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197 American Queen Steamboat Company North America River Cruise Reviews

We both wanted to see a part of the United States that we hadn't seen before and a steamboat tour seemed the best idea. Although we knew that the weather would be hot and humid, it wasn't that terrible and most of the places were ... Read More
We both wanted to see a part of the United States that we hadn't seen before and a steamboat tour seemed the best idea. Although we knew that the weather would be hot and humid, it wasn't that terrible and most of the places were air conditioned. We spent an additional night in Memphis at the start of the cruise. Embarkation was smooth because of early check in the day before. We went on this cruise with long time friends who also thought this was one of the best cruises they had been on too. While the cabins are small, there is so much to do that you don't spend much time in your cabin. I can't say enough about the entertainment, especially the Ensemble. We went to see them each time and loved the way their voices blended together and they were in sync with their choreography. They seemed to really enjoy each other and what they were doing. Especially enjoyed watching Hannah interact with passengers. Liz in the dining room made the meals for us. She was so personable and remembered everything we told her about ourselves. We enjoyed all of our meals on the boat. While some of the ports seemed depressed, the sites that we saw on our hop on hop off buses were great. We went on the post cruise too in New Orleans and found it was well worth the money. We especially liked the World War II museum. I had not initially been planning on going there but was so glad I did. I think everyone should see this museum. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
We just finished cruising the Mississippi on the American Queen Riverboat. What a wonderful trip we had. The food was excellent and they have great selections. If you have special dietary needs they go out of the way to prepare them for ... Read More
We just finished cruising the Mississippi on the American Queen Riverboat. What a wonderful trip we had. The food was excellent and they have great selections. If you have special dietary needs they go out of the way to prepare them for you.The service is impeccable . Beer & wine is free with dinner. There are plenty of activities on the boat and free hop on/hop off excursions that are free in each river port you stop. There are also premium excursions that you buy. We did Angola Prison, A Plantation, and the Vicksburg Civil War Battlegrounds. All are excellent. The entertainment is above any other boat I have been on by far. They are shows nightly and one is better than the other. There was also a sock hop and karaoke nights which are a lot of fun. Music in the bar afterwards as well. And if you just want to relax, you can sit on the front porch in a nice rocking chair, spend some time in the Mark Twain library or just wander the beautiful boat. You just might run into Mark Twain. We will definitely book another trip soon. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
We have long wanted to visit New Orleans and explore towns along the lower Mississippi, so this itinerary was perfect. We opted for the add-on "City Stay" offered by the cruise line. Only one other couple chose this option...it ... Read More
We have long wanted to visit New Orleans and explore towns along the lower Mississippi, so this itinerary was perfect. We opted for the add-on "City Stay" offered by the cruise line. Only one other couple chose this option...it was pricey and did not really offer much more than the basic trip (One night hotel stay is included with the trip, so in effect, this choice only added on one more day.) There were vouchers for a dinner, and admission to some local attractions, as well as a hotel more centrally located and a New Orleans Highlights excursion before embarkation. Embarkation and disembarkation was perhaps the smoothest we've ever witnessed. The ship itself is wonderful, and the staff was extremely friendly and helpful. Service was top notch, as was the entertainment. It was interesting to visit the towns where we docked. We sometimes opted for the included "Hop on-Hop off" bus, and also purchased additional premium excursions at two of the ports, Nottoway and Vicksburg. You get a real feel for the way of life in these towns, and the residents were very friendly and accommodating. Having read some reviews that criticized the food on board, we were not sure what to expect in this regard. However, these fears were misplaced, because every meal was absolutely delicious...as good if not better than what we have experienced on other upscale cruises. Overall, we found this entire experience to be excellent, and are already looking into our next trip with American Queen Sreamboat Company. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
We chose this cruise to see the Pacific Northwest. It was good, except for the nightmarish first day with no air conditioning and a toilet that did not work! UGH! We were moved (to a lesser room) and after that things were OK. The ... Read More
We chose this cruise to see the Pacific Northwest. It was good, except for the nightmarish first day with no air conditioning and a toilet that did not work! UGH! We were moved (to a lesser room) and after that things were OK. The company offered no compensation for this awful experience. The company is still working things out with meals, excursions, but acceptable. The waiter spilled beer all over my wife's clothing one night and she had to leave the dinner. I wrote to the CEO and never received even the courtesy of a response. Thus this review. I would be fearful of using the ship again. The Riverlorian and entertainment were very good. We are veteran travelers and not much gets our attention, but this surely did, what a way to run a business!! The Pacific Northwest is rich in nature and natural sights, but sparse in tourist destinations, most seem forced with little to offer, although they are trying. For the money, and no consideration when they screw up, the value is not there Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
We have always wanted to cruise the Mississippi River and go on a small ship so this seemed perfect. Pro's Food was very good with a nice variety to choose from each night. Wait staff was excellant. Shows were the same ... Read More
We have always wanted to cruise the Mississippi River and go on a small ship so this seemed perfect. Pro's Food was very good with a nice variety to choose from each night. Wait staff was excellant. Shows were the same 3 people each night but they were very good and gave us quite a variety. Hop on hop off bus and drivers were great. Used those at every port as they were included in price of cruise. All ports but Greenville were interesting. Con's Ship very small and not much to do. Room was at back of ship near the paddlewheel and was very noisy! The port of Greenville was a total waste of time-there has to be some place else they could stop. Only thing there was a very small casino. To give you an idea-one of the stops on the hop on hop off bus was the Dollar Store! I don't really feel this cruise was worth the price we paid, but it was something different than the othere cruises we normally go on. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
My wife and I, along with four other couples, sailed the American Empress from Spokane to Portland on May 20, 2018. This was our third cruise with American Queen Steamboat Company. We had previously done the Upper Mississippi and Nashville ... Read More
My wife and I, along with four other couples, sailed the American Empress from Spokane to Portland on May 20, 2018. This was our third cruise with American Queen Steamboat Company. We had previously done the Upper Mississippi and Nashville to Memphis on the American Queen. DAY 1: American Queen provides your first night stay at the historic Davenport Hotel. The hotel shuttle which we had reserved thru the hotel ($25 per room) was waiting for us and quickly delivered us to the hotel. The hotel is beautiful and we enjoyed lunch in the Grill. The prime rib French dip sandwich was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. We completed our ship check-in, enjoyed dinner and walked a few blocks to see Spokane Falls. DAY 2: The next morning, following a buffet breakfast provided by American Queen, we took the Spokane City Tour Premium Excursion. We returned to the hotel around noon which gave us time to check out and eat lunch before boarding the bus for the two hour drive to Clarkston. If you choose not to take the extra-cost city tour, the morning is yours until it is time to board the bus to Clarkston. After boarding the boat, one member of our group went to make reservations for the River Grill “specialty” dining and another member went to the dining room to request a table for ten for the entire cruise. During dinner we had a short cruise on the river before returning to the dock. DAY 3: Still in Clarkston, following breakfast we did the hop-on, hop-off bus before returning for lunch on our veranda. Our group had four adjacent cabins on the Vista Deck. Outside each cabin were two chairs and a small table. A low railing separated the veranda from the walking deck and there was a metal partition between each veranda. At our request, the deck crew removed the metal partitions between our cabins so the area was open and we could all sit out and talk to each other. We went thru our first lock this afternoon which lowered us 100 feet. Following dinner we enjoyed the evening show and spent about 45 minutes chatting with the performers after the show. It’s great being on a small ship where the crew and entertainers know your names after the first day. The weather has been perfect although it’s been warmer than we expected. DAY 4: When we arrived in Richland, WA we weren’t able to dock due to the high water level of the river because of early snow melt run-off. The boat was positioned perpendicular to the shore and the bow gangway dropped. The premium excursions and hop-on, hop-off ran as usual. We left at 4:30 pm and were told that we were sailing to Umatilla, OR so the boat could take on water and fuel. We enjoyed another wonderful dinner and show. DAY 5: The regular dock in Umatilla was flooded so we’ve docked at an industrial dock. Unfortunately we spent most of the day here and the stink of diesel fuel was horrible. We should have spent the day cruising. This was the low point of the cruise. About 5 pm we reached the John Day Dam lock. Enjoyed another wonderful show this evening. DAY 6: Arrived in Stevenson, WA for an overnight stay. The weather and scenery has really changed. Much cooler, windy and forested. Beautiful scenery. We visited the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum this morning, enjoyed dinner and the show. DAY 7: Visited Multnomah Falls, Vista House and Latourell Falls. Another delicious dinner followed by a great show. After the show we enjoyed a rock & roll dance party. DAY 8: Arrived in Astoria, OR to a beautiful sunny day. Everyone is telling us that this weather is unusually good for Astoria which is normally overcast and cloudy. We did the hop-on, hop-off bus this morning and following lunch we took the Lewis and Clark excursion. Enjoyed our last dinner and show and packed for the trip home. DINING We had requested and received early dining but a specific table is not assigned until you