I am not a professional reviewer, and this is just my opinion. Two years ago my wife and I cruised down the Mississippi River from Memphis to New Orleans and we returned enchanted by our voyage. So much so that we decided this years to ... Read More
I am not a professional reviewer, and this is just my opinion. Two years ago my wife and I cruised down the Mississippi River from Memphis to New Orleans and we returned enchanted by our voyage. So much so that we decided this years to go the opposite direction and sail from Memphis to CIncinnati - and we convinced six of our friends to come long. American Queen never even acknowledged that, let alone give us any credit.
Well, what a difference two years make..! Structurally there have been changes in the boat, because every time it rained the "squeegee brigade" was hard at work trying to get rid of accumulated water on the deck outside walkways. Other things have not changed, such as nice staterooms, and a generally terrific crew. I say generally, because in the dining room, especially at breakfast, some of the personnel clearly showed by their demeanor that they wished they were somewhere else, and others wandered aimlessly around the dining room, empty-handed and ignoring soiled plates accumulating on the tables. Entertainment during the first week was excellent, but on the second week it was all different. The musicians and singers were all different and the shows turned out to be rather mediocre.
Compared to two years earlier, the food was quite a letdown. It seems that Regina Charbonneau is no longer supervising the cuisine, and it showed. Buffets (breakfast and lunch) were generally fine, except for cloying, unimaginative desserts, but anything that came from the menus at lunch and dinner were a disaster. It should also be noted that the menus did not change from week to week so we had the exact same stuff served during the two weeks we cruised. Our impression was that anything which was baked, roaste, sautéed, or fried had been prepared hours earlier and kept warm under infrared lights, because it was all overcooked, limp, or lukewarm. Portions of some items were ridiculously small. Compared again to two years earlier, the kitchen failed in the execution of most dishes.
The excursion system was still mostly adequate, with a big BUT. Our second week's theme was "Bourbon" and the boat had arranged for excursions to a number of distilleries. As it turned out, our entire group (two buses) was turned away from the interesting part of the Four Roses distillery because, according to the distillery reception, we had "missed our appointment" so three hours or so in the bus turned out for naught. The following day, the same group - more or less - again trekked for hours in a bus to go visit the Buffalo Trace distillery. Again we were denied a visit of the fermentation and distillation facilities because of "summer leaning". As it turned out, one of the distillery employees told me in confidence that it was the boat, and not the distillery, who had nixed visit of these facilities, because the passengers would not have been able to negotiate all the stairs to access them (and that person offered me a VIP tour on my next visit). So we ended up with a quick look at one of the ageing warehouses, a small bottling plant and a small tasting.
But the "best" was yet to come. Upon arrival at our destination in Cincinnati, we embarked on a bus tour of the city prior to getting to our hotel, the luxurious Hilton Netherland Plaza. The entire city was a zoo, owing to the MLB All-Star Week which attracted 100,000 people and probably more. At the reception, we were informed that our name was not on their list, even though the hotel stay was an integral part of the cruise. Of course there was not a single room left at the hotel or anywhere in Cincinnati for that matter. American Queen representatives had left, so we were on our own... After much anxious time and many phone calls, we were lucky enough to secure a room - at the Airport, 20 miles away.
Upon our return to San Francisco I got in touch with the company excursion supervisor, who said she would investigate the matter. A few days later after I called again, she blithely told me that "we messed up because something happened in IT", offered a rather insincere apology and said that the company would reimburse us for the hotel night we spent, and no more. When asked about giving us some credit to a future cruise, she said no and that was it. Needless to say, there is a very small chance of us cruising with American Queen ever again. Read Less