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37 American Queen Steamboat Company North America River Cruise Reviews

Loved the music. The musicians performed almost all the time. Riverlorian spoke daily about the Mississippi River, its depth, vessels, floods, accidents. Food was good, menus could be improved. Breakfast and lunch buffets were well ... Read More
Loved the music. The musicians performed almost all the time. Riverlorian spoke daily about the Mississippi River, its depth, vessels, floods, accidents. Food was good, menus could be improved. Breakfast and lunch buffets were well done. Hop on off bus gave lots of options to visit without worrying about entrance fees. Select a cabin away from the paddle wheel or you will lose sleep: it shook the cabin when the boat was at full speed.Cabin was smaller than Celebrity or Princess of similar category. Port stops were short as the boat was going up river and there was a lot of barge traffic that got the right away. If you took a premium excursion there was little or no time to tour the port. Select the Memphis to New Orleans route. Cruise director was good. his voice is amazing. Purser's station acted immediately. Many cabins had doors opening to the outside walkway Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
This was our second cruise on the American Queen and based on our previous cruise had high expectations. A pre-cruise one night hotel stay is included in the cruise. We stayed at the Airport Marriott and it was very nice. The next morning ... Read More
This was our second cruise on the American Queen and based on our previous cruise had high expectations. A pre-cruise one night hotel stay is included in the cruise. We stayed at the Airport Marriott and it was very nice. The next morning included a buffet breakfast and the ship check-in was done at the hotel prior to being taken to the ship. Check-in was very organized and smooth. This cruise was from Nashville to Memphis on the Cumberland, Tennessee, Ohio and Mississippi rivers. The river scenery was prettiest along the Tennessee, otherwise, nothing special. The towns that we stopped at were not that memorable. American Queen does an excellent job with their hop-on, hop-off tours in each town. The food was excellent. The ship staff is excellent and always willing to help. Our cabin steward did a great job. Our only complaint was poor service from our two dining room dinner servers. Our servers on our previous cruise were excellent. The shipboard entertainment was excellent. The shipboard internet could not be accessed inside or outside our cabin. The only good reception was in the public room where the ship computers were located. American Queen should upgrade their system so that internet is available in every cabin. There were a number of passengers using canes, walkers and wheel chairs. The crew made every accommodation to ensure they enjoyed their cruise and land tours. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
My husband and I wanted a quiet river cruise, and, thought the website for this Mississippi River cruise made the Steamboat cruise sound ideal for us. We also wanted to tie the cruise in with visits to both Memphis and Nashville. We ... Read More
My husband and I wanted a quiet river cruise, and, thought the website for this Mississippi River cruise made the Steamboat cruise sound ideal for us. We also wanted to tie the cruise in with visits to both Memphis and Nashville. We liked the idea of chugging down the mighty Mississippi and learning all about the American Civil War, which, as British travellers, we knew very little about. So...firstly the good points. The boat is beautiful, especially the dining room. It is really elegant and the food served is of a very high standard. The towns we stopped at were very pretty and very quaint and were so, so interesting. Also, the crew of the AMERICAN QUEEN made booking the tours exceptionally easy, and were extremely efficient if we had any problems. Help was always available for those passengers with mobility problems, and at every stop Hop-on-Hop -Off buses were available at regular intervals (all with knowledgable guides) , making it impossible to miss out on anything you want to see. Another plus was the entertainment. Mostly excellent.....with a couple of small exceptions!!! Our fellow passengers were, like us, mostly older holiday makers, and we found them to be extremely friendly.....so this is definitely not a trip that would appeal to young party-goers!! Bad points now!! When we first boarded the American Queen, our first impression was that this boat had so much character and was totally different to any other cruise boat we had been on before. Then we arrived at our cabin! Oh dear. The cruise company call it "cosy". We think it was "poky". Hardly any drawer-space, and just a fitted clothes-rail. The door of our cabin opened up onto the deck (which we liked, as we could sit outside our room and watch the world go by), but that also meant that the room felt damp from the humidity outside. And the beds were tiny. I would recommend anyone thinking of booking this cruise to upgrade to a bigger cabin. A larger cabin would have cost about $250 and would have been worth every dollar. But our biggest grouse about this otherwise delightful cruise was the disappointing standard of some of the waitresses/ waiters/catering staff. We put in a couple of complaints whilst we were on the cruise, as did several other passengers, and have followed this up by contacting The American Steamboat Company. We hope to hear from them soon. Nearly all the dining staff were terrific, but unfortunately the two serving our table were VERY short of the mark. Thankfully the boat's manager organised for replacement waitresses, and they proved to be first class. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