arrive for dinner. The dining room manager had us at two tables (6 and 4) the first night, but the rest of the cruise we had a table for ten with the same servers each night. The River Grill and Bar becomes a “specialty” dining venue with a fixed menu with several choices. Five or six seatings are offered each night. There is no extra cost to eat there but each guest is limited to two dinners per cruise. We had made reservations for two nights but after our first meal we cancelled our second reservation. We were not impressed. Several in our group had the steak and lobster and by the time the server got around to removing the lobster from the shell, it was cold and the steak for several people was cold upon arrival. The food was no better than that served in the dining room nor was the ambiance. For breakfast and lunch the River Grill has buffet offerings as well as cooked to order items such as eggs, hamburgers, etc. The soft serve ice cream machine and assorted toppings are located here. Several days later we were talking to the Dining Room Manager about our experience and how we felt it would be better to following the example of the American Queen and have the River Grill serve buffet style in the evening for those guests who would prefer a quicker, casual meal. He said that would be his preference also since he really doesn’t have the staff to do a proper job in the present set-up. The Dining Room offered varied menu items for breakfast and lunch, although we always ate breakfast and lunch in the River Grill. Dinner in the Dining Room offered a changing menu consisting of three starters, six soup/salads, eight entrees, several side items and five desert choices. There were several times when we ordered multiple entrees or extra servings which were happily provided. Overall the food was very good except for the pastry items which left much to be desired. They need a new pastry chef. ENTERTAINMENT The shipboard entertainment was excellent. Singers/dancers Sammi Sadicario and Daniel Lopez were both outstanding performers. Greg Pendzick sang and acted as the master of ceremonies and his wife Lindy Penzick sang and was the ship’s officer in charge of hospitality. Frank Chase played piano in the Paddlewheel Lounge. Kevin Neil captured the spirit of the wild west through his cowboy poetry and songs one evening. STAFF The staff was excellent. Everyone was extremely friendly and helpful. Our cabin attendant Olivia kept our cabin spotless and was a joy to work with. Dining room manager Baja arranged a special table for ten for our group and our servers Delonte and Lulu performed their duties in an excellent manner while making sure we had fun at dinner. A special thanks to Greg and Lindy Pendzick who handled their roles as entertainers and ship officers in a wonderful manner. They knew everyone’s name after the first day and went above and beyond to ensure that our cruise was wonderful. We never encountered a crew member who wasn’t helpful and more than willing to go out of their way to make our stay more comfortable. HOP-ON, HOP-OFF American Queen has their own fleet of four buses that follow the boat from stop to stop. At each town they provide a free hop-on, hop-off bus tour staffed by local historians that explain what you’re seeing and what’s at the different stops. The buses run in a continuous loop so you see what you want at your own pace. It’s a great system. In Clarkston we visited the Nez Perce National Historical Park and the Bridablik/Schroeder House. The House is a don’t miss attraction. It is a privately-owned residence that has been restored and filled with antiques. It is only open to American Empress guests and the owners take you on a wonderful tour followed by refreshments. Unfortunately they don’t allow any photography inside the house. In Astoria we visited Flavel House, a restored antique-filled house and the Astoria Column. PREMIUM SHORE EXCURSIONS We did several premium excursions which we felt were excellent and reasonably priced. The Spokane City Tour included Bing Crosby’s home, Manito Park and a ride on the historic 1909 Looff Carrousel. This tour fills your morning before being driven to the boat in Clarkston. Two members of our group went on the Hells Canyon Scenic Jet Boat Experience and enjoyed it. They said it was a smooth scenic ride. The High Octane Antiques: The Western Aeroplane and Automobile was wonderful. Over 325 airplanes, automobiles, motorcycles, jeeps and tractors are displayed. The Multnomah Falls & Vista House excursion included Multnomah Falls, Vista House and Latourell Falls, all beautiful locations. The Lewis and Clark Experience was very good. The Portland “The Rose City” Tour was also very good and delivered us to the Portland Airport by noon. Overall we had a wonderful cruise thru beautiful scenery. When comparing this cruise with our two previous trips on the American Queen, we preferred the American Queen. It is a larger ship which seemed to have more amenities. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
We chose this cruise because it was on my “bucket list,” and the safety of the United States. The boat is beautiful, but could use some maintenance, as far as paint, etc. We were in the Owner’s Suite with ample room, elevated ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it was on my “bucket list,” and the safety of the United States. The boat is beautiful, but could use some maintenance, as far as paint, etc. We were in the Owner’s Suite with ample room, elevated amenities, private veranda, special balcony seating during entertainment in theater. The mattress on the double bed was not comfortable. The butler was very attentive, personable, and efficient. Dining was good but not exceptional. Breakfast and lunch options were buffet or from menu in the main dining room. The dinners were top-notch. Buffet dining was always available at another venue. The bars were tended by very good mixologists. Entertainment was good, considering the size of the boat. Lectures and other activities, such as bingo, were interesting and enjoyable. Service was probably the best part, though some dining staff had some attitude problem. A statement in its brochure said that the boat had an all American staff, and that was a bit of a stretch. The staff was very personable and warm, for the most part. The stops at Nottoway Plantation, Natchez, and Vicksburg were very nice and interesting, but the lower Mississippi doesn’t offer a lot of choices. Perhaps Baton Rogue should be considered. The boat glides smoothly along, pushed by its paddle wheel. It’s very relaxing and calming. Would we do it again? Absolutely, but with lower expectations and a mid range cabin. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
We had a great time on this trip, although there were a few, ahem, unexpected features. We traveled on the American Queen Steamboat Company’s American Empress, from Clarkston, Washington to Vancouver (Portland), westbound per Lewis ... Read More
We had a great time on this trip, although there were a few, ahem, unexpected features. We traveled on the American Queen Steamboat Company’s American Empress, from Clarkston, Washington to Vancouver (Portland), westbound per Lewis and Clark. This was the last week of April 2018, and almost none of the forecast rain materialized. A lovely time on the river and uncharacteristically green, even in the East, with sunny days and cool nights. This was our first river cruise ever so, with nothing to compare it to, I will venture to write a review. We flew into Spokane and paid way too much for a taxi to the hotel. Should have taken the shuttle for $25 a couple. The Historic Davenport Hotel clings to its glorious past, and it is charming and elegant, with stunning public spaces. Our corner room was large and welcoming. The Spokane River passes through town just a couple blocks away, and it is definitely worth a visit to see the rushing rapids. The neighborhood is not the best, and even in broad daylight, I found myself looking over my shoulder and clutching my purse. The elegant hotel is an oasis from the surrounding streets, but it seems somehow out of place and time. We had an excellent dinner at Wild Sage Bistro on 2nd Avenue in Spokane. Bus ride to Clarkston the next day was long and unremarkable. THE GOOD Our stateroom. We were on the Vista Deck, which means people could stroll by and chat. We found this charming and did not worry at all about lack of privacy. (That’s what window shades are for.) Our Category A suite was large and comfortable with a coffee maker, a loveseat and two chairs, and plenty of storage space. Housekeeping visited twice a day and did a great job. A side note about Vista Deck. The Empress has no gym on board, but a number of regular walkers made their rounds past our veranda every day. We cheered them on and joined them from time to time. (8 1/2 laps = 1 mile.) Dining. Overall: outstanding! Many choices, different every day, attentive service. We ate mostly in the dining room, with waited tables. Our Maître D “Baja” ensured that the wine was flowing freely at each evening meal. We always joined other diners, and these moments were some of the most memorable of the trip. The buffet in the Grill was also available for breakfast and lunch, with ice cream and snacks throughout the day. At night, the Grill becomes the premium restaurant, reservations required. Lobster is to die for. Room service is always available as well. On our “sea day” we enjoyed lunch on our veranda as we watched the scenery glide by. Entertainment. There were two nights with guest entertainers, Will Keifer with Banjomania, and Kevin Neil, a very funny cowboy guitar player. Both were really excellent. The Empress Quartet, consisting of piano, sax, bass, and drums, was entertaining as well. Excursions. Red Mountain Wine and Spirits tour was very enjoyable. Interesting presentations, nice scenery, and good wines. Bonneville Dam was a pleasant surprise. We had a guided tour into the vast turbine room where the electricity is generated (walked across an actual spinning turbine), then to the viewing windows to watch fish climbing the fish ladders. Unique experience! Jet Boat on Hell’s Canyon was a little disappointing. At 5 hours, it was too long and, although it was pretty country, it was really just a slow boat up and back the Snake River Canyon. Didn’t see any wildlife. THE BAD We’d heard the stateroom walls were thin. This was true. We never heard our neighbor on one side, but on the other side (as the sound came right through our pillows!) we heard their TV turned to cable news at all hours of the day and night, even in the pre-dawn hours. We could hear every word and even identify the guests being interviewed. AQSC needs to get a handle on this, either with soundproofing (unlikely) or cutting off the satellite feed in the wee small hours. WiFi was “free,” but it was also pretty much non-existent for most of the cruise. Also, for much of the same time, we were out of cell phone range. (On reflection, maybe not such a bad thing.) Mary, the “Riverlorian,” was like that annoying sixth grade teacher you still remember, but not fondly. She talked down to us like we were stupid. And please spare me the political jokes - we’re on vacation. We left ten minutes into the first session and never went back. This was a big disappointment for me, because I was really looking forward to following the history as we traveled the route of Lewis and Clark down the Columbia River. Sadly, a missed opportunity. And where was Frank, the fabled piano player in the Paddlewheel Lounge? His substitute was uninspiring. THE UNEXPECTED Veterans Meet & Greet in the Paddlewheel Lounge. Each veteran was invited to share a brief account about his or her service. There were probably forty veterans and their family members. The greatest percentage were veterans of the Korean War, which was a fair reflection of the average age of the passengers. A good experience and a nice idea. Locks. As we traveled downstream, we went through a series of locks, four on the Snake and four more on the Columbia. It was fascinating to watch our Captain as she skillfully steered our big boat through those small locks, sometimes with inches to spare! Now this was weird. Certain of the young, male dining staff habitually hugged the guests, male and female, with much squealing and clapping of hands. They would come around the desk and ambush you on arrival, and intercept you again on departure. Some of the other guests seemed to enjoy this. Not me - it creeped me out. In this day and age, you just have to wonder. IN SUMMARY No vacation would be complete without a few surprises, and overall, we had a great time. The best part, of course, was all the interesting people we shared our cruise with. A different kind of trip for us and a lasting memory. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
