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187 American Queen Steamboat Company North America River Cruise Reviews

We had been wanting to try a river cruise, especially after watching the size of ocean-going cruise ships balloon until some can carry more than 6,000 passengers. The American Empress beautifully accommodates just over 221, with an ... Read More
We had been wanting to try a river cruise, especially after watching the size of ocean-going cruise ships balloon until some can carry more than 6,000 passengers. The American Empress beautifully accommodates just over 221, with an attentive crew of 88. Our Category C cabin--212--was cozy, but well laid out so that we had plenty of closet space and storage, even in the bathroom. Yes, the shower is small, but it worked just fine for us. Ours was a late-season round trip from and to Vancouver, Washington, rather than the more common one-way trip from Vancouver to Lewiston, Idaho, or vice versa. We knew that there was a high probability of rainy/cloudy/foggy weather in the Pacific Northwest in November, and we were proved correct. We did have two sunny days, and only two really rainy days, so we were content. Our fellow cruisers were, in the main, like us--Baby Boomers and older. There were a few 40-50 somethings, but we were in the majority. I would not recommend this as a honeymoon cruise, unless your other passion is Lewis and Clark. As for the Empress herself, she is a delightful home away. The food was very good, particularly the fish entrees, and of those, particularly the salmon. The lobster was also quite good, and more moist--less chewy--than on many past ocean cruises. The River Grille, on the top deck (#4), offered buffet-style cuisine at breakfast and lunch, and becomes a stylish alternative (no extra cost) dinner house at night. I was captivated by the masses of fresh berries and bacon available for breakfast, along with made-to-order omelets and other breakfast fare. Lunch was equally tasty, with hamburgers cooked to order. The Grille also offered 24/7 access to coffee, sodas, soft-serve ice cream, and cookies. The cuisine was a big two thumps-up on the Empress. The ports consisted of Vancouver, WA, Astoria, OR, te Dalles, OR, Stevenson, WA, and Portland, OR. The Hop-on-Hop-off (HOHO) buses were a wonderful included extra in every port. We opted for two optional excursions--Fort Clatsop in Astoria and the Maryhill Art Museum outside of the Dalles. I recommend both. Back to the boat . . . The entertainment was passable, but we didn't take this cruise to be entertained. The "Riverlorian" was well-intentioned and knowledgeable, but a bit dry. The lounge singer provided guitar and vocals in the Paddlewheel Lounge, and was especially effective with James Taylor covers. The staff was unfailingly cordial, professional, and attentive. Bottom line: This was a great experience, and I recommend this cruise. The only negative was the lack of soundproofing between rooms. This was not a deal-breaker, but it could be improved. A definite plus was the binoculars, robe, and slippers provided (you get to keep the slippers!). It was such a positive experience that we are hoping to book a future cruise on the lower Mississippi with American Queen Steamship Company. Well done, AQSC! Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
To the Cruise Reviewers…Here’s a Breaking News story….The American Steamboat Company’s American Queen is NOT A CARIBBEAN CRUISE FUN SHIP…..That’s the rewarding thing about this wonderful Steamboat…..So don’t disparage this ... Read More
To the Cruise Reviewers…Here’s a Breaking News story….The American Steamboat Company’s American Queen is NOT A CARIBBEAN CRUISE FUN SHIP…..That’s the rewarding thing about this wonderful Steamboat…..So don’t disparage this ‘Gem of the Mississippi ‘where you can slow down and take a leisurely cruise on America’s Premiere and Historical River. My wife and I booked the American Queen Steamboat cruise up the Mississippi for the first full week of September 2019 sailing from New Orleans up to Memphis. We’ve been fortunate to have cruised on ships of many sizes and many locations and have even cruised down the Danube River several years earlier but this time we were seeking a trip back through time and history on an authentic Steamboat that still travels the waters of the Mississippi here in the United States. The American Queen is a ship that fits the profile of a slower paced travel and the Mississippi presents a good travelogue of stories about ‘The Old Man River” and adventures in the deep south of the United States. This is not a trip for families with children but a trip for adults of many ages. Ship Features Built in 1995, The American Queen is the largest Steamboat ever constructed at 418 feet long and 89 feet wide with a draft of approximately 8 feet. She’s a true stern-wheeler with and array of modern improvements for navigation on the Mississippi. The beauty of steamboat travel is the slower pace of cruising on a river and how the passengers arrive at the towns on the cruise’s itinerary on the gangways stowed at the front of the steamboat. There’s a wonder steam calliope at the Top Deck River Grill & Bar played by the ship’s Master Pianist and Calliopist Phil Westbrook who hold court nightly at the Main Deck lounge with music and stories to entertain all. There’s a small pool on the top Sun Deck where travelers can also access the small Fitness Center. For late night, guest’s can be entertained at the Engine Room Bar with lively music and dancing, if one desires , lead by two of the ship’s versatile entertainment staff, Norman Bergen and Jim Schweikert. The main guest entertainment is held at the Grand Saloon Theater space, complete with balcony box seats and vaudeville styled main stage. There is also a smaller movie style theater on the Deck 3 – Texas Deck. With that said the ships company of performers and musicians all well versed in their art and provided great entertainment nightly. The Cruise Director, Ryan Faino and his Assistant Cruise Director, Ashley Edwards along with fellow performers Michaelyn Oby and Glenn Springs made evening entertainment a real pleasure for such a small troupe of performers and their equally talented band know as the Steamboat Syncopators. The J. M. White Dining area is a wonderful old world steamboat styled double story dining venue. There is one drawback experience in the dining room which is the ventilation noise that emanates from below deck and at window level due to the ship’s ventilation system on the port side forward of the dining, room. Our dining seating was on the opposite side of the dining room so our dining experience was not impacted by that noticeable mechanical noise. The Buffet dining area known as the Front Porch Café, is located on Deck 3 forward – Texas Deck with dining for guests inside and in a wrap around deck outside this eatery The real masterpieces of the Queen can be found on Deck 2 – Cabin Deck where guests find the Mark Twain Gallery & Lounge along with Men’s and Ladies Parlor Rooms. These spaces or well decorated with period pieces, artwork, photographs, river and steamboat artifact, charts and models an internet café area and a specialty coffee machine with a well stock fresh cookie cabinet. A more unique space in the ship is the areas above the Front Porch Café in a space know as The Chart Room, where Riverlorian, Jerry Hay, weaves the tales of the river and its historic ebb and flow that are an integral part of the heartland of America. Lastly, take some time to walk around all the decks of the ship to a catch a bit of the flavor of what river travel life might have been on some grand stern-wheeler of the 19th Century, like the American Queen, on the muddy water of the Mississippi. Food and Excursions Our food & dining experience on board the American Queen was wonderful. High tech has made its way into dining service in the J. M. White Dining Room with wait staff texting orders to the kitchen for prompt preparation and delivery to the dining guests. The food quality was very good, but don’t hesitate to bring to the attention of the dining room staff anything that is not up to what you, as the diner, might consider substandard. Service was tops and food was well prepared. Food up at the Front Porch Café buffet was also of the same quality and caliber except here’s where self serve ice cream could be found along with a full service bar and guest beverages area. Although the lower Mississippi river does not possess the charm of the enchanting river towns of the European river waterways, you will find the Antebellum South and Historic river towns of Natchez and Vicksburg on this cruise. Vicksburg battlefield is a must trek. The Steamboat Company provides well apportioned coaches that run like clockwork for travel around each the river towns where the ship stops. With regards to the other river town stops on this cruise (St. Francisville and Greenville) they are a look into typical river town life that that have survived the trials and tribulations of the Mighty Mississippi River. Conclusion The American Queen Steamboat cruise may not be a cruise for every traveler but this great ship and cruise does give its guests plenty of river time to slow down and unwind on this Great American River treasure or to pick up the pace to explore the finer elements of Southern Living. Read Less
Sail Date September 2019
Embarking from the port of Clarkston, Washington and disembarking in Portland, Washington aboard the American Queen Steamboat Company Empress. The staff went out of their way to assure that passengers had an enjoyable & smooth ... Read More
Embarking from the port of Clarkston, Washington and disembarking in Portland, Washington aboard the American Queen Steamboat Company Empress. The staff went out of their way to assure that passengers had an enjoyable & smooth experience. The food was spectacular, tasty and service in high fashion! The lunch buffet was equally delicious....daily ethnic options were a pleasant experience and the sandwich options from the grill were made to order. Excursions were often greater than expected. Our cruise was void of ANY CHILDREN, certainly a real plus and another pleasant experience is that there were NO photographers on board other than passengers. This cruise line does not seek to exploit passengers by taking pictures at the most inopportune times and selling them for overinflated prices. The only possible negative comment would be that several ports lacked shopping options. That certainly is not the fault of the cruise line, but certainly a financial mis-opportunity for the local economy. The ship's staff from top to bottom all had perpetual smiles and friendly personalities. This did not appear fake, but a testiment to happ employees. We ditched the nightly entertainment for the spectacular evening views from the top deck of the ship....truly spectacular. Read Less
Sail Date August 2019