Cincinnati was not an option on this website to make a review, but cruise was Cincinnati to St. Louis. Loved every aspect of this trip. So much to see and do from Cincinnati along the Kentucky Bourbon trail towards Louisville and points ... Read More
Cincinnati was not an option on this website to make a review, but cruise was Cincinnati to St. Louis. Loved every aspect of this trip. So much to see and do from Cincinnati along the Kentucky Bourbon trail towards Louisville and points southwest. The cities and towns we visited were super. Lots to see and do. Not overwhelming where we felt rushed or, the other hand, lacking in things to see or do. Sandra in the gift shop was very friendly, and Benjamin at the sales desk was cordial and never pushy. Purser's desk also very helpful and open early/late as an added bonus. Excursions window was less than available and was either bombarded with a line or closed. The theme of this cruise was 'politics' but nothing too one-sided or swaying to favor any political party, candidate or persuasion. Enjoyed the Abraham Lincoln presentations and Mark Russell Q&A more than the show. Easier to understand. There are four singers and dancers who handle the main brunt of the load in the Grand Saloon... Glen, Michaelynn, Hannah and Matt. All are very versatile and genuine. Shows were better than major cruise or ocean liners. Late Night Sock Hop was a lot of fun. Band is also very good and lounge performers are all fun and engaging. Phil was very charming. Loved them recognizing a little girl and another devoted passenger as 'honorary crew members'. Room 3xx was by the Front Porch... a casual buffet and partial-service eating venue. Very convenient for mid-day snacks, drinks and always staff nearby to help or answer a question. Staff there was A+. Was a little underwhelmed by menu selection in main dining room, and put off by Maitre D. We heard he was leaving (for another job or just for a vacation?) and he seemed 'checked out'. Tried to write this review on the computers onboard as they leave these screens up and have signage encouraging you to do so. Problem is the internet is slow or disconnected so we couldn't review while onboard. All in all, a very fun cruise for us and we might try another part of their itinerary in the future. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
We cruised on the American Queen last October on the Tennessee/Columbia Rivers and enjoyed it very much. The positives of this cruise was the size of the room and its furnishing (other than the twin beds!), the service, the shore ... Read More
We cruised on the American Queen last October on the Tennessee/Columbia Rivers and enjoyed it very much. The positives of this cruise was the size of the room and its furnishing (other than the twin beds!), the service, the shore excusions and all the guides. There are several suggestions I would like to make: The first three deal with what is printed in the brochure... 1)It states that we had a option for twin beds or queen...no one asked which preferred...when we discovered we might have twin beds about two weeks before the cruise, I telephoned and talked with Tamara...I think she tried to accommodate us, but to no avail. The wording in the brochure and the pictured rooms all show a queen bed. We were duped! My husband and I have been married 2 1/2 years and in addition,this was his birthday cruise and we were stuck with twin beds! Really? Why not specify in the brochure that the choice is "upon request"? 2)The second "mistake" in the brochure is the "complimentary" cappuccino...we never could find that the crew had no idea where it was either. 3) The brochure also states that each room has a DVD. That was simply not true. We brought along two DVDs about Lewis and Clark and the purser had to locate one and plug it up to the TV with the DVD placed on one of the chairs. I guess we were lucky they found one! I would like to suggest that you provide optional name tags for the guests...issued at the first opportunity...whether at the hotel, on the first shore excursion before leaving the city, or upon arrival at the ship. That name tag might also note the guest's home town so we can forego "Where are you from?" I would have liked to have better wi-fi service so I could download my photos from my phone and my husband's phone and manage them at night when there was time. Whenever you decided to add more tour buses please consider domed buses especially in the areas where the scenery is mostly mountains and please consider cup holders, netting and hooks for purses. We love the buses as far as the outside and the comfort inside and the guides were exceptional! Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
We decided to take this cruise up the Mississppi River over the 4th of July; one, to celebrate the holiday, and two to see a bit of our country. The passengers were a bit older crowd and the overall dress was a little less causal when ... Read More
