I always wanted to visit New Orleans and my companion had always wanted to go down/up the Missisipi River. This cruise offered the best of both worlds. Unfortunately i was disapointed to find that the food was not always of good quality ... Read More
I always wanted to visit New Orleans and my companion had always wanted to go down/up the Missisipi River. This cruise offered the best of both worlds. Unfortunately i was disapointed to find that the food was not always of good quality and did not cater well for vegetarians. Unfortunately there was also a lot of fried fish rather than fresh fish. There were also times when the boat ran out of basics such as English Breakfast tea and some herbal teas.
Most of the staff however were very good, very helpful and friendly. The hop on and off tours were rather interesting however in some of the towns; Greenville especially there was not much to see, and what we did see while being of some interest had been covered earlier on in the tour some museums were random and disjointed in there collections. Perhaps if you stayed in one of the bigger towns for longer of even arrived earlier in Memphis. However i have had overall a good experience. The staff were especially welcoming and helpful. Read Less
Cruised before on the American Queen. Loved the service and staff. 5 stars. Thought the Empress might be similar and it was just as good, maybe considering the scenery, better. First, the cabin. Knowing that the cabins on these boats ... Read More
Cruised before on the American Queen. Loved the service and staff. 5 stars. Thought the Empress might be similar and it was just as good, maybe considering the scenery, better. First, the cabin. Knowing that the cabins on these boats tend toward being a bit smaller and knowing that the weather would be cold and rainey, we opted for one of the biggest cabins onboard, 704. Cabin was large and comfortable, well decorated, lots of storage. Yes, you've heard that the bathrooms are small - they are, but certainly not the big deal that some reviewers thought. Not an issue for us in the least. Yes, the walls are thin and you can hear next door's TV and the toilets flush. Again, not a biggie, and not bothersome for us. You know these things going into this cruise and if you think it is a problem (it is not), well it just comes with the territory. Some of the TV bleed through could be avioded if the speakers were not inside the TV cabinet, against the wall where they would use the wall as a sounding board. But again, it did not impact upon this 5-star cruise.
Food was mostly excellant. Never had a meal that was less than a 9+, and most were a "10." Had lobster 3 nights (two in the River Grill). Steaks were supurb. Wines were very good, although I thought the house red could have been better. That said, we had the drink package and had the upgraded wine list to choose from. I'm nit picking here, but if you were on the drink package and wanted the better wines, it took the staff forever to get it to our table. Again, this is nit picking.
Service: It simply does not get any better. We have been on 40+ cruises, mostly on upscale lines, and American Queen and Empress are the best. Never saw anything but smiles, and they were real. Staff seemed to enjoy themselves as much as the guests. Their simply was nothing that they could not do to make your cruise even better. As an example, American Airlines as usual lost our luggage for a couple of days. The hotel manager (purser's office) actually drove back from Clarkston to Spokane in the middle of the night (a four-hour round trip) to retrieve our luggage. We actually had a similar experience on the "Queen" several years back that sold us on this company.
On board entertainment was certainly not Broadway (you will need RCCL large ships for that), but considering the venue, the singers and band - supurb. If you like 50s, 60s, and 70s music, this is for you. Throughly enjoyed every evening's entertainment.
Tours: First, the scenery is absolutely spectacular throughout the entire trip. Jet boat to Hell's Canyon had great staff, lovely scenery and commentary, but I though it was an hour or so too long. Still, well worth while. The trip to the nuclear plant was again great, although the guides explanation was a bit too technical for me, and I was a physics major, The lunch boxes are made in China would you believe. The Falls: again some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever viewed. Well worth while. The HOHO bus tours: The first couple of towns were really small, not much for us to see and do. Astoria, however, was well worth walking the downtown area.
I've given Fitness and recreation only one star, but that really is not fair, as I knew going into this that there was not gym (thankfully). It is really as "n/a."