We arrived at the Historic Davenport hotel in Spokane a day early (as is our custom). One night in this wonderful period hotel is included with the cruise. The hotel has an enormous two-story atrium that is quite impressive with much of ... Read More
We arrived at the Historic Davenport hotel in Spokane a day early (as is our custom). One night in this wonderful period hotel is included with the cruise. The hotel has an enormous two-story atrium that is quite impressive with much of the same décor as when it was built in the early 1900s. It has a restaurant called the Palm Court, a pub called the Peacock Lounge and a Starbuck’s. Our room was very nice but we needed a step stool (not provided) to get in and out of the ridiculously high bed. There is a multistory shopping center a few blocks away for a diversion. Checking in for the boat in the hotel was simple and fast. We enjoyed a nice brunch with the other passengers on the day of embarkation. Bags are picked up from your hotel room and you don’t see them again until they are delivered to your cabin. The American Empress buses took us on the two-and-a-half hour ride to the boat in Clarkston. These same buses and drivers follow the boat for the entire cruise and provide the convenient hop on hop off service and bus tours in each port. As with most cruises, they adjust the cruising to make the schedule. This is a little more obvious on a river cruise. For example, we boarded the boat in Clarkston, cruised a little that evening and the next morning we were in our same stop, Clarkston. Of course it was no problem, just a little weird. The boat has two restaurants. The main restaurant has table service for three meals a day with two dinner seatings. The Grill has buffet style breakfast and lunch supplemented by a short order cook doing a few specific items. In the evening, it turns into their specialty restaurant requiring reservations. The food in both restaurants was generally good, but sometimes the portions were very small. House wines were included with dinner. The scenery was nice though a little odd at first. We went through a section of territory where rainfall is very limited. It is so limited that there are no trees, just some sort of low grass or shrub. But as we progressed down the river, there were more trees and cliffs that we had expected. We did not go to any of the shows. We liked to walk around the ports for some exercise and a little shopping. We did not take any of the tours or the hop on hop off buses. The riverlorian was knowledgeable and pleasant. Trouble is that most of his talks were scheduled for 8:00 or 8:30 in the morning. That’s a bit early for people on vacation who like breakfast before they do anything. In the northwest, Lewis and Clark are the primary historical figures. So naturally, they were a big part of his talks. We found the service to be good and the staff friendly and helpful. The overall passenger demographic was somewhat older than we have previously encountered. The old-style paddle-wheel boat is decorated with a number of historical pictures and prints of things like Russian princes and Native Americans adding to its historical feel. The cruise ended in Vancouver Washington. Overall, it was a good cruise for those interested in a leisurely cruise through historic small town America.  Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
Our 9 day Lewis and Clark cruise included a night in Spokane at the Davenport Hotel. The sleep experience was lovely and the restaurant very good. We took the extra tour of Spokane and were glad we did, an interesting small city with a ... Read More
Our 9 day Lewis and Clark cruise included a night in Spokane at the Davenport Hotel. The sleep experience was lovely and the restaurant very good. We took the extra tour of Spokane and were glad we did, an interesting small city with a terrific botanical garden. The cruise could not have been more organized, very easy movement of people and luggage. There is a 2.5 hr bus ride to Lewiston. Embarkation a breeze. We were greeted by all the crew. Special shout out to Lindy who introduced herself and made it a point to remember our name. She is a fantastic entertainer and was an always cheerful presence. Gayle, who ran the excursions was efficient and patient. Romano in the dining room a treat every time we saw him, and the manager of the river grill excellent. We had early dining and met delightful dinner companions. There was a vairiety of menu options with at least 2 different fish every night as well as traditional fare and always vegetarian items. Local wine was always presented and explained at dinner. The piano player in the lounge very talented and funny. The drinks just so-so, we kept trying the cocktail of the day and it was more miss than hit. This cruise is interesting as the topography changes drastically, with many locks down the Columbia. The hop on hop off worked very well. If you are a bicycle rider, Richmond offered great paved trails right off the boat. The included Columbia River Discovery and Interpretive center are wonderful museums. Disocovery center brought out some raptors for us. The Hells canyon jet boat tour was well worth the extra expense, as well as WAAM. Our very favorite was the Lewis and Clark tour to Fort Clasop and Discovery Bay. Our fellow travelers were very friendly and cheerful. The evening entertainment showcased some very talented folks and was accompanied by a 4 piece band. Our riverlorian shed historical light on the voyage Lewis and Clark took as well as helping identify wildlife. We saw deer, wild swans and sheep, sea lions and white pelicans. The spring orchards for pear and apples were in full bloom. It was a very relaxing vacation. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
I have long wanted to travel the Mississippi river and finally did it. Picked the American Queen steamboat which is a real steam powered riverboat. Passenger capacity is 450, on this trip there were 358 passengers. Crew was 175. Staff ... Read More
I have long wanted to travel the Mississippi river and finally did it. Picked the American Queen steamboat which is a real steam powered riverboat. Passenger capacity is 450, on this trip there were 358 passengers. Crew was 175. Staff was excellent. They made every effort to make you happy. My table waiters were absolute professionals and accommodated any variation of the dinner meal that was possible. All of the staff were cheerful, pleasant, happy people to be around. My cabin was a luxury cabin that included two writing desks, closet, a couch, arm chair, glass table with 3 chairs, large screen TV and all the drawer space that could possibly be used by two people. The on board entertainment was well worth watching as well as live music in several of the bars on board. Food was good to great with an informal buffet area called the Front Porch open if you didn't wish to go to the main dinning area. The menu was somewhat different between the main dinning area and the Front Porch increasing the food options. The Front Porch had a different version prime rib every night along with chicken or fish. Wine or beer is included with the dinner meal. The boat was clean and well maintained with elevators for those that didn't want to use the stairs to move between decks. There were open seating areas at both the front and rear of the boat for watching the river and boat traffic. On this trip it was cool most days so a light jacket was needed. I spent a lot of time on the observation deck watching the river. The main froward observation area was just out side the Front Porch so you could duck in and get hot coffee, fresh cookies, tea etc, at any time. There was an observation area with bar at the rear of the boat with shade and sun tables, free hot dogs and a great view of the river. There is a small heated pool and an exercise equipment room. And of course the boat has a steam calliope that was played each time we left a dock. The shore activities included extra cost tours that were well received by those the took them according to the folks I talked to. I did not take any of those because the boat had a free sightseeing tour bus at each stop. This was a new arrangement to me called Hop on, Hop off. The buses had a circular route with 4 to 6 stops at various sights. The bus would stop and allow passengers to get off and go see the sight or just wander around town. The next bus would be by in 15 to 20 minutes and you could get back on and go back to the boat or to which ever stop you wanted to visit next. These buses ran continuously for the duration of the stop. I found this a great idea that allowed me to visit those things I wanted and get off the beaten path when I wanted to walk around and explore. Due to the high river levels some of the scheduled stops were changed or shortened. The on board activities included presentations by the "Riverlorian". He spoke about the history of the river, the towns that we were stopping at, stories of life on the river etc. I found those presentations well worth the time and a very interesting. Those were always well attended. Another interesting thing about the boat was the observation are down in the engine room. You could go down there any time of day or night and watch the 1932 steam engines and talk to the one of the watch staff about any of the technical sides of the boat. There were two shows every evening in the Grand Saloon. That provided an opportunity for each of the two dinner seatings to catch the show each night. I enjoyed all the shows I attended. The age group was mostly retired people. I saw one child on the boat who was with his grandparents. He had picked this trip out of several offered by his grandparents. The passengers were a friendly group that seemed to be interested in meeting new people. It was always easy to find a good conversation. Getting on and off the boat was well handled and as painless as is possible. The trip included an overnight stay at the Hilton Riverside. Your bags were picked up from your room and deliver to your stateroom by the time you boarded the boat. A similar system was used on disembarkation day. You placed your bags outside your stateroom the night before and they were on the shore close to your preferred method of transportation as you got off the boat. All in all I rate the experience as very good. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