We decided to take this cruise up the Mississppi River over the 4th of July; one, to celebrate the holiday, and two to see a bit of our country. The passengers were a bit older crowd and the overall dress was a little less causal when compared to most of the ocean-going cruise-lines I've been on. They have a cruise up the Columbia River that would be very nice...not so hot and humid...and beautiful scenery. The scenery on the river from Memphis to St Louis was pretty unremarkable with a fair amount of commerce on the shores and barges on the river. Overall it had the type of elegance you might think of when you think of people traveling that way 100 years ago. Food: the food in the main dining room was excellent at dinner and lunch, not all that great for breakfast. Breakfast was the usual type of buffet or you could order off that day's menu. Unfortunately the food from the menu was either overlooked and/or cold. We never tried the room service...the room was far too small. The front porch offered a buffet breakfast and lunch. We never went there for dinner. It was totally self-serve in the Front Porch but it was very pleasant setting out on the covered open seating at the front of the boat. There was also a very friendly bar on deck five aft that had hot dogs everyday. Entertainment: they had lecturers during the day that were very knowledgable about the river and steamboats. There were also lectures about the civil war and the small towns we visited along the Mississippi River. There were lounge shows in several venues throughout the boat and a nightclub but we didn't visit any of them. The evening shows were at 6:15 for those dining at 8:00 and another show at 8:00 for those dining at 5:15. The 8:00pm time working out very well. We would go the show then spend a good amount of time chitchatting over coffee and desert before strolling along the decks and then bed. The shows were absolutely top notch with really good entertainers. I was pleasantly surprised! Staff: without exception, all of the staff were extremely friendly and helpful. If you so much as hinted that you might want or need something they went well out of their way to see it happen. We kept thinking that this was the definition of southern hospitality. Itinerary: the best part of the itinerary was watching the river flow by...very relaxing. The Steamboat company had they're own hop-on, hop-off buses in each small town and the buses and entrance fees to museums and such were all free. The ports were very rustic and small town America so not much to see at each stop. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
We did the 7 night New Orleans to Memphis cruise. After cancelling a Mediterranean cruise due to the terrorist activity in Europe, we looked into a river cruise on the American Queen. We did a river cruise on the Mosel and Rhine Rivers ... Read More
We did the 7 night New Orleans to Memphis cruise. After cancelling a Mediterranean cruise due to the terrorist activity in Europe, we looked into a river cruise on the American Queen. We did a river cruise on the Mosel and Rhine Rivers back in 2011, and really enjoyed that, so we figured, "why not"! I was skeptical, however, as these cruises are extremely expensive. This particular cruise we ended up booking was about $3,000 more than the one we cancelled, which was on Celebrity, Concierge class, 10 nights versus 7 on this cruise, unlimited Premium Drink Package, $300 on board credit, pre-paid gratuities and free Wi-Fi! But, when the wife says she won't go to Europe, this looked to be a decent, albeit expensive, option. And I was concerned about the ports, as most didn't seem real exciting! The bookend ports of New Orleans and Memphis, however, seemed like they would be fun, and we'd never been to either. And Vicksburg had the big Civil War National Historic Military Park as well, so that had appeal to the history buff in both of us. So, the pros and cons: Cons first: In reading the reviews, they describe the fellow passengers as "Mature"..., well, that they are, and then some! We are 59 and 63 respectively, and there were maybe 5 people that were younger than us! I'd guess the average age was 75 or so. Now, there is nothing wrong with this, it just was not expected, especially in the large amount, i.e. 99%, that we experienced. So, just be aware if you do book. Many had mobility issues, so getting up and down stairs, or on and off the buses, can take some patience when you are behind them. I asked about this demographic anomaly of the Cruise Director and the Future Cruise Salesperson, and they both said this was fairly typical, but it does tend to be a slightly younger crowd on the sailings out of Nashville with the popularity of Country Music, and the Columbia/Snake River sailings, as they offer shore excursions with zip lining and kayaking. So, something to keep in mind when selecting a sailing. Ports of Call. Little Southern towns are quaint, but once you've seen one..., well, you can only look at so many Southern Mansions, if you know what I mean! Most were a bit on the boring side, but as mentioned above, the bookend cities of New Orleans and Memphis, and the Vicksburg Civil War Battlefields, were excellent. I guess you can't compare 300 years of our history to 1500 years of European History. We did the Premium Shore Excursion in Vicksburg, and that was great. For all others, we did the Hop On-Hop Off bus tours they offered. These were quite good and is a very good concept for shore excursions. Most stops allowed you to get off at one, then walk to most of the other stops, making your way to the last stop to get back tothe boat. It really wasn't necessary to constantly get on and off, as the towns are all very small. Scenery while cruising..., well, there isn't any! 7 days of nothing! Heavily forested river banks and barges and other commercial ships. And the water is brown. Now, I've been told the Columbia/Snake River Cruises, and the Upper Mississippi Cruises, are much more scenic, but this one is not! However, it is very peaceful, and we still enjoyed it. Pros: The boat is absolutely beautiful! Very roomy and easy to get around, and immaculately maintained. The crew was constantly cleaning and polishing just about everything. Watching the paddle wheel turn is mesmerizing, and the facilities inside and out are first rate. The service was genuinely fantastic. EVERYONE on board has a smile on their face, and you are tended to with great pride and care. The food was amazing! They have an