We so enjoyed our “Civil War” cruise on the Duchess that we booked this trip “In the Footsteps of Mark Twain”. Two days before departure we were told due to the high waters the trip was changed -every port was different except the ... Read More
We so enjoyed our “Civil War” cruise on the Duchess that we booked this trip “In the Footsteps of Mark Twain”. Two days before departure we were told due to the high waters the trip was changed -every port was different except the starting point of St Louis. The Queen is much larger and the room we had chosen #502 was in the front of the ship-nice & roomy but so noisy we could not stay. The smokestack was laying on the deck so the boat could clear the bridges. A gigantic noisy exhaust fan was constantly running all right by the bedroom window. We moved to a lovely room in the middle of the boat #514 and were given a refund as a voucher for use on a future cruise in addition to shipboard credit. The staff is wonderful and could not have been nicer to us. However, the itinerary is rather boring, not much to see. The dinners have been a disappointment-the buffets at breakfast and lunch are nice as are the Front Porch snack options-a soft serve machine with toppings, cookies, coffee machine and popcorn.There is a small pool and Fitness Center. We are enjoying the lectures and the music/entertainment staff are good. The boat is very cold so bring a warm jacket and long sleeves. If I travel again I will stay with the smaller ship. If on this boat remember to choose a room in the center not in the front or back as both are extremely noisy. Also be aware that dining times are assigned -either too early or too late for us-5:45 or 7:45. Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
What a wonderful week we had as we sailed down the Snake and Columbia Rivers aboard the American Empress! This was our first cruise with the American Steamboat Company and there was so much about the cruise that didn’t disappoint. We ... Read More
What a wonderful week we had as we sailed down the Snake and Columbia Rivers aboard the American Empress! This was our first cruise with the American Steamboat Company and there was so much about the cruise that didn’t disappoint. We have sailed many larger cruise ships but never a riverboat. The crew was the most friendly crew we have experienced. The Captain was visible and friendly too. The accommodations were excellent. Our room steward Gina was superb and quick to respond when we had questions or concerns. The ship was chilly and a large majority or passengers wore light jackets, sweatshirts or sweaters while on board. We did have two problems with our cabin while on board. On the second day our safe would not open. They responded quickly, opened our safe but were unable to fix it. However, later in the day the safe was removed and another safe was installed and it worked well for the remainder of the trip. At 2:30 am the next to last day of our cruises I saw a spark somewhere in the ceiling near our door. Smoke began to come out of the ceiling smelling like an electrical fire. When I called the main desk 3 people came to our cabin immediately, one with a fire extinguisher in hand. One of the crew opened a door in the ceiling where the air conditioner was located and began looking around. It was a bit dirty up there, which was noted by one of the crew. Smoke was still in the room. I asked if they cared if I opened the door to the outside. So I did. With the door to the hall open and the door to our balcony open the smoke began to filter out of the room. After a few minutes they determined that the motor of the air conditioner had burned out and said that it could not be replaced until morning. They said we should leave our 2 doors open to get the smoke out of our cabin and they left. We do wish the crew had checked to see if that was an option conducive to sleeping, since it was now after 3:00 am. The wind coming through the cabin sounded like a freight train coming through the cabin. So we closed the door to the hall and laid back down. Then the door to the deck was banging so it was impossible to sleep. We closed that door too, even though there was still some smoke in the room. By 4:00 am we were able to drift off to sleep. By 7:00 am we were leaving our cabin and met a crew member coming down the hall to replace the motor. He said he was leaving and needed to do that before he left. Good thing we were heading out for the day and didn’t get awakened again for the repair. When returning to our cabin after breakfast our cabin door was left open and no one was in the cabin which was a little unsettling. In the end our air conditioner was fixed and worked fine for the remainder of our trip. I still wonder what they can do to keep the area around the ac units cleaner. We were breathing that dust in our cabin and the dirt could have contributed to a fire. I thank the quick response of the crew. But I do wish that they had offered us a way to secure the balcony door so we could have left it open. And why was our cabin left unsecured? Even though we were a little tired that day we didn’t let that stop our tours and enjoyed the day and the remainder of our trip Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
We wanted to experience the pacific northwest and travel with some good friends. The literature advertised this as upscale, all inclusive. We've taken many ocean cruises (15+) but never a river cruise anywhere. I'm not sure ... Read More
We wanted to experience the pacific northwest and travel with some good friends. The literature advertised this as upscale, all inclusive. We've taken many ocean cruises (15+) but never a river cruise anywhere. I'm not sure I'd say this is upscale, and I'm not convinced its worth the additional monies versus what you'd pay for a large vessel cruise. The Hop On/Hop Off bus is a nice feature, as is the wine and beer with dinner, but it's an expensive gimmick, not worth the extra money you pay. The cabins are nicely appointed but small, just like a larger ship. The intimate size (200+ passengers) was quite nice, but most were very elderly and the things to do were very limited. Food was good. Quantity was good, you could have extras. The number of menu selections were limited compared to a larger ship. The River Grill menu covers a wide range of items but it doesn't compare to a "for-fee" restaurant on a larger ship. The ambiance was not there. The guest performers were terrific. The on-board assistant cruise directors, who also performed, were not of the same caliber of talent. We all said we enjoyed this and we are very glad we did it. We just would not do another river cruise at this point. Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
We chose this cruise to get a lifetime experience on the Mississippi River. The advertising of the cruise was very effusive about the standard of the service and the experiences that were to be enjoyed. But, let me tell you what really was ... Read More
We chose this cruise to get a lifetime experience on the Mississippi River. The advertising of the cruise was very effusive about the standard of the service and the experiences that were to be enjoyed. But, let me tell you what really was experienced. Meals: The restaurant setting is comfortable but crowded. The furniture needs a good clean. The meals were presented in a haphazard style with little appeal to the presented food, it was just placed on the plate. The menu selection on some of the days was appalling. Rooms: Our room was comfortable but included basic furniture. The bed was too short ( I am 179 cm or 5'11") and my feet hung over the end of the bed. The linen was a good quality. Entertainment: This was the highlight of the cruise. Variety and energy were the keys to keeping us entertained. Very good standard of delivery was held throughout the cruise. Gym: A very basic and barely adequate gym and pool is on board. Service: This was the most disappointing aspect of the cruise. After paying $AUS1,000+ per day for a cabin leading onto the veranda, service delivery was very poor. We had to continually request shampoo, soap and other bathroom amenities be maintained. The service in the dining room was appalling. Food was plonked on the table without any of the normal etiquette processes, wine was sloshed into glasses, orders were forgotten, explanation of selections was very poor and there was no continual supervision of the table. Excursions: The complementary shuttle bus service was very welcome and appreciated. Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
This cruise for for my 10th anniversary. We were the youngest couple on the boat (not a critique, just an observation). It was the first river boat experience for both of us. There was one port-of-call change that was made after we ... Read More
This cruise for for my 10th anniversary. We were the youngest couple on the boat (not a critique, just an observation). It was the first river boat experience for both of us. There was one port-of-call change that was made after we booked due to an event at on of the ports that seemed significant enough to have warranted more warning. The excursions we took: The LEWIS & CLARK EXPERIENCE THE ULTIMATE PACIFIC NORTHWEST EXPERIENCE The PENDLETON TOUR THE COMPLETE LEWIS-CLARK VALLEY WINE TOUR The Hits: The room and service was excellent as expected The food was amazing with a variety of changing options at every seating The scenery in transit was beautiful The "riverlorian" The Lewis-Clark Valley Wine Tour Most of the entertainment The Misses: Some of the excusrions. The example I'll give is The Ultimate Pacific Northwest Experience, but we had similar experiences on more than excursion. This tour attempts to pack in far too much in one day. We were on the bus traveling between locations far longer than we got to spend at any of them. "Enrichment" on this tour is simply not an option. For example, stopping at the magnificent Multnomah Falls, we were allotted less than an hour. Only the most active and spry of us made it to the bridge, wit barely enough time to walk the rest of the grounds. It was basically race the bridge, then back down to spend a few minutes in the gift shop before taking off to the next place. Lunch was great, but maybe a catered lunch at Timberline instead, with more time at that location (and the others) would have made this excursion better. Maybe it's just me, but I would prefer more detailed enrichment at fewer places than less at more locations and spending too much time travelling between locations. The Entertainment The quartet contains talented musicians and excelled at the small scale pieces tasked to play. It was perfect for the '50-60's night. For some of the bigger themed pieces, a quartet is just not big enough to simulate some of the "big band" or Broadway orchestra pieces that were presented. This band would be so much better served with just one more member, specifically a horn, either trumpet or even a trombone, and it would really round out the sound. Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