8 night 'big band' round trip from New Orleans to Vicksburg.Feb March 2018. If you like nostalgia and an unusual cruise, this is great. American Queen is quite new, so good plumbing, but all her features are 19th Century style. ... Read More
8 night 'big band' round trip from New Orleans to Vicksburg.Feb March 2018. If you like nostalgia and an unusual cruise, this is great. American Queen is quite new, so good plumbing, but all her features are 19th Century style. You can watch the river go by in peace and enjoy quality evening meals in the main restaurant. Not quite top menus. I find Southern Creole not to my taste. But there were other choices and the fish was always beautiful. Our dinner service was not great, otherwise 5*. Hop on-hop off bus was excellent and the planning was first class. Maps provided the night before and entrance fees included to a range of historical sites. Not world class sites but well delivered with lots of local enthusiasm. Very hospitable and English language (almost). A lot of 'antebellum' mansions to visit, so worth an evening prepping the US civil war. Little walking needed as the town was usually alongside-Baton Rouge, Natchez, Oak Alley Plantation, or the bus took you the short distance-St Francisville.. Entertainment was varied and good quality. The theatre is a joy, as are the lounges , with antiques (and wifi). I found a book autographed by Mark Twain on the shelves. We particularly liked the 'riverlorian' who gave daily talks on the river and its history. Other cruises go further north so you might get Memphis/Elvis if you wish. We would go again, probably further north next time. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
Liked the idea of a jazz cruise. Ballroom dancing and historic ports on the river. Our RIVERLAURIEN was a great source of information. The food was superb and the service amazing. We will never go on another huge ocean liner. ... Read More
Liked the idea of a jazz cruise. Ballroom dancing and historic ports on the river. Our RIVERLAURIEN was a great source of information. The food was superb and the service amazing. We will never go on another huge ocean liner. The American Queen has spoiled us for anything else but river cruising. Our stateroom was decorated in period style. Bay window was useful for watching the night lights as we traveled. Passing barges and towns provided an amazing light show. The other public rooms were equally lovely. The Replica of Fords Theater was great and so was the Mark Twain lounge. The cookies were my nemesis! We were lucky to have flood stage on the river so it was amazing to get into ports rather easily right on the levees. A bit of added adventure. Our entertainment every evening was tops! We will be doing another trip on this boat ....perhaps the upper Mississippi next time. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
I want to tell you about our January trip on the American Duchess . . . To celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday, we decided to take her on a riverboat adventure! You see, Mom & Dad had, in their later years, enjoyed taking a ... Read More
I want to tell you about our January trip on the American Duchess . . . To celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday, we decided to take her on a riverboat adventure! You see, Mom & Dad had, in their later years, enjoyed taking a riverboat trip almost every year and had many wonderful memories. As Dad had passed away, we felt this would be a wonderful treat for Mom – as well as marking her 16th or 17th riverboat cruise. There were eleven of us traveling. We were especially excited about our first night stay at the Peabody Hotel – I had taken mom there before when we traveled together but never stayed there – boy, was she excited! The Peabody is a true boutique hotel and frankly, from the way we talked it up, everyone was so happy to start our adventure with a night there. Then we learned it was not going to be the Peabody but rather the Sheridan – which by no stretch of the imagination is a “boutique” hotel. However, having stayed at different Sheridan hotels before, I was hopeful that it would be fine - - it wasn’t. To put it bluntly, “The Sheridan was a dump!” Checking in was a joke as we had to wait for someone to show up (did I mention it was FREEZING out?), then they couldn’t have been more disinterested in us or less helpful if they had tried. Our room was filthy, dusty, and probably hadn’t seen a vacuum in months. There were stains on the dust ruffle, on the carpeting, and even on the lamp shade which was also broken. I would not walk in the room, or bathroom without shoes on – that is how horrid it was. The topper was, when I went to get ice there was MOLD in the ice, so obviously the ice machines were never tended – not only a health hazard but also a huge gross out. We spent the balance of the next day down at the Peabody just hanging out and having lunch and cocktails. While I realize the cruise-line has no control over the weather, we had expected temperatures in the 50s and 60s. What we got was around 9 degrees, which made using our verandas – which were covered in snow and ice – a “no go.” The first stop was not made - no access because of ice, so basically, we were on a floating hotel with lots and lots of trip hazards which we all got a taste of. Luckily, they have a medic on board. It seems strange to me that this type boat, which statistically carries “mature” patrons, would have so many places to trip over and so few views – we didn’t find that on the American Queen. With limited viewing except for the upper deck – which was closed as it had turned to an ICE RINK – there was little to do unless we came to a port. The weather was so awful that my mother chose to mostly just stay on the boat, as did the other two “more mature” women in our group. As I had pulled this trip together, I spent much of my time apologizing for it. On the third morning, Mom had slept in, and I took her to the breakfast buffet that had the deck (which was closed off due to weather), there was little left in the buffet and one of the chefs behind the counter offered to make her an omelet. I thought, “Wow, well that is nice!” She was half way through eating when I heard the fellow hacking and coughing behind the bar and my first thought was, “Oh – Please God, no.” For a day or so, everything seemed okay until one by one our group – as well as many other passengers - started to cough, and get runny noses. Since several in our party had scrimped and saved to go on this trip, we were determined to make the best of it. Bring on the DayQuil! My husband and his friend kept saying, “Well, at least we will get to go on the airboat tour of the bayou.” They felt that that would redeem some of this trip for them as there were only three men in our party, and they were holding on to this one “manly outing” – that excursion was cancelled – and last minute too. The food was great and we were, despite being in a floating hotel with very little access to views, together. On Saturday night, I sat down to dinner – yay, it was going to be lobster! Yet I soon realized I could not even sit up, the flu hit hard and fast. I had my husband take me back to our cabin where I promptly went to sleep and that is where I spent the next day as well. Ultimately, I would spend 5 days in bed once we got home but it gets worse from there. Mom had, like most of our group, contracted the Flu B virus (I am guessing from someone handling the food?) being from the west coast the flu vaccine was for flu A, and though mom had a flu shot it did no good. Unfortunately, Mom’s flu also caused respiratory failure, and pneumonia. She experienced an ambulance ride and spent over a week in the hospital and six additional weeks in a rehab center relearning how to talk, walk, communicate and feed herself. Once back from rehab she spent another three weeks with physical, speech, respiratory, and occupational therapy in the home. Then I got another surprise. My travel agent called and timidly asked if we had enjoyed the wine and on-board credit she had arranged for us. Well guess what? We never received it! And to make matters even worse, this is not the first time this has happened to us on one of the American Queen steamboat cruises! I wrote to the ship about our experiences and they sent an apology for the Sheraton and for not sending the wine and onboard credit – yet they completely ignored the fact that my mother suffered terribly from an illness contracted on their ship, not to mention that the rest of us were very sick as well. Poor follow-up American Queen - you give a lot of lip service to how much you care for your customers (who keep you employed) yet the proof is in your actions - in this case you are a fail. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
We decided to take a maiden, winter cruise aboard the American Duchess from Memphis to New Orleans. We found the newly refurbished boat to be beautifully yet simply appointed with lots of eye appeal. The Duchess is small, able to carry ... Read More
We decided to take a maiden, winter cruise aboard the American Duchess from Memphis to New Orleans. We found the newly refurbished boat to be beautifully yet simply appointed with lots of eye appeal. The Duchess is small, able to carry 160 passengers and that adds to the intimacy that this lovely vessel affords. Our weather was not terribly accommodating with ice, snow and low double digit record temperatures but that didn't dampen the spirits aboard the boat. We took no premium excursions and chose to use the complimentary hop on hop off buses and the sites that were provided with each stop’s location. I don’t believe we missed much when talking to other passengers. Food, though not gourmet, was definitely well above the average, plated beautifully and delicious. Executive Chef Jeff Warner's careful menu planning insured that there was something to suit every palate. If not, they were ALWAYS able to accommodate requests. We chose to eat in the Grand Dining Room for dinner and in the River Terrace buffet for several breakfasts, especially if we had to leave early for excursions. Alcohol was extremely expensive, however dinner came with complimentary house wine and one's glass was never empty due to the attentive wait staff. A red and white was made available each evening. Happy hour each evening shaved a dollar or two off each drink and that together with the complimentary wine at dinner would be adequate for us without breaking the bank. A beverage package runs approximately $250.00 per cabin and with an "auto gratuity" of $50.00 tacked on your drink package is an easy $300.00--definitely overboard for the quality of wine offered. Most bottles on the open market run less than $12.00 yet bottle prices began in the $32.00 range on up. Skip the package, save the money, use happy hour and drink wine at dinner. The true gem in this company's tiara is its staff, which in my opinion is 5 STARS! They are highly attentive, yet not intrusive, knowledgeable, professional, and ever present with a wonderful sense of humor. The boat, though lovely, pales in comparison to this All American staff and it is my hope that the management of this company recognizes the value in what they have. We found officers, the Executive chef, managers and even Crystal, the Hotel Manager, waiting tables when the dining room was full. There doesn't appear to be a visible hierarchy, except for shoulder epaulets and the entire staff seems to work like one big, well-oiled machine focused solely on client satisfaction, accommodation and comfort. A special mention of Serena W, a Purser on board the Duchess is essential. We found her to have exceptional skills with an ability to listen, hear, assess, intervene and problem solve on every occasion. She is truly outstanding in every way. It is the staff and their genuine, earnest desire to serve that would bring this TripAdvisor reviewer back to this company. This All American staff gets a standing ovation from this passenger indeed. Side Note: The company’s literature states that the included, pre-board evening would be spent in the Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis. That is not the case. We were housed in the Sheraton, a huge, modern hotel that unlike the iconic Peabody is located away from most of the attractions. An upper level staff member at the Peabody told us that the company has been doing that for some time, so this type of seemingly deliberate deception is simply not acceptable as is the advertising of state room “suites.” Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