alternate dining venue called The Front Porch, and it had just as good (some nights even better) food as the Main Dining Room. And, you could go any time you wanted from 5:30 to 8:00. And you could go in shorts and flip flops if you wanted, and enjoy your dinner outside on the front deck. They were also open for breakfast and lunch, all three meals buffet style, with one entrée being prepared fresh (such as omelets in the morning, tacos/burritos at lunch, and BBQ Baby Back Ribs for dinner). Plus, you had all the other choices in the buffet line as well! We only ate one night in the Main Dining Room, and that was Lobster Night! Note that if you want to stick with the Main Dining Room, they only have two seatings, one at 5:15 (too early), the other at 8:00 (too late). So the Front Porch allowed much more flexibility. They had fantastic Entertainment. Each night they had a variety show of sorts, all performed by their onboard cast. These shows were held in the Grand Saloon, a larger theater modeled after Ford Theater in Washington. Plus there was piano bar entertainment in the Captain's Bar, music duos in the Engine Room Bar, and many other activities (Bingo, Trivia, etc) throughout the day. All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I don't see us ever doing another one, as it now falls into the "been there, done that" category. We absolutely LOVED our European River Cruise, but for the same reason, i.e., "been there, done that", it is doubtful we would repeat that. I just mention this as it is not due to any negative experience at all, in fact, it was really great. It is just not something we'd spend this amount of money on to do again. Also, I would NOT recommend this for children, as they would be bored out of their minds! There is nothing for kids to do, except a very small pool, with no slides or diving boards! Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
My grandparents wanted to go on a cruise up the Mississippi and I had always wanted to see New Orleans so I came with. I was not aware that there would be absoloutely no one my age (21) on the ship, which made it less enjoyable. Obviously, ... Read More
My grandparents wanted to go on a cruise up the Mississippi and I had always wanted to see New Orleans so I came with. I was not aware that there would be absoloutely no one my age (21) on the ship, which made it less enjoyable. Obviously, since this a cruise geared towards the older crowd, many of the activities weren't as interesting to me as they were to them. If there had just been a few things that were available to me, and others my age, I thought it would've been a much more enjoyable experience for myself. That being said, the staff was very friendly, and professional. Something that I appreciate. Additionally, the food was delicious and the staff was very accomodating of special requests. The rooms were nicely maintained, although small. The entertainment crew did a good job, although, I again thought they could've done more stuff for someone my age. Overall, a well done cruise. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
We arrived late in the day at the Doubletree Hotel in St Paul and the AQ Desk was closed. We went up to our room which was more than adequate for an overnight stop and then went into the restaurant for a meal. I use the word restaurant ... Read More
We arrived late in the day at the Doubletree Hotel in St Paul and the AQ Desk was closed. We went up to our room which was more than adequate for an overnight stop and then went into the restaurant for a meal. I use the word restaurant with reservations. It was noisy with 'locals' performing Karaoke and we were surrounded by arcade games, definitely not the sort of place we would normally frequent, or expect to find in a hotel. Sunday was a farce because unless you chose to pay to go on the excursion around St Paul you were left to hang around the hotel for hours waiting for 3pm when we were to board the boat. The hotel reception and all other available seating which was a bit sparse looked like the waiting room of a hospital outpatients. After having to trundle our carry on luggage down a steep slope to the boat we were ushered into the lifts to our deck where upon we found our lovely stateroom, immaculately clean and very well appointed although on first sight it doesn't look that way. As our stay in America was to be much longer than the cruise we had quite a bit more luggage than we would have had for just the cruise but we found ample space for its storage (all out of the cases) and with space to spare. The bathroom was small (well what do you expect on such a vessel) but very well appointed and with nice toiletries and two lovely dressing gowns. There were double doors which opened directly onto the deck and a table and couple of chairs to sit out at our leisure. After unpacking we went of to explore the boat and get our bearings. What a magnificent and opulent boat she is. So 1800s and beautifully maintained and spotless. The JM Dining room was equally opulent and the food served exceptional and we were waited on by the most delectable young lady who attended to our every need. The entertainment was a disappointment since this was supposed to be a 50s/60s Themed Cruise but for the most part we heard nothing but Jazz and even music written in different styles was jazzed up by the piano player in the Captains Bar, who incidentally was so far up himself you couldn't speak to him. He just ignored us when asked if he could play something not jazzed up. We didn't use the pool either, as apart from the rest of the boat, we found the Sun Deck quite dirty and neglected. The pool was cloudy and had 'things' floating in it, not very inviting. There were two types of excursion provided, the usual