We wanted to do a paddleboat River Cruise and our friend that owns a travel agency suggested we try this ship. The ship and the crew were fantastic. However, we found no out that people that booked in the month before the sailing were ... Read More
We wanted to do a paddleboat River Cruise and our friend that owns a travel agency suggested we try this ship. The ship and the crew were fantastic. However, we found no out that people that booked in the month before the sailing were given room upgrades and up to $1000 credit. Apparently so many people cancelled due to the ports being closed because of high water levels that the line needed to fill rooms. We booked 6 months in advance and were not offered any upgrade. We took an interior room which we normally do on cruises as we are not in the room often. The room was so small my husband would shower and get dressed and leave and then I would do the same. The first port for the Oak Alley tour was closed due to high water. The Francisville and Greenville ports were a dud. We spent only 45 minutes in Greenville and Francisville was an hour. Nothing at all to see. Natchez and Vicksburg were amazing. We wish we would have had an entire day in Vicksburg as there was so much to see. We had wonderful table mates for dinner from California and Oregon. Ages 55-75. We all agreed that the terms used in the towns were racist. Tour guides pointed out where “ The Jews” settled. Not a Jewish community. Just kept saying “ The Jews” . I asked Clint our guide about seeing the Catholic Church on the list and he said don’t go on their because you will go blind. He was a native of Greenville and obviously didn’t care for Catholics. I know it wasn’t just us because it was the topic of conversation every night at our dinner table. We were all appalled and uncomfortable. The food was ok. Dinners had odd choices and was generally cold. You are better to eat on deck 3. We only ate in the dining room because we loved our table of cruisers. They were hysterical. We are happy we did the bucket list of a river cruise. But we would not suggest anyone of our friends take this particular southern route. Especially if you aren’t from the Deep South and are not used to terms such as colored, The Jews, those Catholics, etc. it was an eye opener for my family and our dinner table. Also do the reverse cruise from Memphis to New Orleans. Better ports Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
In June 2019, my wife and I took the American Queen paddle wheeler on a one-week trip down the Mississippi River. Trip went from Memphis to New Orleans (the Deep South). I rate this trip as an overall 5 (on a scale of 5), based on its ... Read More
In June 2019, my wife and I took the American Queen paddle wheeler on a one-week trip down the Mississippi River. Trip went from Memphis to New Orleans (the Deep South). I rate this trip as an overall 5 (on a scale of 5), based on its distinctive niche for educational travel. The Mississippi River is America’s other “Route 66.” You can see it from shore by driving yourself along the Great River Road. Or you can see it from the water on a riverboat like the American Queen. Though this is the largest paddle wheeler ever built, it’s still small when compared to international cruise ships. It has six decks and carries a bit over 400 passengers. Travelers who never stop learning will be in heaven on the American Queen. It provides a comfortable level of overnight support for your daily “soft expeditions” ashore. The American Queen is a good fit for the same crowd that savors Elder Hostel (excuse me, Road Scholar), living museums, re-enactments, historic preservation, collecting national parks, and playing history detective. It’s also an alternative to those European river cruises -- both for Americans who want to stay home, and for Europeans who want to see a famous slice of America. Once you’ve left the airport, it’s like a prior era: a week of casually boarding and leaving the boat without TSA searches. But it’s not a good fit for passengers who only want a relaxing escape of doing nothing. And travel agents should use caution in booking customers who expect extensive pampering and privacy. The American Queen is heavily self-service, and for a similar price, they can get an ocean crossing with a more attentive level of luxury. SEE FOR YOURSELF Tips from travel agents will greatly help customers to make the most of this niche experience -- and to avoid the expectation gaps that keep popping up in Cruise Critic reviews. Needn’t be any surprises as to what it looks like aboard the American Queen. Last September, Gene Sloan did an exhaustive photo shoot (60+ images) that is published on USA Today’s travel website. Right down to the self-serve coffee machine. And, if you don’t consider it a spoiler, you can easily use the closeup views of Google Earth to scout the whole route in advance. You’ll quickly see that the river is less than a mile wide in most places. In other words, you’re unlikely to get seasick on this type of trip. NATURE CALLS THE SHOTS Days are spent on shore, and the boat paddles on in the evening. As with flightseeing tours, nature calls the shots here. Travelers may experience itinerary adjustments, big and small, based on the seasonal water level. The route may change if the water is low. In fact, the American Queen got stuck in the mud for a few days of its maiden voyage back in 1995 -- when the water on the Ohio suddenly got really low. And, like old aviators, they’ve been known to simply wait it out at a stop until conditions improve. If the water is high, the crew can adapt with little fanfare by cranking down the smokestacks and pilot house to get under a bridge. If you want to see this novelty, ask when you board as to where they expect it to happen. But if the water is really high, they may need to change your route to avoid a possible stranding between bridges. Last year, one of their trips addressed this by diverting over to the Illinois River (St. Louis to Chicago). Sounds like a good consolation prize, since the boat made quick arrangements for a lavishing of Lincoln lore. On our own June 2019 trip down the Mississippi from Memphis, flooding blocked us from one of the dockings planned in Louisiana. So the boat just went over to the other side of the river and tied up to the trees (like the old days). And there at the end of the gangplank were the buses in a state of readiness for the next activity. This little adjustment was certainly mild compared to some improvised landings in the 1800s. Back in the day, a riverboat could end up loading from the second story of a flooded building. Water conditions may also get the American Queen to a stop ahead of schedule. Maybe even a “bonus” overnight docking (as we got at Natchez). So pre-plan how you might use any extra evening ashore. There are often ghost, foodie, author, or pub tours available from the locals (not part of the American Queen). If nothing else, any overnight stop is a photo op to step ashore after dark and see the boat with all its lights. HOW THEY DO THE DAILY STOPS These guys do shore excursions right. The American Queen has its own fleet of comfortable buses that are well-maintained and well air-conditioned. They have their own crew of regular drivers, who follow along on shore and meet the boat every morning. Some buses take passengers on pre-reserved day trips (which cost extra). Other buses continuously shuttle you around town to sites that you can do at your pace. At these places, American Queen has prepaid any admission fee or expected donation. You just tell them that you’re off the American Queen and walk on in. American Queen publishes its own maps that show all the shuttle stops and prepaid attractions. These maps are more accurate, readable, and helpful than the crude port-stop leaflets I’ve seen on some international cruises. While river cruises can produce a traffic jam in Europe, passenger boats on the Mississippi are rare. Visits by the American Queen are a novelty, and the company seems to have cultivated a warm rapport with the locals at every stop. Often they’re volunteers. For instance, the boat’s shuttle bus dropped us off to see the Church of the Holy Trinity in Vicksburg. A parishioner in his 80s detailed the story of its six Tiffany stained-glass windows. The old Vicksburg depot is right by the dock and boasts a large collection of 250 ship models. They’re spread around the museum, and the friendly docent made sure that I knew where to find them. In contrast to the jaded herding of tourist-saturated Europe, I found the people of Memphis, Vicksburg, and Natchez to be among the most genuinely welcoming in the world. A MENU OF MANSIONS European river cruises have their palaces. On this route, the American Queen gives passengers their choice of 12 southern mansions built in the 1800s. A remarkable range of building styles and stories, often tragic. Some of these mansion visits come with extras like local cuisine, gardens, a costume museum, or a personal tour by the owner. For instance, the owner of Twin Oaks is quite the celebrity chef. She fed us well, told great stories, and gave us the run of her home. Shared her cooking secrets and left everyone with a copy of her colorful 200-page recipe book (Regina’s Kitchen tour). One of our all-time favorite shore excursions anywhere. The key here is pre-trip planning. Choose how to spend your day by studying the mansions’ websites. Even more online detail is available at the National Register of Historic Places. (www.nps.gov/subjects/nationalregister/database-research.htm ) One notable mansion was missing, though, and might be worth adding to the boat’s itinerary. While Hawaii had its well-known colony for leprosy at Molokai, the lesser-known mainland equivalent (the National Leprosarium) was at the old Indian Camp mansion on the Mississippi. Today there’s a driving tour of this former Carville colony. And a museum that tells how federal research at this site found the world a cure in the 1950s. Leprosy could now be treated with pills instead of exile for life. (www.hrsa.gov/hansens-disease/museum ) EVEN A CASTLE Like Europe’s rivers, there’s an old castle on the route: the former state capitol building in Baton Rouge. Just three blocks from the dock. Complete with towers and rooftop battlements. Interior like a gothic cathedral, with arches everywhere and a massive 2000-pane stained-glass dome. And, yes, this is the piece of medieval imitation that Mark Twain lampooned in “Life on the Mississippi.” With sharp language, he urged the state to demolish it and fund a replacement rather than a restoration. Interestingly, the outside looks a lot like the castle logo used by the Army Corps of Engineers. And the inside reminds me of the ornate Victorian decor found in the American Queen’s own Mark Twain Gallery. One wing of this castle now serves as a palatial venue for weddings. Another wing has the state’s Museum of Political History, with its candid look at the monarch-like reign of Governor Huey Long back in the 1930s. (https://exploresouthernhistory.com/louisianacapitol2.html ) The legislature debated Long’s impeachment in this castle. Long