Created from a 1995 hull, 340 foot-long paddlewheeler, American Duchess, features four decks and employs 80 American crew to run the boat and manage its 80 suites—the first all-suite paddlewheeler to cruise U.S. rivers. The maximum ... Read More
Created from a 1995 hull, 340 foot-long paddlewheeler, American Duchess, features four decks and employs 80 American crew to run the boat and manage its 80 suites—the first all-suite paddlewheeler to cruise U.S. rivers. The maximum passengers she will sail with is only 166, so the crew-to-passenger ratio is quite high. Our cruise was sold out; however, the boat never felt crowded at any time, even in the show lounge where there were always plenty of seats. (There were 165 seats available, including the chairs that line each wall.) One of the reasons there was always so much space to roam was the fact that the suites range in size from 180 square feet (for an interior cabin like ours) to 550 square feet for a two-story loft suite featuring 19-foot ceilings. Those suites (and the Owner’s Suite) had their own “River Butler” to spoil them rotten, so I’m guessing those passengers spent a lot of time in their cabins! For those passengers who had the “Commodore Services” included with their suite and had a butler, he was available for them throughout the ship. We saw him everywhere, and he made sure his passengers knew it. Have you heard of helicopter parents? Well, he was a helicopter butler. Although the décor of the boat wasn’t to my taste, the abundance of blown and fused glass artwork was. Bruce and I absolutely loved it, especially since Bruce is a glass artist and glass is our favorite art medium. The American Duchess had a modern boutique hotel feel to it, rather than a traditional riverboat ambiance. In all honesty, we preferred the 1800’s motif of the American Queen, built and decorated to replicate the paddlewheelers of their heyday. Most notably, the Duchess lacks a promenade deck, a must for open air enjoyment of the views, especially for a sunset stroll. Of course, Winter Storm Inga didn’t allow for much of that; however, I would have sorely missed a promenade deck had the weather been better. (The Duchess does have a large sun deck; however, it just doesn’t have the appeal of the top deck space on the American Queen.) Sadly, the Duchess also lacked a calliope, a charming feature I enjoyed so much on the American Queen. The most impressive area of the Duchess was the bar, dining room, and stairs leading up to the Lincoln Library. The dining room layout was similar to the American Queen in that it had tall ceilings on each side with a lower ceiling in the center. Without a doubt, the dining room on the Duchess was nicer, though, because even though the boat was sold out (like it was when we were on the Queen), there was much more room in between the tables. In addition, there was only one seating; however, you could be seated any time within the open hours (5:30 – 8:00 PM for dinner) and dine either alone or with others. There was no assigned seating, and they accepted reservations for parties of six or more. Since the American Queen Steamboat Company has an executive chef who creates the menus for all three of their boats, the menus were similar to what we enjoyed on the Queen, and the food was similar—fabulous on both boats. The service on the Duchess was better, though, and much more relaxed. (By the way, we had the same Maitre D’ on both cruises! Oscar boarded the Duchess the same day we did.) The desserts (at least the chocolate ones!) were better on the Duchess, though. Rachel did a great job! I especially liked the creative little birthday dessert that was left in my cabin along with a card. I also received an incredible piece of chocolate ganache cake in the dining room for dessert! In addition to the dining room, the River Club and Terrace was a more casual option for meals. Breakfast and lunch were buffets, whereas dinners were table service. We enjoyed a lobster tail there on our first night aboard, when we joined the other Steamboat Society of America members (repeat cruisers with the company) for an invitation-only dinner. The final option for food was in Perks, a little café with a self-serve cappuccino machine, juice dispenser, popcorn maker, and windows to sit and watch the river. Those were all well and good; however, it was the fresh-baked chocolate chunk cookies I was after. Yeah, there were other varieties, too, but it was always extra special when I could nab my favorite! (In the morning, they had pastries, and fresh fruit was always available.) Entertainment included “Riverlorian” talks during the day, as well as the usual bingo, Name That Tune, trivia, etc. What we enjoyed the most, however, were the lounge shows each evening. Max (also the cruise director), his wife, Darcy, and Matt were three talented and personable singers who performed each night backed by a top-notch band. We had a few chats with Scott, the bass player, and it turned out we new several of the same San Diego-based jazz musicians! By far, the best feature of the American Duchess was its crew, from the captain on down. They bent over backwards to make every passengers’ experience a memorable one—especially when we were hit with snow and temperatures that averaged twenty degrees below normal. The day after the blizzard, Captain Joe McKey was out on the River Club Terrace scraping snow off the deck and cleaning things up. (Yes, you read that right; the captain!) In the dining room, Executive Chef Jeff Warner constantly came out to the “front of the house” (in restaurant speak) to help serve or pick up plates. He was very personable and made sure all his passengers were happy. Read the book Waiter Rant, and you will soon learn that is not typical. I know, because I worked in the restaurant/ hospitality business for several years, most notably at the University Club in San Diego for my last seven years. Unless it was to take a bow at an event or receive kudos from a requesting club member, the chef never left his comfortable domain of the kitchen. One thing that brought a smile to my face one late evening in the Lincoln Library was seeing one of the bartenders playing Monopoly with a young passenger who had nobody her age to pal around with on board. At another table, the Riverlorian was playing a card game with some other passengers. Whether that was permitted by the hotel manager or not, I don’t know; but, I sure hope they didn’t get reprimanded. As a matter of fact, I hope they will be encouraged in the future to do more of the same! It is an example of the congenial atmosphere that is evident between the crew and passengers, and it was, in a word, special. I hope they always keep the magic they have created. American Queen Steamboat Company has a winning formula down to every detail. The success they have had and the awards they have won are well-deserved. It is my hope they can sustain it and never cut back or cut anything out like what has happened with several of the large cruise ship lines. Ask any of the long-time cruisers with Princess Cruises or Royal Caribbean Cruise Line what I mean, and they will tell you. As a former guest lecturer with both companies, I speak from experience. When you start cutting back, people notice, and you will lose your most loyal customers. More importantly, word gets around. American Queen Steamboat Company, you have a great thing going. May it always stay that way!" Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
The American Duchess Brochure promises 'classic elegance and modern luxury' as I would expect at the Four Seasons and delivered a Holiday Inn Express but at more than 10 times the price. The menu choices were very good and the ... Read More
The American Duchess Brochure promises 'classic elegance and modern luxury' as I would expect at the Four Seasons and delivered a Holiday Inn Express but at more than 10 times the price. The menu choices were very good and the food quality acceptable. The dining room staff was chronically short-handed with Officers pitching in to bus tables. The suggested dress was country club casual but I never saw sweat pants worn to Christmas dinner at a Country Club. The entertainment was every good and delivered as a clever and well-delivered show every night. We have cruised with Tauck Tours on the Rhone River and on the "Windstar" from Istanbul to Athens ...and 5 day cruise in Patagonia to Cape Horn on the Stella Aurelius so we know luxury/adventure cruising when we see it. The American Duchess is not a luxury cruise. I do not believe the American Duchess delivers a "new world of class and sophistication" as advertised. Certainly not $22,000 worth for 8 days.... a far higher price than any of the above noted cruising experiences. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
My Wif on the wanted to do a River Boat cruise. We did one in 1986 on the Mississippi Queen. She was the sister boat to the American Queen and Delta Queen. We had a great time but the average age was at least 70 plus. But we still had a ... Read More