organised type where you book and pay extra for a dedicated location or activity and which we have found in the past usually more expensive than they are worth. However none of them either appealed to us or were out of our do-able category. We therefore chose the second type, that of a Free Hop On, Hop Off Bus around each of the locations where the Boat visited. We found this to be really handy as we could go the full route making notes of where we would like to visit and then Hop off when we reached them on a subsequent circuit hopping back on to visit the next choice. These buses carried a dedicated tour guide who resided in each of the locations and who were very well informed about their respective towns. Disembarkation was a farce as not being very mobile we had to negotiate the steep slope again only this time upwards, it was only when I were half way up I was offered assistance, which was not previously offered otherwise I would have taken it, being at the point of no return I soldiered on to the waiting queue of taxis (the AQ wanted $25 per person to go by their coach to the airport,having to sit on it until it was full, but it only cost us $40 to go by private taxi, not have to wait, and a much better ride) We would have given an excellent rating, but the Sun Deck and lack of Themed Music let you down. All in all we had a lovely time and were looked after incredibly well throughout our cruise by a most wonderful crew. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
Corrections/rebuttals of other reviews: There is a toilet on board the busses. We did not have the female Riverlorian – ours was Lawrence and he was very interesting and informative. I attended all of his lectures. I didn’t think ... Read More
Corrections/rebuttals of other reviews: There is a toilet on board the busses. We did not have the female Riverlorian – ours was Lawrence and he was very interesting and informative. I attended all of his lectures. I didn’t think the Internet was that slow and always worked, but I only used it in the Paddle Wheel Lounge, which was down the hall from our room. Someone said that all the cabins have balconies. You will see from the ship’s layout before booking that there are cabins without balconies. There were not a lot of people using walkers on our cruise. The elevator was fast and large enough to hold everyone. However, there were only 105 passengers aboard that week. We've done 17 non-river cruises (Holland American, etc.), but this was our first river cruise. Dining: Dinners in the Astoria Dining Room were always very good, but service was slow (for us) and it took a minimum of two hours. This is a beautiful dining venue with sparkling crystal chandeliers and an attractive blue-lit ceiling, which added to the ambiance. I don’t know why most people were having breakfast and lunch at the River Grille. I thought the buffets there were pretty mediocre. I had many breakfasts and lunches at the almost empty Astoria Dining Room and enjoyed some great entrees – eggs benedict or specialty French toast in the morning, and lunches including southern friend chicken with home made biscuits. Be careful to watch the schedule for when the restaurants open for breakfast and lunch because they aren’t open very long. One day we went to the river Grille at 1:00 p.m. and they were putting the food away – we didn’t realize that they closed then. Another couple told us they arrived at the restaurant at 9:00 a.m. and couldn’t get any food for the same reason. We ate at the River Grille for two nights and they let us order a combo of filet mignon and lobster. The lobster was really good and we ordered it the other night we dined there as well. Then the main dining room had lobster on Friday night and we had another tasty lobster. I love sweets, but the desserts were a disappointment to me in both dining rooms. Therefore most eveneings we ordered ice cream. I don’t think they had a pastry chef on board. The cookies at the River Grille lunch buffet and Paddle Wheel Lounge were the same each day. It made me think that none of the desserts/cookies were home made – maybe just picked up from a mediocre vendor for the ship –like Costco. The dessert for lunch at the buffet at the River Grille seemed to be lemon bars every day. I didn’t like the house wines in either dining venue, but our waiter found one they weren’t offering but was still free: Saint Chapelle Soft White Wine. It was very good and I was able to request it for each meal. For the best coffee, order a cappuccino or latte from the Astoria Dining Room, because they have an espresso machine. There’s a self-serve one in the River Grille as well – a real one, which easily serves espresso and also steamed milk separately. It was very good. Entertainment: A banjo player boarded our boat mid cruise. He flew in from the American Queen on the Mississippi. He was unbelievable; so we enjoyed a fantastic banjo/guitar evening, with a very good cruise band backing him up. Art Gallery in Halls: Every floor has excellent artwork on the walls of the halls. Take time to tour each floor’s paintings. The 4th floor has old photos from the Gold Rush Days. What to Wear: As one reviewer stated, the public rooms and halls can be “ice-box cold”. In the Paddle wheel Lounge, I was surprised that even the men were asking the staff why they couldn’t make the room any warmer. My husband ordinarily never gets chilled, but wished he had brought a long-sleeve shirt even though it was summer. I wish I had brought a cashmere sweater set. I was surprised at how many people were really casually dressed for dinner. I personally feel that if you bring what they suggest wearing for dinner in the brochure, you will be fine. Excursions: Bring a warm sweater or wrap on the hop on/hop off bus. It’s