then built them an art deco skyscraper that remains the nation’s tallest state capitol building. There Long was shot to death, with some mystery remaining to this day. Historians contemplate how a Huey Long stint as President might have unfolded in the years surrounding World War II (instead of FDR). Long was already a U.S. senator when he was killed. THE 600-MILE ART WALK European river cruises have their art galleries. The American Queen’s version starts on the boat itself. Every public area of the boat is used to display a collection of 66 paintings that detail the history of American river travel. Paintings with a purpose, rather than mere decorations. Ask at the desk and they’ll give you their free booklet for the “Self-Guided Art Tour.” (There’s a “missing” painting, though. The boat needs a copy of Thomas Benton’s 1947 mural of “Achelous and Hercules,” which celebrates the efforts of the Corps of Engineers to tame the flooding Missouri. See https://americanart.si.edu/artwork/achelous-and-hercules-1910 ) Historic Hotels of America says this boat “has the largest private collection of Tiffany lamps in the United States.” And don’t forget to look upward. This is the Gilded Age, and there’s art in those ceilings. Like a sky mural above the Grand Staircase. When the boat docks at Vicksburg, you’re greeted by a series of 32 outdoor murals on the floodwall. (www.riverfrontmurals.com ) One of these murals depicts the deadliest maritime disaster in American history -- more killed than on the Titanic. In 1865, an overloaded troopship exploded near Memphis. The military man in charge was tried in the old courthouse that’s now a Vicksburg museum. After his conviction was reversed, he became a local judge and founded a suburb. Memory of the disaster was overshadowed by other events, that is, Lincoln’s death, Booth’s death, and the end of the Civil War. (Book: Jerry Potter, “The Sultana Tragedy”) Another Vicksburg mural recalls the deadly tornado of 1953 -- went right over the spot where we parked the boat. Locals wrongly assumed that the river protected them from tornados. This was a year before weather radar was invented, and the town’s paper got a Pulitzer for its continued coverage without utilities. (See www.weather.gov/jan/1953_vicksburgtornado ) In New Orleans, the most popular art forms are, of course, the floats and costumes for Mardi Gras. There are at least five museums about the event that are a reasonable distance from the dock. If, like us, your cruise ends upon reaching New Orleans, these are things for you to find, and pay for, on your own. About a mile south of the dock is our favorite: a factory that has built Mardi Gras floats since the 1940s. (www.mardigrasworld.com ) About a mile north of the dock is the Mardi Gras Museum. (www.themardigrasmuseum.com ) The state’s Presbytere museum in the French Quarter focuses on Mardi Gras. There’s also a lesser-known (and free) museum of “royalty” wear in the back of Arnaud’s restaurant -- if you know to ask for access. (www.arnaudsrestaurant.com ) And African American costumes are displayed at the Backstreet Cultural Museum, which is just west of the French Quarter. (www.backstreetmuseum.org ) My favorite commercial art galley (anywhere) is M.S. Rau, on Royal Street in the French Quarter. Many of the paintings and sculptures are found behind a door disguised as a bookcase (seriously). Those in the know can ask to tour that hidden collection. Parts of it are online in the store’s archived exhibition catalogs at www.rauantiques.com/catalogs. (Be sure to check out the one from their “Vice and Virtue” exhibition.) But let’s be candid here. If you can afford to do more than just admire the inventory at M.S. Rau, you probably have your own yacht and aren’t reading this review. MUSEUMS OF SOCIAL JUSTICE Obviously, old mansions along the Mississippi didn’t start out as tourist attractions. Nor were they built by volunteers. On this Deep South route of the American Queen, you’ll find nine museums that focus on slavery and civil rights. Here’s the list: (1) National Civil Rights Museum (Memphis); (2) Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum (Memphis); (3) Cotton Museum (Memphis); (4) Frogmore Plantation (Natchez); (5) Forks of the Road slave market (Natchez); (6) Afro-American Culture Museum (Natchez); (7) William Johnson House (Natchez); (8) Rosedown Plantation (St. Francisville); (9) Oak Alley Plantation (Nottoway). Two further stops have some related nuances if you know a bit of the background. In Vicksburg, the boat’s bus will drop you off at a museum that was the county’s courthouse during the Civil War. A small exhibit in the courtroom recounts an early war crimes trial by the Union army. Nine Union soldiers were hung for killing a plantation owner’s wife during a looting. All nine were black soldiers. (Book: Gordon Cotton [former curator], “The Murder of Minerva Cook”) At St. Francisville, the boat did a bus trip over to the nation’s largest hard-core prison. Known as Angola or “the farm,” it was the American version of Devil’s Island back in the day. Some cite the convict lease system as a covert continuation of slavery up until World War II. (Book: Douglas Blackmon, “Slavery by Another Name”) The media continue to report concerns about conditions at Angola. All agree that the majority of its current inmates are lifers and black. Once again, the key is to choose your stops of interest with some pre-trip surfing of museum websites. One lesser-known civil rights site might be worth adding to the American Queen’s itinerary. During World War II, Japanese Americans were confined at two “relocation centers” near the Mississippi River at McGehee, Arkansas. There were 10 of these wartime camps around the country. McGehee has a museum about the ones there. (http://rohwer.astate.edu ) Once you get to New Orleans, there are some further options that you can arrange on your own. There is the New Orleans self-guided Slave Trade Marker Tour, with its free downloadable app. (www.neworleansslavetrade.org) And at least one company offers a tour about the city’s civil rights movement. (http://toursbyjudy.com ) THE BOAT ITSELF Perhaps the most unusual structure of the trip is the American Queen itself –- the largest paddle wheeler ever made. Back in 1995, the original owner resurrected the Victorian decor of the most lavish riverboats and produced a composite out of modern (much safer) materials. Though the boat’s a replica, it’s still a transportation icon. The missing link between covered wagons and the railroads. Belongs right up there with the Spirit of St. Louis. Before the railroads took over, steamboats like this one took passengers as far west as Montana. There was even a brief effort at running steamboats from Baja up to present-day Las Vegas. The American Queen is indeed propelled by a genuine steam-driven paddle wheel. But two modern propeller pods are available for tight maneuvers and emergencies. Unlike international cruise ships, passenger visits to the bridge (pilot house) and engine room are encouraged rather than forbidden. Due to the noise, you may want to visit the engines during a port stop if you really want to talk with the engineer on duty. There’s a good “steamplant” handout with enough details of the system for most of us. Time aboard the boat feels like a very realistic stage set, or “Night at the Museum.” In fact, the onboard shows and lectures occur in a “Grand Saloon” modeled after Ford’s Theater. A bit smaller, but you can still sit in a balcony box like old Abe did. (The two most forward boxes are open to anyone who gets there first.) I started to search the various public databases for the ship’s listing as a historic property. Then I remembered that this is a replica less than half my age. When it gets older, it should make the cut for the nautical category of the Historic American Engineering Record. The dining room recreates that of a legendary steamboat (J.M. White) whose wreck in the 1800s formed the Maurice Towhead, an island we passed near St. Francisville. Each of the three passenger lounges is a museum in itself, with wall-to-wall antiques, exhibits, artwork, and books related to the period. For serious study of the route, passengers have access to a real chart room (no, it’s not a bar). You even get a chance to play the boat’s steam calliope. Every area of the boat is well air-conditioned. Those who chill easily will need to bring along a sweatshirt (though you can adjust the temperature in your room). SCENERY ALONG THE RIVER On the Mississippi north of St. Louis (not this trip), a boat will transit up to 29 locks (sort of an extended Panama Canal). But our route from Memphis down to New Orleans had no locks or dams. The river south of Memphis is mile after mile of tree-lined banks, often with high levees. With the boat being six decks high, you get the unique perspective of a helicopter flying low and slow above the water. Common traffic on the Mississippi consists of tugboats (towboats) pushing long strings of barges. If you’re curious about life aboard the towboats, the Corps of Engineers has a well-labeled one as a museum by the dock in Vicksburg. With some climbing, you can explore the inside from top to bottom at your own pace. (Don’t miss the exhibit in the engine room about the Army’s construction problems with the “Big Shaky.”) Since there are no locks or dams on this route, there’s usually little to see at night beyond lighted buoys, towboat spotlights, and the silhouette of trees on the banks. However, there was quite the magenta sunset on our last night. Another night had a half-hour show of cloud-to-cloud lightning that rivaled the aurora. New Orleans is the southern end of the line for the American Queen. After New Orleans, the Mississippi River extends through its delta and eventually reaches the ocean. To see this last 100 miles of the river, you’d have to book an international cruise that starts at New Orleans and heads on into the Gulf. STAR OF THE SHOW The river on this route can get pretty monotonous if you don’t know what’s hidden in plain sight. Like the monotony of an opera unless they give you a written translation for following along (libretto). Fortunately, the American Queen has an onboard historian (Jerry Hay) who has authored mile-by-mile guidebooks for every river the boat travels (and a few more). Though designed for boaters, they’re your libretto for appreciating all the local lore you’d otherwise miss. Lots of shipwrecks and military history buried out there. (To buy these books, see www.riverlorian.com.) But you still have to know where you are on the river. Bring along your GPS or smartphone equivalent. A key feature of the trip is the talks that Jerry Hay gives about the river, the boat, and the stops. Since you’re here for the history, he’s the voice of the American Queen, your emcee, and the star of the show. He does up to four talks a day at various spots around the boat, such as the pilot house, chart room, and Grand Saloon. Backwaters all have their backstories, and Jerry Hay sure knows a lot