My Wif on the wanted to do a River Boat cruise. We did one in 1986 on the Mississippi Queen. She was the sister boat to the American Queen and Delta Queen. We had a great time but the average age was at least 70 plus. But we still had a great time. We are now retired so we fit right in with all the senior citizen. The cruise started in Memphis and you could start your day with a tour of Graceland and other Memphis Stops. We were dropped off at 3 to board. We went to our cabin which was a suite on the 5th deck and our Luggage was on our bed. We unpacked and headed down for our departure party. The next morning we approached Greenville Tenn. It was very foggy and rainy, the captain navigated the narrow channel and got us landed, However the fog and drizzle was getting worse. he announced we were leaving early and had cancelled the days tour, Most all stayed aboard to meet new friends and explore the boat, Meals are served in either the main dining room with 2 seatings. The other restaurant was the Front Porch up front on Deck 3. The Main dining room is deck one as well as the theatre. The Pursers desk, gift shop, the Mark Twain lounge, the Men's parlour and the Ladies parlour are on deck 2. Cabins are on decks 2 - 5., We also s Very highly topped in Natches and Vicksburg. a tour of the battle ground was offered. We also stopped at a plantation called Nottoway.very heavily decorated for Christmas. We saw a dance demo then had dancing for the passengers, As we left to go back to the boat, they lit a bonfire on the levy. We were a day early. we saw more bonfires on the levees Christmas Eve. We spent the night and left the next afternoon, We arrived in New Orleans on Christmas Day about 1, They had a great Christmas Day buffet. They had a church Service Sunday morning and Christmas morning, There was lots to do, Talks about the river, tours of the pilot house and engine room. You were right down with the engines. The engineer on duty would come over and answer questions and you could watch the engines turn the paddle wheel. The entertainment was very good with lots of music provided, The crew was very friendly and all would speak as they passed, the entertainers did likewise and mingled with the passengers. At the end of the cruise we had a tour of New Orleans and saw everything from Bourbon and Royal and Canal Street. Also saw the Trolleys that we had passes to ride. We spent two nights at the Intercontinental Hotel. Very up scale we got vouchers for one of the Brennan's Restaurants and breakfast vouchers, Some guests stayed at the main Hilton. The cruise is slow paced. we traveled at about 15 mph as we were going down stream. There were a few passengers younger than 40 but not many. Most are 70 plus. They had golf carts to take people up the levee to the tour buses that follow the boat, If you haven't tried a river boat cruise, try the American Queen. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
On October 24th we took an American Cruise Line (ACL) trip on their America from St. Paul to New Orleans. Then on December 4th, we took the American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC) cruise on their American Duchess, roundtrip, ... Read More
On October 24th we took an American Cruise Line (ACL) trip on their America from St. Paul to New Orleans. Then on December 4th, we took the American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC) cruise on their American Duchess, roundtrip, Nashville-to-Nashville. Though both these paddle-wheelers are similar in many ways, we also found numerous differences. (The comments below apply to the AQSC American Duchess, unless otherwise indicated.) Food: All meals were A+, with many selections available. Most tables were configured for 4 people; a few would seat 2. We could come to a meal at any time of our choosing; the staff would ask if we would mind sharing a table. If we said "no," we would be seated with another couple, or seated at a new table and another couple would later join us. (By comparison, ACL required everyone to arrive at the same time, but allowed us to sit anywhere. Most of their tables were configured for 6 persons or more.) Drink: No free alcohol for lunch. For dinner, one white and one red wine were provided, of mediocre quality. Higher-quality wines were available at steep prices. After we had consumed about half our glass, the staff would appear and refill the glass. After that, no further servings were volunteered, but if we asked for more, it was willingly brought. (With ACL, drinks were provided at lunch, at an hour-long happy hour before dinner, and readily throughout dinner.) Drink prices: Wine was between $8 and $10 a glass, to which a 15% surcharge was added. Beer was slightly less. (ACL charged between $6 and $8 a glass, with no surcharge; similar quality wines.) Dining room: The outer 2/3 was an impressive two stories high, with very large windows. The middle 1/3 was only one story high, as the upper story was taken up by the Lincoln Library mezzanine. Our cruise was at about 70%; we were always seated on the outer sides, with the middle tables set but unused. (The ACL cruise was at about 50% capacity; they had some place out of sight to store the unused tables, so the dining room seemed very spacious despite being only one story high.) The Duchess has a second dining room, with a much smaller seating capacity, and reservations here were required. With no carpeting, it was much noisier, but the tables were farther apart. It opens to an outside dining area, but was closed on our cruise due to cold weather. Dress: Not formal. A few folks wore jeans, and did not seem out of place. Several wore sport coats and ties, and also did not seem out of place. The overwhelming majority wore casual wear. (Similar for ACL.) Cabins: Our AQSC cabin was the "IS" (inside cabin) category, on the 2nd deck. The cabin seemed a little clastrophobic, but not overly so. The bathroom was fine, but oddly situated 10" above the cabin floor. Not so hard stepping up, but very awkward stepping back down. The temperature controls worked OK, and the shower had plenty of hot water. (On ACL, our cabin, also the cheapest, was an outside cabin with a balcony -- definitely better.) Entertainment: The Duchess has a small house band and a 3-person troupe of professional entertainers. They perform in a theater-style lounge with an elaborate lighting and sound system. They were very versatile -- shows ran the gamut from Broadway to Country & Western to 50's Rock & Roll. Their performances were consistently excellent. (ACL entertainers were local groups from each stop, performing in the main lounge. Some groups were excellent, some not so much.) Tours: We were initially a bit skeptical about the AQSC "Hop-On/Hop-Off" system, but it worked great. Three buses ran a continuous route covering several stops. Each one had a local tour guide in addition to the driver. The guide would explain the first stop, then let those who wanted to do that stop get off (that was usually most of the bus). Then the guide would explain the second stop to those remaining, and so on. Having three buses and only a few stops meant that no-one had to wait very long for the next bus. Very explicit maps were provided for the tours, and each stop was marked with a prominent placard -- very hard to get lost. There are a staggered start times and a kiosk reservation system so that the entire ship isn't out there waiting for the first bus to leave. (With ACL, there is only one tour starting time, and all the buses leave the ship at the same time, and everyone returns at the same time. The AQSC system is much more flexible.) Comfort: Our biggest gripe with the Duchess was...it was SO DARNED COLD! The two dining rooms, the Lincoln Library, and the theater were OK, but all the common areas averaged around 60 degrees F (my estimate). The "Perks" snack bar was frigid, as were all the hallways and common areas. The only places to sit when not eating or attending a stage show were in these cold common areas. Viewing the scenery: Our biggest gripe with the Duchess was that there was virtually no place where one could sit and watch the scenery glide by (other than at mealtimes). None of the common area seating had windows. Outside, there were only a few rocking chairs, without cushions - of course, on our cruise, it was too cold to go out there. The top deck was closed, and the outside part of the second restaurant was too, most of the time. Yes, those with balconies could see out, but only a narrow slice of view straight to the side. (On the ACL America, there are three well-appointed lounges -- one facing forward, two facing aft --featuring 270-degree views of the outside in each lounge.) Riverlorians: Duchess had one full-time Riverlorian, who also performed as a musician, plus one Riverlorian-in-training. For the most part, the lectures were excellent. (ACL had several Riverlorians -- two were also theatrical performers, and one was the great-grandson of Jefferson Davis.) Glitches: Initial Duchess reviewers reported numerous problems in ship operations. We saw no problems; apparently the "shake down" bugs have been eliminated. Overall: The spaciousness and quality decor of the Duchess is impressive. And had the ship been at 100% capacity, I think it would not have seemed crowded. But if ACL's America had been at 100% capacity, I think it would have seemed very crowded. Still, considering the excellence of the ACL lectures and the overall "comfortability" of the ship, I would have to give the (slight) edge to ACL's America. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
First, I want to say that the Duchess is a lovely boat and the AQSC does everything possible to make journeys enjoyable. Of course, there are occasional glitches but none that should deter anyone from taking a cruise on the Duchess. ... Read More
First, I want to say that the Duchess is a lovely boat and the AQSC does everything possible to make journeys enjoyable. Of course, there are occasional glitches but none that should deter anyone from taking a cruise on the Duchess. Accommodations: We had booked one of the deluxe suites which are located near the rear of the boat. There is a living area with a dining table and four chairs, a bedroom area, a double-sized balcony, and a bath and a half. All are tastefully decorated and there is also a refrigerator and coffee maker in the living area. There are two TVs and that provided one of the few glitches in that changing the channels on the TV in the living room, turned on the TV in the bedroom area. Once we learned to close the doors between the two areas, that was no longer a problem. The only real negative to the room was the bath/shower combination which was difficult to step in and out of. In addition, the shower curtain was so long that one had to stand on it while showering. Dining: The real highlight of the cruise was the exceptional dining. We ate most often in the grand dining room which was elegant. Breakfast was served there with about seven or eight selections that changed daily. The dinner menu in the grand dining room typically involved four courses -- Appetizer, Soup or salad, entree, and dessert. There were always three appetizers listed, about five or six choices of soup or salad, seven or eight entrees, and about half a dozen desserts. Like the breakfasts, the dinner menu changed daily. The one exception to the timing involved the “Thanksgiving Feast” that was served mid-day with “leftovers” available in the evening. The appetizers were elaborate including such things as fried artichokes, mushroom tart, and olive bruschetta. Soups were memorable with entries like lobster bisque, crab and corn chowder. Among our main course entrees were lamb chops, lobster tail, a variety of fish dishes, pastas, and strip steak. The presentation of the entrees always included sauces and vegetable accompaniments. The kitchen was very accommodating in deleting any items from the presentation that one did not want. And, complimentary wine was included with dinner with a choice of either a red or white wine. We also had one dinner (reservations required) and several breakfasts in the River Grill and Bar, a far more informal space. Both breakfast and lunch there are served buffet style and the breakfast buffet seemed to include the same selections each day. No matter the restaurant or the time of day, a highlight of all meals involved the baked goods – breads and pastries were especially delicious. Room service was also available, but we used it just once on a day when my stomach rebelled at all of the rich food. I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich. Excursions: One of the reasons we chose the AQSC cruise was the opportunity to view the ports via a HOHO bus. Our ages preclude long walks and standing for a long time listening to a tour guide. Instead the HOHO busses that followed the