usually very cold no matter what the temperature is outside. The busses are okay, but I didn’t find them that comfortable for an hour or longer ride. Also, be careful to look at each day’s program sheet for which time periods there are 15 minute pickups from drop off points and which are one hour. One day we decided to relax on the boat in the morning, and take the bus in the afternoon. We found out that we had to wait an hour at each drop off point for the bus to pick us up. The bus drivers were really accommodating and helpful – I found them to be the best employees on our cruise. I think the towns we visited and site we were dropped off at were not very exciting. It would probably be better to book their premium excursion. We did not do this because with my husband’s bad back, his limit is 3 hours and the premium excursions were a minimum five hours long. I would recommend the one that goes to Mt. Hood’s Timberline Lodge, because we came in several days before the cruise and spent the night here. Also, I’ve heard that the Maryhill Museum of Art is outstanding. We met a couple that did the wine country tour and loved the scenery. Also, everyone enjoys the Hell’s Canyon Jet Boat. However, we were content to relax, and enjoy being on the river on this fine ship. We had looked forward to it and it met our expectations. Post-Voyage Travel Days: We took the train from San Diego to L.A., and then the Coastal Starlight Amtrak train from L.A. to Portland (left Tues 10:10 a.m., arrived Wed. 3:32 p.m.). We had a deluxe sleeping room and the scenery was very good as well as the dining car meals. They have an old fashioned, restored parlor car for use by those passengers with sleeping rooms. Upon arriving in Portland, we had to wait an hour for a taxi ride a mile to our Hilton Hotel. We picked up a Hertz rental car and drove to the Timberline Lodge in Mt. Hood. We loved the lodge. The great food alone is worth the trip. Then we took the “fruit loop” and spent a night on the Columbia River Gorge at the Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, WA with beautiful views of the river. The bus ride after our cruise, to Spokane, took three hours but was a beautiful drive. We stayed at the old Davenport Hotel for 2 nights. It is beautifully restored, but I didn’t like how high the bed was – you had to use a step to get into it. I usually love staying in historic hotels, but this time I think I would have liked their more modern hotel across the street. The price for a wash/blow dry in their spa was reasonable and gave me use of their relaxing “quiet room”, etc The Davenport’s food was just so-so. We rented a car from Enterprise and the hotel’s shuttle gave us a ride there and the rental car co. gave us a return ride back to the hotel. We drove to the Coeur d’Alene Resort in Idaho and had a 5-star lunch facing the lake. We didn’t stay over night here because of the $400 per night room rate. We had a nice breakfast down the street from our hotel at The Post Street Ale, and walked to dinner at the Europa Restaurant – dinner was mediocre but the desserts were incredible. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
First, a caveat: I am not an aficionado of cruise ships, and furthermore the only two cruises I have previously taken were by Crystal Cruises and Oceania, so I not only may not know what serious cruisers like, I also probably have ... Read More
First, a caveat: I am not an aficionado of cruise ships, and furthermore the only two cruises I have previously taken were by Crystal Cruises and Oceania, so I not only may not know what serious cruisers like, I also probably have unrealistically high expectations for food, facilities and service. Having said all that, I did enjoy our cruise on the American Empress down the Snake and Colombia Rivers, and can generally recommend it, with a few cautions. The short version: If you don't require polished 5 star service, perfectly consistent cuisine, always fascinating ports of call, youthful fellow passengers, and a deep roster of onboard entertainment, but do enjoy watching a variety of rugged scenery slip by your balcony, lazy days of reading and lounging, watching wildlife, day trips to view natural splendor, and learning the history of the land and the early explorers, this could be the trip for you. The longer version, divided by topic: The ship: This is a small ship with only four public decks and approximately 115 cabins, not one of the behemoths that sail the seas, but it has to be svelte in order to fit through the many locks that line the river. And it's a reasonably faithful replica of a paddle wheel steamer of Mark Twain's day, though with modern diesel engines. The boat is historically appropriate in that a century ago, luxury paddle wheelers were common on the Columbia River. Compared to a top tier ocean liner, it doesn't dazzle with wall to wall polished brass and crystal, but the public areas are nicely appointed, usually in period style, clean and well maintained. The cabins are likewise clean and feature the amenities you would expect in a modern cruise ship, but if you travel with a number of electronic gizmos requiring regular charging, you will want to bring some sort of outlet multiplier, though they do provide an iPod/radio dock with a modern iPhone jack, a USB port, and a mini audio cable. There is ship-wide free WiFi, though it can be a bit intermittent and is never what you would call fast. The bed is quite comfortable, but the feather pillows a bit slab like. As a nice bonus, all cabins feature balconies, though the cheaper fourth deck cabins (where we stayed) don't have private balconies, since the promenade deck for walking or running goes on the outside of these balconies' railings. There is a main formal dining room