-minute to one-hour show, often carrying over the theme from the evening's big show.
In addition to those nightly shows, the band, in various formations, performed in the Grand Lobby Bar. There, the pianist played cocktail music, our riverlorian joined in with his guitar and banjo for Dixieland Jazz ensemble, and the full band would play. These performances ran around 45 minutes and bracketed dinner, with a small show from 4:45 to 5:30 p.m. and a second show from 6:15 to 7 p.m.
The American Duchess has a riverlorian onboard who gives daily lectures. Topics run the gamut from folklore on the river to regional history.
Daily, there are activities led by the Cruise Director and his team (all performers in the nightly shows). In addition to playing bingo a time or two per cruise, there are games -- revivals of classic TV game shows like Match Game and Name That Tune -- and movies.
For a ship with only 166 passengers, American Duchess provides quite a few places to hang out or imbibe.
Great Lobby Bar (Deck 1): This stunning bar takes advantage of the boat's two-story atrium. It's a gorgeous space, with a long marble bar and light-colored leather barstools, lit with chandeliers that are reflected in long glass panels. Murano glass sculptures punctuate the shelves and walls. Besides the barstools, beige sofas and blue chairs provide seating away from the main bar. Open from 11 a.m. until late night, it's a popular gathering spot for pre- or post-dinner drinks.
The Lincoln Library (Mezzanine): This lovely space, built specifically for American Duchess, is more formal than the rest of the ship, with blue and beige leather sofas and chairs. Intended to serve as a gathering place for smaller groups, as well as host lectures by the riverlorian, the room has its own bar and grand piano. Besides serving as a bar, the room is a library where passengers can borrow books and games. It's common to find groups here playing cards or Scrabble, knitting and reading.
American Duchess does not have outdoor recreation on the ship at this time, although the line plans to add a walking track and possibly a putting green. The sun deck has lounging furniture and cabanas are planned for protection from the sun.
On the main deck, there's a guest services desk near the front of the boat, near the gangplank where passengers enter from shore excursions. There's a small computer room nearby, although most passengers bring their own devices. Wi-Fi is complimentary, although very finicky, with slow, inconsistent service in cabins and negligible to nonexistent service in the interior of the ship.
The Lincoln Library on the mezzanine has books and games for passengers to check out. As you might expect, there's an extensive collection of Mark Twain.
American Duchess does not have a spa or hair salon onboard.
The ship does have a fitness center, which has two treadmills and a recumbent bike, as well as free weights.
While in port, passengers can take bicycles out for independent exploration. They are allotted on a first-come, first-served basis.
American Duchess does not have any specific accommodation for kids. The atmosphere onboard is decidedly grown up, and most children would be bored. That being said, the ship does have several suites that allow more than two people. While there's no minimum age policy, the line reserves the right to restrict the number of passengers under 18.
* May require additional fees