ship allowed one to see each community and get off according to one’s interests. The cruise line had prepaid admission to the key attractions in each community and one could hop off to see anything that appealed and get back on when a later bus arrived. (The busses circulated on a 15 or 20 minute schedule.) There was a guide on each bus who described special features of the port. The evening prior to the port stop, one was provided with the route of the bus with stops indicated. In addition, the map included information about the main attractions like museums, shopping stops, restaurants, restrooms, and almost anything else one might want to know. I should add that there are also premium (extra-cost) excursions which many people selected. Getting to and from the boat was easy as a golf cart would shuttle you up and down the often steep banks of the river. AQSC should also be commended for its relationships with the major attractions as many were willing to open to accommodate those on the HOHO busses at times when they would normally be closed such as early in the morning or on Thanksgiving Day. Entertainment: Each day there was a talk by the Riverlorean and a show in the evening. The Riverlorean talks lasted anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes and covered such topics as terminology about the boat, characteristics of the Mississippi river, major floods on the river, and common phrases that originated from the old river boats such as “hitting rock bottom.” All of these lectures were quite interesting. The evening shows varied with two caberet style performances, an evening of jazz, another of country music, and one focusing on Broadway showtunes. The American Duchess showband of four or five musicians accompanied all performers. They were quite versatile and also provided music at occasional receptions and/or special programs. There were also games scheduled throughout the day though we did not participate in any. Service: Without exception, the staff were hard-working and very pleasant. By the end of the week you felt like they were new friends. Embarkation and Disembarkation: We flew to New Orleans and spent two nights there before boarding the boat. One of the nights was at the Hotel Roosevelt, the hotel used by the cruise line. We took a tour of New Orleans during the day of embarkation which began at the hotel and ended at the boat. Disembarkation involved taking a tour of Memphis before being dropped off at the airport. Both embarkation and disembarkation went relatively smoothly. Clientele: The average age of those on the cruise would be late 60's. The boat was about 2/3rds full and thus it was very easy to get seating in the dining rooms and space on the HOHO busses. It appeared that many cruisers came with families or travel groups-- far fewer couples than we have experienced on ocean cruises. 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Sail Date November 2017
We are an active couple in our mid-late 60's, and this was our first river boat cruise in the US. We wanted to do another European river cruise, but decided to stay in the US this year and had never been to the Pacific NW. We picked ... Read More
We are an active couple in our mid-late 60's, and this was our first river boat cruise in the US. We wanted to do another European river cruise, but decided to stay in the US this year and had never been to the Pacific NW. We picked October because the price dropped at that point, plus we hoped to see fall colors. Boy, did we luck out on the weather! Absolutely gorgeous the entire week, bright sunshine, mid-high 60's. Very rare to have no rain at that time of year. We were younger than most folks on board, who tended to be at least in their 70's. Most were well travelled retirees. We decided on the east to west route for several reasons, but mainly we wanted to do the 2 hour bus ride at the beginning of the week when we could enjoy it, rather than at the end when we were tired. We flew into Spokane and had reserved the hotel shuttle to the Historic Davenport ($25/room, booked online in advance, very nice shuttle van). At check in we were told the cruise line had arranged for a 1pm checkout instead of the usual noon check out time, which was nice. We had a corner room on the 10th floor, probably the nicest hotel room we've ever had! I could have spent the entire week there! The bathroom was just gorgeous, with a soaking tub and a HUGE glassed in shower. There's a history of the Historic Davenport on one of the TV channels that was fascinating. We immediately headed to the lounge for happy hour and were disappointed to be told they had discontinued the half price happy hour appetizers (even though it was advertised on the folder we received at check in). Cruise check in was on the second floor of the hotel, and was disorganized in my opinion. First we checked in at a table in the hallway, then went into a room to finish up. Apparently they were supposed to take our photos there, issue bus transfers and get our credit card info. But the guy who did ours only took my photo and told us we were good to go. Found out the next morning from fellow passengers that we should have bus transfers, so we had to return to check in for those (of course we were on the last bus by that time). Then when we got to the boat, we were flagged to go to the Pursor's Office because hubby's photo wasn't on record, as well as our credit card info. But it was easily resolved. Breakfast at the hotel was a buffet in a private room, nice but nothing spectacular. We got a walking map of downtown Spokane from the concierge, as well as the self-guided tour of the hotel. The hotel tour is a must-do. We also walked an easy 2 blocks to the overlook of the Spokane River Falls. Bonus: There's a short cut to the Falls through a high end, multi level shopping mall. Just one block from the hotel was a great New York style deli, Domini's, where we got a delicious sandwich for lunch. Highly recommend. The worst part of the day was having to wait about an hour in the ball room for our bus transfer. Had a great driver for the 2 hour ride to the boat, learned a lot about the region and saw some beautiful scenery. FOOD Overall we were impressed with the food, although there were some misses. We ate most of our breakfasts and lunches in the River Grill, which was just steps away from our cabin. The entry to the River Grill is quite awkward and I always felt like I was coming in the back door. You are allowed two dinner reservations for the River Grill, and we picked Thursday (the cruising day with no port stop) and Sunday (the last night). Booking is done in the Show Lounge as soon as you board the ship. The menu in the River Grill is the same for the entire week, but it includes lobster. Lobster was also served in the dining room on Saturday, so if you plan it right you can have 3 lobster dinners! Each night we had a choice of regional red and white wines. All were very good. Refills are included, and you can carry out a full glass to the lounge or show when you leave. We chose regular dining (7:45) so we wouldn't have to rush back from a day out to get ready for dinner, but I would choose early dining next time since it was always well after 9 before we left the dining room. The entrees varied each evening, and always included at least one vegetarian selection. Hubby couldn't decide between the sea scallops and the braised ribs one night, so our waiter brought him both! The show for regular dining was at 6:30 and always ended about 20 minutes before the dining room doors opened, so the hall outside the dining room was always clogged with people waiting for the dining room doors to open. One night we sat at a table with two other couples we had met, and we were apparently overlooked – it was a good 30 minutes before we were served any wine and had orders taken, and that was after we flagged down the Head Waiter. There is a Happy Hour each day from 2-4 when beer is $1 off, and wine/cocktails $2 off. There's a 15% gratuity automatically added to each bar bill. ENTERTAINMENT We were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the onboard entertainment. There are two shows each evening so that everyone gets to see the show depending on their dinner time. Jordan and Isaac were quite talented as the onboard singing/dancing team. Lindy (hotel manager) and her husband Greg (cruise director) are also professional singers and put on two fantastic shows as well. They are all accompanied by a 4 piece quartet. Additionally, Frank Chase provided daily piano entertainment in the Paddlewheel Lounge. While he's great to listen to during his afternoon session, he is not to be missed in the evenings. So talented, and absolutely hilarious! Mary the Riverlorian is a wealth of knowledge about Lewis and Clark, as well as history of the area in general. EXCURSIONS, PORTS AND ACTIVITIES Each evening at turndown, a copy of the next day's activities as well as the Hop On Hop Off map is left in each cabin. Bus tickets are required for the first few morning buses only, and there is a kiosk next to the pursor's office where they can be printed. There were several excellent museums included during the week, all free as admission had been pre-arranged through AQSC. Lots of other interesting and historic stops as well, but we found shopping opportunities to be sparse. Astoria probably had the most shops and all were in walking distance of the boat, but it was Sunday and many were closed. If you are interested in purchasing native or local crafts, your best opportunities are the museum gift shops. We only took one premium excursion, the Wine and Spirits on Red Mountain winery tour. Our other excursion to Multnomah Falls was cancelled due to the fires in the area. I was really looking forward to seeing the Falls, at least from the boat, but then our departure was delayed due to another boat ahead of us in the lock, so we didn't pass the Falls until after dark. But the captain announced that she would try to find it and shine the ship's spotlight on it – what a treat! We also went through a number of locks, all different and interesting. While we read before leaving that bicycles were available for use in the ports, we never saw any and it was never mentioned. There are daily onboard activities as well, including zumba, bingo, trivia, crafts, etc. Wifi was very spotty and we also went through several dead zones, no cell or internet services at all. The best place to connect was the Paddlewheel Lounge, but connections were very, very slow. Disembarkation talks begin several days before the end of the cruise. We were going straight to the Portland airport to head back home, and rather than pay the $25 each for a seat on the bus, we used Uber for less than half of that. It's a very early day, as everyone has to be out of their room by 8am, and off the boat by 9am. Overall, this was a great cruise despite several glitches. The staff were fantastic, met lots of nice people, and saw gorgeous scenery as well as historic sites. We did feel like we had too much 'down time', and would have liked a few more activities geared towards more active lifestyles. American Queen knows its target market, and they provide a great experience. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
Several members of my mom's family took a cruise on the American Duchess, from Memphis to New Orleans, Oct. 16-23. There was a pre-cruise hotel included in Memphis, the Peabody Hotel on the 15th. First, about the Hotel, we ... Read More