of them. Seems fitting that the American Queen was originally christened by Mr. and Mrs. Paul Harvey. The couple who broadcast “the rest of the story,” what we’d otherwise have missed. (There was a “re-christening” by Priscilla Presley about two decades later.) Despite all the efforts at flood control, the river still seems to get its way much of the time. The charts show abandoned channels, oxbow lakes, and even parts of one state exiled within another state. Congress sets the boundary; nature resets the Mississippi. (See www.semissourian.com/blogs/pavementends/entry/36305 ) The national research center for river control is the huge Corps of Engineers lab that dominates Vicksburg. Since the facility is generally not open to the public, any shore excursion that the American Queen could arrange would be an impressive addition to future itineraries. Taxpayers are often unaware of good things that the government has done with their money. (See www.erdc.usace.army.mil/About/ ) ONBOARD MUSIC Much of the music that we’ve heard on international cruises has musicians playing along to a soundtrack. On the American Queen, 100% of the music on stage was totally live (no soundtracks). Just like the old days. It’s a full onboard band of veteran session musicians from around the country. They do evening shows of American tunes from the last 150 years. Just as enjoyable as the onshore music of the French Quarter. MEALS Except for dinner, meals are self-serve buffets with several basic American entrees. Certainly enough to keep you going, but nothing like the pig-outs with endless variety that you find inside casinos or luxury liners. Self-serve machines are available for your basic soft drinks, coffee, tea, popcorn, and soft ice cream. Each deck has a water fountain (“hydration station”) to fill the sports bottle that they give you at the start of the cruise. If strong, branded coffees (Starbucks, Peets) are part of your life support system, you’ll have to bring you own survival kit from home. Same deal if you insist on bottled water. The boat simply doesn’t have these things. You’ll get free beer and wine with dinner, but alcohol beyond that gets added to your bill. On the other hand, there’s no onboard casino to take your money. Dinner is the only table-service type of meal. You get an assigned time and table for the trip’s duration, and everyone in the room gets every course on the same tight schedule (or you’ve waived that part of the meal). You can, of course, skip this regimen and just do another self-serve buffet for dinner (like breakfast and lunch). Dinner had creative, nicely-presented regional entrees that changed throughout the week. Service was fast, and the food always arrived hot. Our three American waiters were just as skilled, attentive, and charming as the European waiters touted on international cruises. There’s one serious caution for travel agents, though. Two tables in the dining room are positioned directly above machinery whose noise and vibration make it difficult to converse (probably a generator). Travel agents should insist that their customers not be assigned to these two tables –- make it a deal breaker. With the boat pointed forward, the two tables to avoid are found in the forward part of the left side of the dining room. On the deck plan for the dining room, you’ll see an H-shaped service area. Draw a line from (1) the left bottom corner of this H across to (2) the left-side window with a hull access tower outside. Though the dining room may be completely full, the American Queen simply shouldn’t space its tables near this line. Travel agents should alert customers that the American Queen will automatically add on a “gratuities” charge of $37 per day per couple. While we only did a one-week leg, the brochure advertises “epic 16 to 23-day voyages” of the full Mississippi. In other words, they’ll be tacking on roughly $550 to $800 for couples who do the whole river. And, no, you can’t use your onboard credit to pay this add-on noted in the fine print. Since the “gratuities” charge is not based on any individual’s actual performance, it’s just a way of adding payroll to the quoted base fare. Like the unbundled (fragmented) billing of airlines, hospitals, and “resort fee” hotels. Theoretically, the boat says you can get nasty and negotiate this extra charge downward if you feel it’s undeserved. However, if a passenger really feels that abused, the better route might be a travel agent’s post-trip request to the line’s headquarters. THE CABIN For this type of trip, the extra cost for a window or outside entrance wasn’t worth it to us. We picked the cheapest inside cabin they had (no window), and it met our needs. The cabin was just our sleeping room while the boat was moving on to the next day’s stop. Since this was summer in the Deep South, good air conditioning was more important to us than a window. Our room’s air conditioning was effective and adjustable to our liking. However, travel agents should alert customers to a few idiosyncrasies. For instance, our cabin was far from soundproof. We could hear coughs, coat hangars, and conversations in the adjacent cabins. Also, some Deck 3 interior cabins (like ours) are above the Grand Saloon. Choose accordingly if you want silence before the second show ends about 9 pm. And, per the past reviews by others, you may want to sleep away from the laundry room. The instructions on the old room safe are ambiguous and tricky. You may want to ask the desk to translate before you throw all your goodies in there. You have to use your metal key to lock the door when you leave your room. It doesn’t automatically lock like modern hotel doors. Minimal towels were provided in our bathroom. So plan for that contingency (maybe bring along a roll of paper towels). The room’s free wireless Internet worked well with our PC. But we didn’t have cell phone coverage unless we opened the door a little. Probably not an issue for the outside rooms with a window. BOTTOM LINE There are endless things to see and ponder along this route, if you know where to find them. If I had my cruising retirement to do over, I’d spend more time in my own country, do more pre-trip homework, and take more trips like this one. Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
I was always looking at Mississippi River cruises, but they seemed too expensive. My husband and I usually cruise in the Carribean on ships that have a lot of attractions. Oasis,Allure) Then,Cruise Critic advertised this cruise The ... Read More
I was always looking at Mississippi River cruises, but they seemed too expensive. My husband and I usually cruise in the Carribean on ships that have a lot of attractions. Oasis,Allure) Then,Cruise Critic advertised this cruise The American Queen is small compared to large cruise ships (425 abt.) but all the luxuries were there. Great food in the dining room, the informal buffet at dinner time always had prime rib, and a great fish and chicken offerings The entertainment was superb. The troop may only had four people, but they were extremely talented. The ship had resident jazz band who played at the shows, and late nights sessions in one of the bars. The historian on board was also good We embarked in New Orleans, and the ship provided one night in a central hotel. When we got to a port, we were provided with a hop/on bus which brings you to the attractions, with the entry feee already paid. We could not get to all the attractions. The ship is decorated in high Victorian style Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
I chose this cruise because a group of 18 of us wanted to cruise on a riverboat. This group cruises frequently but never a riverboat. Nothing about this cruise line is current. You can't even make online reservations. We had planned ... Read More
I chose this cruise because a group of 18 of us wanted to cruise on a riverboat. This group cruises frequently but never a riverboat. Nothing about this cruise line is current. You can't even make online reservations. We had planned and booked everything before boarding, premium excursions, private cocktail reception. After boarding no one at the customer service desk or tour desk seemed to know what they were doing. Everyday our group had to go to the desk about issues. We paid top price for a private reception before the cruise, they didn't have this booked onboard, even after we confirmed and went to the room for the reception, they still didn't know anything about it. The cabins are so tiny, dingy, lack of storage and not worth the price that we paid for this cruise. The dining room service was horrible, they simply didn't care. The towns that we stopped in are mostly small and not much to see. Glad we booked premium tours that actually went somewhere else. Disembarkation was very confusing, they really didn't tell you what to do, you just followed other cruisers that kind of knew what to do. The 'Local riveratarion' turned out to be the same man that does the lighting in the theater!! Nothing local about that, he shared his very political opinions, that were not always appropriate. Sorry American Queen our group won't be back. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
My husband and I took this cruise as a celebration of our 25th anniversary. We cruised from New Orleans to Memphis. Pros: excellent food and wait staff. large variety of entrees and dietary needs met. clean staterooms, ... Read More
My husband and I took this cruise as a celebration of our 25th anniversary. We cruised from New Orleans to Memphis. Pros: excellent food and wait staff. large variety of entrees and dietary needs met. clean staterooms, common areas (except the sticky laminate flooring) variety of hourly activities variety of Premium Excursions Cons: Only one location for dinner, even though alternate venue was advertised average age of cruisers on our cruise looked to be 75 activities geared more to the older crowd, including musical shows in evening cost of Premium Excursions included excursions need to be updated. Several stops had little to see 18.5% per person per day gratutites added at end of voyage(not included in cost) Hotel in New Orleans (included) was filthy This was our first cruise and didn’t know what to expect. There was a lot of “hurry up” then wait, especially since there were so many cruisers with mobility issues.We will not return. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
As experienced ocean cruisers we chose this cruise up the Mississippi in late April to see some southern states before the summer heat. This year the heavy spring rains within the Mississippi watershed had created major upstream flooding; ... Read More