on the first deck, along with a theater/lecture hall and a tiny shop; on the second aft deck is the bar/library/lounge, featuring comfy chairs, a small performance stage, and a cool view of the giant paddle wheel turning through the aft window; and on the fourth deck is the more casual grill restaurant, which also features patio seating on the aft deck. That's basically it – there's no gym, spa, guest laundry, pool, etc. From the outside, the boat is pure photographer eye candy, and predictably drew a throng of gawkers wherever we berthed. One minor facilities complaint: the public areas tend to be cooled to walk-in freezer temperature levels, which was welcome when we were sweltering in 100+ degrees outside at the beginning of the voyage, but not so much when we got to the chilly coast. Hardest to understand was the fourth deck grill, where on a chilly day in Astoria they had all the exterior deck doors open at lunch hour and when we pointed this out, the waitress shrugged and apologized but did nothing. Realizing there was a reason the only people in there was one bundled up group of diners, we took our plates to the cabin and cranked the heat up. The crew/staff: Those in senior positions (officers, bar manager, maitre'd, purser, head of housekeeping) were pleasant, professional, articulate, and helpful. Many of the rest of the line staff were...unpolished. Not rude, not disrespectful, not incompetent, not unhelpful, just kind of young, well meaning and uncouth. So be warned: if you are a connoisseur of high end international cruise lines where they train their staff like they worked in a 5 star European hotel, you may occasionally get your fur rubbed the wrong way. If you don't rank your specialness too highly, you'll do just fine. In terms of handling logistics, everything seemed well organized and efficient. The entertainment: Sorry, can't help much here, since this isn't our scene, but as stated above, this is a small boat, with very limited space, so you are not going to see a wide variety of options. The "Riverlorean", the resident historian and local expert who gave periodic lectures on contextual history as well as spontaneous commentary as we sailed past various landmarks, was knowledgeable, articulate and interesting. Much of the entertainment that we skipped seemed aimed at the post-retirement crowd, which brings me to: Fellow passengers: I'm 50. Until a family with teens joined us mid-cruise, I was probably the youngest person on board, though there may have been 3-4 other passengers who might possibly have held that title, but only by a year or two. Between this handful of us and the rest there was a big leap of about a decade. I would guess the median passenger age was 70, with a large contingent in walkers or other assistive devices (which frequently made boarding and exiting buses a very leisurely affair). I have no idea if this was a demographic fluke or the norm for this cruise, but if your idea of a perfect cruise is being around an active posse of your peers, and your peer group is not a retirement home, this may not be for you. Although it was a little odd for us – our two previous cruises, though geared towards mature adults, at least had all age demographics somewhat represented – we are two introverts who mostly don't go on these trips to socialize and meet people, so it wasn't a deal breaker. And the cruise served as a good reminder to check our ageism at the door, since several folks we met were bright, interesting and engaging. The cuisine: As noted above, there are two restaurants on the boat. The semi-formal main dining room was a pleasant surprise: cuisine that would stand up well in a sophisticated foodie city like San Francisco or New York, with delicate favors, artistic presentation, and light portions that lend themselves to a multi course meal that won't leave you feeling bloated. The cuisine emphasizes seafood, but always included a vegetarian option and usually some sort of red meat entree. The fourth deck grill is another affair. Food there is served cafeteria style for breakfast and lunch, and anything served in a stainless steel food warmer is best avoided (a coagulated grey goo with occasional fragments of shrimp billed as "bow tie pasta with shrimp" comes to mind, as do ice cold barbecue ribs). On the positive side, their lunch hot dog/hamburger grilled to order items were excellent, and if you avoid the aforementioned stainless steel food warmers at breakfast, you can put together a satisfying and healthy continental breakfast. At night this space transforms into their specialty bistro style, reservation-only restaurant. We ate there only one night, and found the menu not terribly different from that of the main dining room, the service slower, the preparation more hit or miss (tough and chewy lobster tail), and the late afternoon light more glaring, and opted not to dine there again. Beer and wine are included at dinner, and are extra cost at other times, as are cocktails. They feature northwest coastal wineries and breweries, with mostly quite good selections, though for dinner there is only one red and one white offered each night, so if you don't like their selections you are out of luck. We attended a local beer tasting and a local whiskey tasting another night (both extra), and were pleased by both. The bar doesn't have a particularly deep roster of spirits, and their mixed drinks trend fruity and a bit sweet, and at least one traditional cocktail was done all wrong (a Sazerac with too much simple syrup, no discernible absinthe flavor, shaken, and served in a martini glass = fail). The itinerary/attractions: We started in the eastern end with a pre-cruise hotel night in Spokane and went west, ending in Portland (or more technically, in