Several members of my mom's family took a cruise on the American Duchess, from Memphis to New Orleans, Oct. 16-23. There was a pre-cruise hotel included in Memphis, the Peabody Hotel on the 15th. First, about the Hotel, we had 2 rooms on different floors. Both had not been vacuumed, there was debris on both of the room floors from previous occupant(s). The food was good, but the prices were high. On the American Duchess, both cabins had not been dusted or vacuumed from probably the first sailing of the vessel a few weeks before our sailing. On other cruise lines, the rooms would be vacuumed, dusted, towels changed, and beds made every day. On this boat, you had to put out a placard on the front of your door to even have the room steward change your towels. Both rooms were never dusted or vacuumed our whole trip. On the matter of being wheelchair friendly, which the cruise line publicized about this boat, you had to have a strong helper to help lift the front of the wheelchair to get out/into the cabin, from the hallway to another area, from the inside to the outside deck. There was a raised barrier to get to each area, include the dining room, Perks, the 24hr. snack room, and even the gift shop. On five other different cruise lines, I could propel myself throughout the ships with no help from anyone. Most of the Premium optional tours were not made for people with wheelchairs. I had booked a Premium tour in each port, and wasn't told until we were already on the boat, that I couldn't go on those tours. The hop on hop off bus tours, included in the price of the tour, were wheelchair friendly and they had a golf cart that was utilized to get you from the boat to the bus, which was very nice. All of the food on the boat was very good except the breakfast buffet, which had cold food, including items which should have been warm or hot. The entertainment, which were the same group of musicians and singers/dancers the entirety of our journey, were very good(four musicians, and three singers/dancers). Also, for a cruise on the Duchess that was to be for the more affluent, it didn't past muster. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
We were on the American Empress for its Clarkston to Vancouver cruise on October 9-16, 2017. We flew to Spokane on October 7 and spent two nights at Spokane’s Davenport Hotel (one night was already covered by the cruise). The Davenport ... Read More
We were on the American Empress for its Clarkston to Vancouver cruise on October 9-16, 2017. We flew to Spokane on October 7 and spent two nights at Spokane’s Davenport Hotel (one night was already covered by the cruise). The Davenport is a wonderful and historic hotel — be sure to take the self-guided tour of some of the hotel’s public rooms. We ended the cruise with two nights at the Dossier Hotel in Portland, Oregon (a much less interesting hotel with not much to offer except a good location). This is a cruise that will appeal to people who are interested in the history, geology, wildlife, indigenous peoples, and scenic beauty of the Pacific Northwest’s Snake and Columbia Rivers. It has an unhurried schedule, which makes it possible to be on a river cruise that is both fascinating and relaxing at the same time. While the boat is well-maintained and very attractive, it would not be a good choice if you are looking for a cruise that includes a spa, a swimming pool, specialty shops, casino, etc. It has none of these. While it does not have a gym, it does have bicycles onboard that you can take out when the boat is in port and you can walk around the entire top deck (though you may smell some diesel fumes on the stern section when the boat is docked). The weather during this October cruise was fairly cool. Mornings were sometimes in the upper 30’s or low 40’s, and highs were usually in the 60’s (occasionally in the low 70’s). Since we checked the weather forecasts before we left home, we brought clothes that we could layer – shirts, turtlenecks, sweaters, and a light, rain-proof jacket. (Not much rain, fortunately.) There are a lot of pluses. Mary, our “riverlorian,” was outstanding. She is a natural teacher who has an impressive mastery of a wide range of topics, from Lewis and Clark to the “Great Missoula Floods” to the underlying geology of the region to the history and culture of the indigenous peoples in the region. She is an engaging story-teller: fun to listen to and a terrific asset to the cruise. She scheduled a range of talks at all different times of the day, and was often in the Paddlewheel Lounge to answer individual questions. In a very different way, the American Empress entertainers were also a great asset. Mel, Kevin, Lindy and the American Empress Quartet were perfect for this cruise: they are all very accomplished performers and musicians who provided evening shows that were aimed at an audience of mostly folks in their 70’s and 80’s. (There was also a piano bar in the Paddlewheel Lounge that people seemed to enjoy. We, however, were generally in bed when he was performing.) The cruise includes hop-on, hop-off buses at each of the stops that run every half hour in the morning and every hour in the afternoon. What I especially liked is that (a) the local guides who ride with you on the buses are very knowledgeable presenters so that even if you just stay on the bus the whole time, you’ll still see and learn a fair amount and (b) the stops themselves are very well chosen. The American Queen Steamboat Company seems to put a lot of thought and effort into choosing and vetting these stops. The hop-on, hop-off stops are all included with the cruise. Our only “premium” tour (i.e., you pay extra) was the full-day trip to see the rose gardens in Portland followed by a trip to Mount St. Helen’s. Wow! Part of the wow factor was that we lucked out and had a stunningly clear day for the trip to Mount St. Helen’s and an excellent guide (Trudy). It was a memorable day and well worth the extra cost. The artwork on each hallway and in the public spaces makes the boat something of a floating museum. The artwork is numbered, and there’s a booklet in each cabin that lets you do a self-guided tour. It’s worth doing. Unlike some other cruises, the American Empress does not bombard you with constant p.a. announcements hassling you to buy something or do something. Just a few announcements to remind you that a talk or presentation is about to begin. I appreciated their restraint. We stayed in one of the two luxury suites that includes the cruise line’s “Commodore Services.” While it is costly, I think that we got our money’s worth. We were extraordinarily well cared for by Todd, our river butler, and Liz, our housekeeper. The location of this stateroom (Room 201) was another big plus: it is at the front of the boat on starboard side and has a private balcony. We had great views in two directions (forward and starboard) from which we could view scenery, birds, and marine life or watch what happens when the boat goes through the locks. If it was cold out, we could stay inside our stateroom’s sitting area and still have a great view through the windows that faced forward. But I think that we would also have enjoyed this cruise a lot even if we hadn’t been in that suite. We ate most of our meals in the Astoria Dining Room. The menu is surprisingly varied. There was plenty of standard fare (steaks, chops, and pasta) but also options that were more adventuresome. It is not a four-star dining experience, but it is awfully good, and the servers are remarkably friendly and eager to please. It includes unlimited wine at dinner. The River Grill has breakfast and lunch buffets each day, but we preferred the sit-down service in the Astoria Dining Room. Our only dining disappointment was the one night we dined in the River Grill, rather than in the Astoria Dining Room. I had lobster tail, and my wife had a steak. Both were merely OK (the lobster tail is rather tiny, actually), and the place was surprisingly noisy. The prep area is right where you enter the restaurant from the inside hallway (a bizarre location, frankly), and it fills the room with the noise of clanging dishes and pans. It didn’t help matters that at a table near us was a boorish fellow diner with a booming voice and very decided political views who perhaps was drinking too much of the wine and would not stop talking. Another complaint: the walls are pretty thin. The company might consider providing white noise machines for those in staterooms with noisy neighbors. Apart from that, we had a great time. This is civilized cruise for people who get a lot of pleasure from seeing and learning new things. The passengers are mostly retirees, and most are outgoing and sociable. At meals you have the option of sitting at a table for two, four, or six — which is a way of saying that you have the freedom to mingle as much or as little as you want with others on board. In sum, the cruise lived up to its description on the American Queen Steamboat Company’s website, and if you are attracted by what you read on the website about it, then you’ll enjoy this cruise very much. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
This river cruise was to be the highlight ending a great tour of the Eastern USA. New Orleans and the Roosevelt hotel were great to experience. I found the American Duchess a poorly designed ship.The only access to our cabins was ... Read More
This river cruise was to be the highlight ending a great tour of the Eastern USA. New Orleans and the Roosevelt hotel were great to experience. I found the American Duchess a poorly designed ship.The only access to our cabins was stairs at the front of the boat and this meant lots of walking the whole length of the boat to get to the public and dining areas at the stern.We were not allowed to use the mid or back stairs-crew only. The outside seating was hard wooden rocking chairs and there was no shade. not enough seating.No shade at all on the top deck. The dining staff were very good but the food was below standard sometimes and we sent some back. Bar staff were poorly trained and uninterested. The shore tours were good and very interesting. There were no activities on board except for bingo on river sailing day. Sailing along looking at the great views was a myth. we went under some interesting bridges but there was no way to find out information about them. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
This was a major disappointment. Booked the loft suite level which is the Commodore level that comes with a butler. That concept was a joke. Never was given a tour of our suite and how to operate the mechanical drapes plus other perks ... Read More
This was a major disappointment. Booked the loft suite level which is the Commodore level that comes with a butler. That concept was a joke. Never was given a tour of our suite and how to operate the mechanical drapes plus other perks that are outlined in their brochure. Food was marginal (my husband was served an untoasted english muffin) that was on the cold side already. Waiters messes up alot of our orders despite the fact that we had a table for two. Never got night replenishment of used towels and our balcony was never swept the whole time we were on the cruise. Had plenty of dead gnats to see. I wouldn't recommend this boat or cruise line to anyone. For the cost of this cruise ($15,000 plus); I had expected better. Leisure time activities were virtually non existent. The only good thing about the cruise is that our cabin had two full bathrooms. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
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