As experienced ocean cruisers we chose this cruise up the Mississippi in late April to see some southern states before the summer heat. This year the heavy spring rains within the Mississippi watershed had created major upstream flooding; however, the only impact to our cruise was two of our docks were damaged and unusable and one of our planned stops was canceled. Overall, the cruise was great and certainly met my expectations. The staff was great. The entertainment exceeded my expectations and the river historian dded a lot of knowledge to the cruise. The food was good and with great variety. Only complaint was a couple of servings on the lukewarm side. Also, serving sizes were noticeably smaller which did not impact me in the slightest. There certainly was plenty of food. Our cabin was good and very comfortable. The bathroom was good size with a great shower! The internet services were free and far superior to our ocean cruises. The highlight of the shore excursions was the visit to Chef Regina Charboneau's home in Natchez. She is absolutely delightful, a very entertaining guest, and we got a beautifully autographed copy of her latest cook book! Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
I always wanted to visit New Orleans and my companion had always wanted to go down/up the Missisipi River. This cruise offered the best of both worlds. Unfortunately i was disapointed to find that the food was not always of good quality ... Read More
I always wanted to visit New Orleans and my companion had always wanted to go down/up the Missisipi River. This cruise offered the best of both worlds. Unfortunately i was disapointed to find that the food was not always of good quality and did not cater well for vegetarians. Unfortunately there was also a lot of fried fish rather than fresh fish. There were also times when the boat ran out of basics such as English Breakfast tea and some herbal teas. Most of the staff however were very good, very helpful and friendly. The hop on and off tours were rather interesting however in some of the towns; Greenville especially there was not much to see, and what we did see while being of some interest had been covered earlier on in the tour some museums were random and disjointed in there collections. Perhaps if you stayed in one of the bigger towns for longer of even arrived earlier in Memphis. However i have had overall a good experience. The staff were especially welcoming and helpful. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Cruised before on the American Queen. Loved the service and staff. 5 stars. Thought the Empress might be similar and it was just as good, maybe considering the scenery, better. First, the cabin. Knowing that the cabins on these boats ... Read More
Cruised before on the American Queen. Loved the service and staff. 5 stars. Thought the Empress might be similar and it was just as good, maybe considering the scenery, better. First, the cabin. Knowing that the cabins on these boats tend toward being a bit smaller and knowing that the weather would be cold and rainey, we opted for one of the biggest cabins onboard, 704. Cabin was large and comfortable, well decorated, lots of storage. Yes, you've heard that the bathrooms are small - they are, but certainly not the big deal that some reviewers thought. Not an issue for us in the least. Yes, the walls are thin and you can hear next door's TV and the toilets flush. Again, not a biggie, and not bothersome for us. You know these things going into this cruise and if you think it is a problem (it is not), well it just comes with the territory. Some of the TV bleed through could be avioded if the speakers were not inside the TV cabinet, against the wall where they would use the wall as a sounding board. But again, it did not impact upon this 5-star cruise. Food was mostly excellant. Never had a meal that was less than a 9+, and most were a "10." Had lobster 3 nights (two in the River Grill). Steaks were supurb. Wines were very good, although I thought the house red could have been better. That said, we had the drink package and had the upgraded wine list to choose from. I'm nit picking here, but if you were on the drink package and wanted the better wines, it took the staff forever to get it to our table. Again, this is nit picking. Service: It simply does not get any better. We have been on 40+ cruises, mostly on upscale lines, and American Queen and Empress are the best. Never saw anything but smiles, and they were real. Staff seemed to enjoy themselves as much as the guests. Their simply was nothing that they could not do to make your cruise even better. As an example, American Airlines as usual lost our luggage for a couple of days. The hotel manager (purser's office) actually drove back from Clarkston to Spokane in the middle of the night (a four-hour round trip) to retrieve our luggage. We actually had a similar experience on the "Queen" several years back that sold us on this company. On board entertainment was certainly not Broadway (you will need RCCL large ships for that), but considering the venue, the singers and band - supurb. If you like 50s, 60s, and 70s music, this is for you. Throughly enjoyed every evening's entertainment. Tours: First, the scenery is absolutely spectacular throughout the entire trip. Jet boat to Hell's Canyon had great staff, lovely scenery and commentary, but I though it was an hour or so too long. Still, well worth while. The trip to the nuclear plant was again great, although the guides explanation was a bit too technical for me, and I was a physics major, The lunch boxes are made in China would you believe. The Falls: again some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever viewed. Well worth while. The HOHO bus tours: The first couple of towns were really small, not much for us to see and do. Astoria, however, was well worth walking the downtown area. I've given Fitness and recreation only one star, but that really is not fair, as I knew going into this that there was not gym (thankfully). It is really as "n/a." Would I do this again? In a heartbeat! Thank you AQSSC. Frank. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
This cruise was chosen by a neighbor in my community, Sun City Palm Desert California, who organizes group trips. I was fortunate to be invited to join the group, and because I was cruising without my husband (who stayed at home with our ... Read More
This cruise was chosen by a neighbor in my community, Sun City Palm Desert California, who organizes group trips. I was fortunate to be invited to join the group, and because I was cruising without my husband (who stayed at home with our dog), I was paired with a roommate who is also a neighbor in our community. There were 34 people in our group. The cruise we were on is the Lower Mississippi departing from Memphis and terminating in New Orleans with stops in Helena, Arkansas; Vicksburg, and Natchez, Mississippi; Baton Rouge, St. Francisville, and Nottoway Plantation, Louisiana. However, because the Mississippi is flooding at this time, our itinerary was altered extensively. There were no complaints about this that I heard, and myself and everyone I talked to enjoyed every day. We spent the first night in Memphis at the Peabody Hotel; this overnight is part of the cruise package. The hotel is old, charming, and delightful especially if you are able to see the ducks paraded through the lobby and into the fountain. They stay all day and then are paraded back to their quarters on the roof of the hotel in the evening. The next morning, we were bused to Graceland for the Elvis Experience. This is an additional “Premium Tour” offered by the American Queen Steamboat Company. I highly recommend doing this tour; it is a must for anyone who ever enjoyed an Elvis song. Due to the flooding, our boat could not dock and depart from Memphis, so we were bused to Greenville, Mississippi, for our departure. This was about a two-hour bus ride. That evening, we boarded our boat, American Duchesse, and enjoyed dinner in the main dining room. The menu there is extensive, dining is leisurely and the food is delicious. Alternatives to the main dining room are a buffet for breakfast and lunch serviced in a bar called the River Club at the rear of the boat, and snacks and beverages available 24/7 in a little room called Perks at the front of the boat. Room service is also offered, but I didn’t have a need for it. The buffet meals in the River Club are outstanding and are perfect when you want a quick meal. Also, you can eat outside on the rear deck if you eat at the River Club. Fruit, soft serve ice cream, popcorn, sandwiches, cookies, pastries and all kinds of beverages are offered in Perks. You literally cannot go hungry on this boat, and the food is wonderful. Actually, we spent two nights in Greenville, then Vicksburg, Mississippi; Vidalia, Baton Rouge, New Roads, Louisiana; and the last day of our cruise was spent cruising the Mississippi between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Buses meet the boat at every stop offering what is called Hop On Hop Off tours of that particular area’s highlights. This service is included in the cost of the cruise. There are Premium Tours offered at every stop that seemed to range between $79-$129. These are exceptional tours and well worth the additional cost. Some are half-day and some are full-day. My roommate and I had a veranda room which I took full advantage of. Nothing beats sitting on the veranda and watching the world go by. There are areas for doing this all over the boat in the front, in the back and on the very top of the boat called the sun roof. Highlights of this cruise for me were the meals, the historian who offered talks everyday about the Mississippi, the Mark Twain impersonator who performed twice, the visit to Graceland, the visit to BB King’s Museum and Bar, many beautiful sights offered by the Hop On Hop Off buses tours, and especially the Premium Tour to Angola Louisiana State Penitentiary. This last item may sound strange, but be assured it is an uplifting and eye-opening experience. Most of all, though, I enjoyed just being on the boat. The cruise staff are friendly, helpful, outgoing and accommodating. That includes the Captain, officers, pursers, performers, tour guides, bus drivers, dining staff and cleaning staff. We all got to be family for the brief week that we were together. You could do this cruise all by yourself and not be alone, or you can have all the privacy you want. The bottom line, I guess, is would I do this or any cruise on the American Queen Steamboat again; you bet I would. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
This was a 4-night "add-on" to the end of the normal cruise season. The price was irrestible, plus the convenience of being a round-trip cruise. We'd previously done the traditional 8-day, one-way trip up the Columbia on ... Read More