Vancouver, Washington, Portland's sister city across the Columbia River). The hotel in Spokane was a delight -- see my separate review of the historic Davenport Hotel on Trip Advisor for details. You are then bussed a few hours drive south to the embarkation port, driving through the lush green rolling hills of the beautiful Palouse district. The boat actually zigs and zags back and forth along the river, sometimes doubling back a whole day's journey, presumably in order to make this a full week's cruise, but the scenery is so attractive it's not a problem. Eastern Washington and Oregon may come as a surprise to those whose image of the Pacific Northwest is based on the Oregon coast and Seattle. Mostly it is a treeless desert, with craggy basalt cliffs lining the river, and a hot dry climate -- temps were over 100 our first couple of days. By about halfway through the cruise, when you enter the Columbia Gorge, the terrain begins to change dramatically to what most think of a more typical of the area, with towering cliffs covered in fir trees, and beautiful Mount Hood as a backdrop. The weather also changes, with temperatures dropping and also sometimes major winds, since the Columbia Gorge is a bit of a wind tunnel. One fun feature of the trip is to be on deck when you go through one of the many locks that line the river. Particularly dramatic were the Bonneville Dam and the John Day Dam. With the exception of one day of cruising only, each day included a full day stop at a different port. Let's be honest: the small Idaho, Washington, and Oregon towns that make up most of the ports are not Venice. They are not Barcelona. They are not even Sitka. They are mostly smallish industrial towns, some of which clearly are economically depressed and still waiting for the economic recovery to reach them, with many empty storefronts, and extremely eager members of the town council waiting to greet the boat and point out their attractions. They usually have a historic downtown a few blocks long, usually have a historic museum in some old courthouse, and sometimes have a recently built history and/or natural history museum on the outskirts of town. If you don't know anything about Lewis and Clark, you will by the end of the trip, because the cruise retraces their journey, and every stop features historical sites related to it. It's not until you get to Astoria on the coast that you find a town with any shopping district to speak of. The town of Richland has a very pretty waterfront park that is perfect for walking or jogging. Each stop includes an included hop on, hop off bus service from the boat with stops at the main points of interest, most of which have their admission fees covered by the cruise company. A local guide is on the bus providing narration, which is either a nice feature or an intrusive annoyance, depending on the guide; one in particular in Richland sounded like she was giving an aggressive and endless sales pitch from the local Chamber of Commerce, while others were more interesting. To access much more of an attraction than historical sites and museums, you need to get on one of the premium excursions, which are usually half day affairs around $60 a head. We'd only did three: the Spokane city tour, because we didn't know what we would do with ourselves while waiting for the bus to the boat (at 3.5 hours the tour was a little long, but a nice way to see the lovely parks and historic mansions of the town), the half day Multnomah Falls tour, which also hits several other spectacular viewpoints and falls (highly recommended), and the half day Maryhill Museum/wine tasting/Stonehenge replica tour (also recommended). There were some fun sounding and more active excursions such as zip lining and jet boating, but we weren't physically up to these, as well as excursions focused on wine tasting, antiques, etc. The cruise runs both directions of the route, but I would probably recommend the direction we took, in that although the eastern desert has its own surreal beauty, the quality of both the scenery and the communities improve as you proceed west, and to do the cruise the other direction might feel like a journey with diminishing returns. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
I enjoyed the cruise as I just retired and it was very relaxing. It wasn't what I expected for sure. Just turned 60 and would be one of the youngest onboard. We played bingo which turned out to be quite fun. Ha! The staff were very ... Read More
I enjoyed the cruise as I just retired and it was very relaxing. It wasn't what I expected for sure. Just turned 60 and would be one of the youngest onboard. We played bingo which turned out to be quite fun. Ha! The staff were very accommodating. I had two requests for changes and they were both changed within the day. The meals were very good also. We started in New Orleans and ended up in Memphis. Stayed an extra night at both ends but it would have been nice to have stayed a few extra days. If there was more time I would have checked out different restaurants and listened to more live music. I expected to see more along the river but it was mostly just bush and tree lined. Rather disappointing. A camera would not be necessary. The little town stops along the way we're deserted. Almost eerie. The Louisiana prison 'Angola' was very interesting and worth seeing. I heard the swamp tour was also another excursion that was worthwhile. The engine room bar was the only happening place at night and the music was good. It was fun as we met up with other ladies our age and danced. I would definitely recommend this cruise but not for younger people looking for an action packed adventure. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
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