This was a 4-night "add-on" to the end of the normal cruise season. The price was irrestible, plus the convenience of being a round-trip cruise. We'd previously done the traditional 8-day, one-way trip up the Columbia on this boat. Earlier this year, we did a lower Mississippi cruise on the American Queen. AQSC is a "class act", and we love the company. I hope they will expand to other rivers. There is hope, as AQSC just acquired another cruise line. It helps that AQSC's parent company is in the maritime business, so this isn't just another piece of a conglomerate empire. I am trying to not sound like a company shill, so am being nit-picky about my complaints. With most cruise lines, they would be "lost in the noise" of other issues. AQSC's cruises are not cheap. Their boats are built and registered in the U.S. That means that they must meet a higher standard of health and safety regulations than foreign-flagged vessels. Also, all crewmembers must be legal to work n the U.S. Their smaller vessels do not offer the economies of scale enjoyed by lines with larger ships (Carnival, NCL, Celebrity, etc.). The smaller size, and nature of operations, preclude ancillary income opportunities, such as spas, casinos, art galleries, tourist photos, and premium restaurants. Some cruise ships have more than 20 times as many passengers as the AE. Over the years, I've spoken to many AQSC employees. Uniformly, they seem to enjoy working for the company, and feel valued and well-treated. The boat's staff, including non-public folks, such as engineering and deck divisions, seem focused on a pleasant experience for the guests. I wish that I'd been as happy during my careers (military pilot, airline pilot, and aerospace engineering analyst). I have some very minor complaints, described in the "Cabin" section. Also, the Wi-Fi is very weak, and often so slow as to be unusable. Mostly, I used my cell's hotspot. However, the desktop computers in the Paddlewheel Lounge were okay. Considering that nearly every other cruise line charges exhorbitant fees for slow Internet access, it's not much of a complaint. I did find it interesting that, when my devices connected to the AE's Internet service, the internal clocks synchronized to Central Time (company's headquarters). Because of the nature of this add-on cruise, Portland was one of the ports. Rather than the usual Hop-On, Hop-Off cruise, the AE's buses were used for a "2-hour city tour". It was interesting and done well. The only odd part was a 1/2-hour visit to Washington Park. We weren't told that we would be leaving the bus. Not everyone was prepared for a walk in the rain. Otherwise, these HOHO bus excursions are an outstanding idea, and a signature perk for AQSC. Generally, we don't take the premium excursions, because the HOHO ones are so good, and I don't want to miss in-port activities on the boat. Since this cruise was very different from others on this boat, some of the guidance was more relevant to other cruises than this one. That caused a bit of confusion, but nothing major. Again, I'm trying hard to find fault with this cruise. "It ain't easy". For the size of the vessel, entertainment was outstanding. The Cruise Director, Greg, did "double-duty" as a singer. A few of the songs weren't a good match for his very talented voice, but I would assign him an "A" grade as a singer and "A+" as Cruise Director. Jordan Gonzalez is a new addition to the staff, and was spectacular. Besides assisting Greg in both roles, she is a talented singer with a very versatile voice. The house band's main job is to support the singers. They did that very well. It's difficult to describe Laurence Cotton, the "Riverlorian". He was on our first AE cruise. Columbia River and Northwest history aren't a job or a hobby for him -- they're a passion that is infectious. I attended every one of his events, even missing some other interesting ones. I dunno about his counterpart for other cruises, but I would definitely pick a cruise on which he's working. I can't say enough good about him!!! Overall, AQSC's cruises (we've also cruised on the American Queen) are very close to "all-inclusive". Bottled water is widely available. Unlimited Northwest beers and wines are available with dinner. Cocktails are reasonably-priced. There is no pressure to purchase cocktails in the bars. The servers are equally happy to provide you with alcohol or glasses of water. We often had water, after having enough wine with dinner to last the evening. My sense is that AQSC views alcoholic drinks as a service to their guests, rather than as a source of income. Ditto for the premium excursions -- there's no pressure to sign up for them. We (traveled with another couple) signed up for dinner in the River Grille on the first night, assuming that others wouldn't. We guessed correctly, as it was nearly vacant. It is the buffet dining area for breakfast and lunch, but the alternative (reservations required) dining venue for dinner. The menu is very appealing, but constant throughout the cruise. I enjoyed a mouth-watering dinner of lobster tail. Yummy! The rest of our party enjoyed their meals. We ate other dinners in the Astoria dining room. Service there ranged from good to excellent. The cuisine was great, with many menu choices available for each meal. The buffet breakfast was comparable to that in many hotels, but included made-to-order omelets. Lunch had many choices, and was as good as a buffet can be. Soft-serve ice cream is available at any time in the River Grille. Snacks are available in the Paddlewheel Lounge from 3 to 5. Popcorn is available for a few hours more. I felt that the popcorn was too salty, though some might disagree. Even so, I would have preferred that it be available from late morning until the evening entertainment ended. Probably because of the price, the size of the vessel, and the orientation of the amenities, this isn't a cruise for children or for young adults looking for excitement. Passengers who aren't eligible for Medicare will be in a minority, though they're unlikely to feel like misfits. The entertainment is generally done by 10pm, unlike cruise ships that appeal to younger folks. Events happen at the scheduled time, which I appreciate, coming from a military and airline background. I'm frustrated by live performances ashore that seem to start a minimum of 10 minutes late. I tried hard to have more complaints to share with you, but I failed. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
AQSC has river cruising figured out. The Duchess is an awesome vessel and continues the tradition of first class river cruising started by her mother, the American Queen. Our cruise from Nashville to Chattanooga on the Cumberland and ... Read More
AQSC has river cruising figured out. The Duchess is an awesome vessel and continues the tradition of first class river cruising started by her mother, the American Queen. Our cruise from Nashville to Chattanooga on the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers was very relaxing and historical and the scenery was beautiful. Even though the Duchess is not nearly as big as the Queen, she is very elegant and well laid out. Large cabins, sufficient public spaces, excellent dining, impeccable service and excellent entertainment are some of the attributes that make this a nearly perfect vessel to explore America's great rivers. Entertainment trio of Dustin, Courtney and Jeff did a fantastic job each night and are some of the hardest working entertainers we have witnessed. We appreciated that they performed music from the 50's and 60's. The riverlorian, Mike, gave daily informative, interesting and entertaining talks about the river history, lore, navigation and other subjects. Teresa did an awesome job with our daily shore excursions and hop on hop off itinerary. We love AQSC and always look forward to our next cruise on America's rivers on either the Queen, the Duchess and hopefully, the Empress. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We chose this in order to see the Southern states of USA .We are experienced cruisers .The moment we set foot on this boat we knew it was not going to be very good.The boat smells musty and damp .When we were shoen the cabin I wanted to ... Read More
We chose this in order to see the Southern states of USA .We are experienced cruisers .The moment we set foot on this boat we knew it was not going to be very good.The boat smells musty and damp .When we were shoen the cabin I wanted to leave .We had Suite 509 .It was shabby,depressing ,dark and poorly equipped .We tried to change but the boat was full . The experience in the dining room the first evening confirmed our thoughts .The maitred Oscar told us we had assigned seating on a big table when in fact we had booked a table for two .He insisted we hadn’t and said that there was nothing he could do and suggested we changed to early dinner to get a table for two .We went to the pursers desk,complained and amazingly a table for two appeared .The dining experience was poor .Poor quality food,poorly presented,always cold the worst we have experienced in 25 years of cruising on all kinds of boats and ships .Information on disembarking was incorrect and cost us 20 dollars for a transfer to a hotel we didn’t want when we were told there were no taxis allowed in the port on that day .This was utter rubbish as we saw lots of people getting taxis from the port .A very expensive,disappointing experience .We do not recommend it .Better to drive the route and stay in some of the amazing plantation houses . Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We had driven through the Columbia Gorge, but wanted to see it up close at a gentle pace. Our trip started in Spokane. One night at the Historic Davenport Hotel was included in the trip. We opted for an extra night and were glad about ... Read More
We had driven through the Columbia Gorge, but wanted to see it up close at a gentle pace. Our trip started in Spokane. One night at the Historic Davenport Hotel was included in the trip. We opted for an extra night and were glad about that. The Historic Davenport Hotel is a destination in its own right. Registration was at the hotel. The next day we went by bus to Clarkston, where we boarded the Empress. We had a "deluxe veranda stateroom" which was cozy but efficient. The dining was very good to excellent. This website's review expressed disappointment that regional wines were not served with dinner. Clearly, the parent company heard that, because we had wines from a different regional winery every night. The entertainment exceeded our expectations. On a ship this size the music team has to be small (seven in all, I think), but they did a great job. The "Rock and Roll Dance Party" on the next to last night sounded corny, but it was a blast. Many crew members joined passengers on the dance floor. The Hop-on Hop-off buses worked very well. We took three premium tours, which delivered what they promised. I must comment on the friendly staff. Everyone on the ship worked hard to make our trip memorable. We were taken by how many staffers learned and remembered our names. The entertainers were friendly and approachable. The Riverlorian's lectures were always interesting. After this trip, ask me anything about Lewis and Clark! (Honestly, if you aren't interested in learning about Lewis and Clark, take a different cruise. That expedition's history permeates every port of call.) Definitely not a cruise for children, unless they were teens who are fascinated by history. The WiFi was mostly a bust. After a bit, we decided that this would be a great week to drop out of the daily news cycle anyway. Would we go again? Yes. We could do all the same day trips and take in different sites everywhere. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
Seeing the mighty Mississippi has been on our list, if only for the size and its place in history. We travelled from Australia to cruise on the American Queen for a 9 night Lower Mississippi New Orleans to Memphis itinerary. Cruise ... Read More
Seeing the mighty Mississippi has been on our list, if only for the size and its place in history. We travelled from Australia to cruise on the American Queen for a 9 night Lower Mississippi New Orleans to Memphis itinerary. Cruise included a first night stopover in New Orleans at the very convenient Riverfront Hilton, which had a pre-checkin facility, which was easy to do. We did our own exploring rather than used the optional premium tours. First view of the boat tied up was impressive, the Queen is certainly a big boat and certainly looks like a riverboat of bygone days. On boarding day we climbed aboard and went directly to our state room, Dining was a treat, the Dining room was well appointed and we had a set 2 person table for dinner, which was a mixed thing in that we did not mix with other guests much. Staff attention was good and the food very good to excellent, with nicely sized portions. All the bar staff were very good and the River Grill/Calliope Bar on deck 5 became a favourite, where you can view the large river and all on it and the mesmerizing rear paddle wheel. Ensure that you go down to the engine room to actually see the steam engines at work, again the duty staff were just too happy to answer questions. Dining options also include the more casual Front Porch with a nice open air and some inside dining tables which often was the lunch choice, to enjoy the outside weather and views of the river. On our trip we chose only a couple of the option excursions, both of which were quite good, with the Laura Plantation at the Nottoway stop being a standout. The Vicksburg Battlefield tour gave a great overview of the siege of 1863. Included Hop on Hop tours at the ports of call cover the stops quite nicely, but we chose to walk into most ports of call, but caution some of these are some distance so this method is not for everybody. We are a late 50's couple so the demographic of the cruisers on our trip was largely quite senior, which was largely within expectations, met some really nice folks from all over the US, Canada and fellow Antipodeans. Highly recommend the daily Riverlorian talks, Bobby Durham, the Riverlorian on our trip was terrific and very entertaining with his presentations on river history, geographics, commerce and folk lore. The entertainment was not quite our scene but the 4 performers and resident band were able to put on a good show for the presentations we attended, with the timings set so that both dinner sittings could partake if they desired. This type of cruise is a more laid back type, there are vast stretches of river where all you see is riverside forest with occasional industrial works and many, many working barges. The Mississippi is still largely a working river. There are not a lot of riverside towns, What was fascinating to watch the way that the often very large barges and their Tow navigate this winding river. Disembarkation appeared to be quite seamless, we chose the independent option, where our bags were moved to the Memphis terminal, we walked off and picked them up and proceeded off to our hotel, not choosing the post cruise options We feel we would quite possibly travel American Queen Steamboat again. Our expectation was to watch this river go by and get an appreciation for the part the Mississippi played in driving the US expansion and economy in the 1800's and indeed today. That is exactly what the cruise provided. Having a great room, great food and terrific staff was a bonus. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
Although we are listing a bunch of issues that we encountered, we had a great time on our Memphis to New Orleans cruise. The cabin, dining, staff, hop on-off and premium excursions met and/or exceeded our expectations. The Peabody and ... Read More
Although we are listing a bunch of issues that we encountered, we had a great time on our Memphis to New Orleans cruise. The cabin, dining, staff, hop on-off and premium excursions met and/or exceeded our expectations. The Peabody and Intercontinental hotel selections were excellent choices. But, as a passenger with mobility issues, the following items are presented and if remedied would make the Duchess an ideal selection for those with physical impairments. American Duchess embark process was cumbersome - lengthy lines and 2 different stations to get through. We were on the 3rd deck and got a notice in the a.m. that balconies would be washed between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. - open balcony curtain at 8 a.m. and the crew was already washing our balcony. In the afternoon we went to stern, 2nd deck, to find that the dirt from the 3rd deck was washed onto 2nd deck rockers and chairs making them unusable. The rockers were never cleaned. The bow stacks, which are for decoration only, were up and down as required for clearance. The stern stacks were stuck in a down position which, when engines engaged, blew carbon flakes on our balcony (and us, when we were sitting there). Most of the guests were senior citizens like us and a few, including me, had mobility issues. The bow elevator was closed for maintenance during the entire cruise leaving guests to walk to middle of the boat to access the only working elevators. The rug on the sun deck had significant bumpy areas which present a dangerous trip hazard even during the daylight hours. The cabin maintenance staff left their vacuum cords unsecured when vacuums were in the hallway aisles. It was a pretty common experience where we had to step over these cords. When we were still in port in Memphis the Duchess was experiencing power issues - lights flickering, etc. A beaker finally blew when we ported in Natchez, requiring us to stay in port there for an extra day, missing out on our Baton Rouge stop. While the captain and cruise crew made the extra day as comfortable as possible we did miss on of our most-looked-for destinations and our all day Cajun experience. The open bar and adding a Natchez excursion helped but we were very disappointed in missing Baton Rouge. Read Less
Sail Date September 2018
We chose this cruise as a way of exploring the deep south in some luxury. It was very expensive at over £1000 per night per cabin but we thought that the quality of service would be at least equivalent to a European river cruise or an ... Read More
We chose this cruise as a way of exploring the deep south in some luxury. It was very expensive at over £1000 per night per cabin but we thought that the quality of service would be at least equivalent to a European river cruise or an American sea cruise such as Holland America or Princess. It was nowhere near up to this standard, especially the catering and waiting staff. Firstly, the positives. A great way to see the Mississippi and absorb the history and culture. Our balcony room was good, the entertainment was fine. The food was decidedly average apart from 2 delicious evening meals, a steak on the first night and a fish dish half way through. When attending for a meal, you have to wait to be seated, quite often 10 minutes standing first in line whilst the manager serves water or hands out menus. Despite waiting long times for service, food was often served lukewarm or sometimes cold. We saw numerous occasions when waiting staff were on their mobiles (no, Steamboat Company, this was not the food ordering devices, we can tell the difference). We constantly had to ask for rolls, cutlery etc. This is not the staffs' fault but that of the management who either didn't care about high standards or didn't know what it was (difficult to imagine since we were in America). I don't think there was a single tea spoon on the boat, had to stir coffee with the knife handle! Enough on catering, except to say that the upstairs evening dining room was freezing cold and very uninviting. booking is required despite it being half empty. We only went once. Half way down the river, the boat broke down. A common theme it seems. There were power cuts every day even after the "fault" had been fixed. So we were stranded in the quietest part of the river with nothing to do but read all afternoon. That meant that we missed out on Baton Rouge, the largest town (city) on the trip downriver. I later discovered that the boat was only 22 miles from BR so why on earth did they not hire some coaches to transport us in and back. Not difficult but, as far as I am aware, not even considered. I just wish I had had the foresight to ask. So we were just supposed to accept a major port was excluded. Compensation? A free bar for an hour (2 drinks) and 1 opportunity to win $500 dollars at bingo. Think carefully about this cruise line that seem to accept that you are a captive audience and they have very little competition so, why bother? Read Less
Sail Date September 2018
I am working for two ladies in their late 80's as their caregiver on board the ship, but one of them is my employer. I work for her as an all around helper ,cook,driver and maintenance man. But before that i took care of her husband ... Read More
I am working for two ladies in their late 80's as their caregiver on board the ship, but one of them is my employer. I work for her as an all around helper ,cook,driver and maintenance man. But before that i took care of her husband for 4 years until he passed away. Fortunately she kept me on and I still work for her. Once a year she and her sister in law go on vacation for a week and take me with them as a helper. They got me my own stateroom on the boat. It's a very wonderful experience for me and hoping one day I can do it again with my wife. The crews are excellent and the boat is nice and clean. All the hop on hop off buses were so convenient and always on time. Even the tour guides at each location are locals, so they are very knowledgeable about the area. Unfortunately , I had one bad experience from other co-passengers. For I am a man with two senior ladies and some of them gave me the eye and a few questioned me about my relationship with the ladies. But on the final days of the cruise ,they seemed to understand the situation and complimented me with some nice words. All I can say that this cruise is highly recommended for more mature people and who love to learn about the past. Thanks for the excellent job ! and to Captain Ron Gray for choosing us to be invited to have dinner with him.That was very special. Keep up the good work and I will surely try other rivercruises of your company in the future. May Godbless you all ! And I want to share with you some great photos of mine on the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2018
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