Would I do this again? In a heartbeat! Thank you AQSSC. Frank. Read Less
This cruise was chosen by a neighbor in my community, Sun City Palm Desert California, who organizes group trips. I was fortunate to be invited to join the group, and because I was cruising without my husband (who stayed at home with our ... Read More
This cruise was chosen by a neighbor in my community, Sun City Palm Desert California, who organizes group trips. I was fortunate to be invited to join the group, and because I was cruising without my husband (who stayed at home with our dog), I was paired with a roommate who is also a neighbor in our community. There were 34 people in our group.
The cruise we were on is the Lower Mississippi departing from Memphis and terminating in New Orleans with stops in Helena, Arkansas; Vicksburg, and Natchez, Mississippi; Baton Rouge, St. Francisville, and Nottoway Plantation, Louisiana. However, because the Mississippi is flooding at this time, our itinerary was altered extensively. There were no complaints about this that I heard, and myself and everyone I talked to enjoyed every day.
We spent the first night in Memphis at the Peabody Hotel; this overnight is part of the cruise package. The hotel is old, charming, and delightful especially if you are able to see the ducks paraded through the lobby and into the fountain. They stay all day and then are paraded back to their quarters on the roof of the hotel in the evening.
The next morning, we were bused to Graceland for the Elvis Experience. This is an additional “Premium Tour” offered by the American Queen Steamboat Company. I highly recommend doing this tour; it is a must for anyone who ever enjoyed an Elvis song.
Due to the flooding, our boat could not dock and depart from Memphis, so we were bused to Greenville, Mississippi, for our departure. This was about a two-hour bus ride. That evening, we boarded our boat, American Duchesse, and enjoyed dinner in the main dining room. The menu there is extensive, dining is leisurely and the food is delicious.
Alternatives to the main dining room are a buffet for breakfast and lunch serviced in a bar called the River Club at the rear of the boat, and snacks and beverages available 24/7 in a little room called Perks at the front of the boat. Room service is also offered, but I didn’t have a need for it. The buffet meals in the River Club are outstanding and are perfect when you want a quick meal. Also, you can eat outside on the rear deck if you eat at the River Club. Fruit, soft serve ice cream, popcorn, sandwiches, cookies, pastries and all kinds of beverages are offered in Perks. You literally cannot go hungry on this boat, and the food is wonderful.
Actually, we spent two nights in Greenville, then Vicksburg, Mississippi; Vidalia, Baton Rouge, New Roads, Louisiana; and the last day of our cruise was spent cruising the Mississippi between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Buses meet the boat at every stop offering what is called Hop On Hop Off tours of that particular area’s highlights. This service is included in the cost of the cruise. There are Premium Tours offered at every stop that seemed to range between $79-$129. These are exceptional tours and well worth the additional cost. Some are half-day and some are full-day.
My roommate and I had a veranda room which I took full advantage of. Nothing beats sitting on the veranda and watching the world go by. There are areas for doing this all over the boat in the front, in the back and on the very top of the boat called the sun roof.
Highlights of this cruise for me were the meals, the historian who offered talks everyday about the Mississippi, the Mark Twain impersonator who performed twice, the visit to Graceland, the visit to BB King’s Museum and Bar, many beautiful sights offered by the Hop On Hop Off buses tours, and especially the Premium Tour to Angola Louisiana State Penitentiary. This last item may sound strange, but be assured it is an uplifting and eye-opening experience.
Most of all, though, I enjoyed just being on the boat. The cruise staff are friendly, helpful, outgoing and accommodating. That includes the Captain, officers, pursers, performers, tour guides, bus drivers, dining staff and cleaning staff. We all got to be family for the brief week that we were together. You could do this cruise all by yourself and not be alone, or you can have all the privacy you want.
The bottom line, I guess, is would I do this or any cruise on the American Queen Steamboat again; you bet I would. Read Less
I was invited to join friends on this cruise. New Orleans is a great place to visit pre-cruise. Our hotel was within walking distance of many attractions. Cabin was small but compact, clean and orderly. The bathroom was good size and ... Read More
I was invited to join friends on this cruise. New Orleans is a great place to visit pre-cruise. Our hotel was within walking distance of many attractions. Cabin was small but compact, clean and orderly. The bathroom was good size and the walkin shower excellent. Amenities included were shampoo, lotion, shower gel, nice size bar of hand soap. The food was plentiful, many choices, and of excellent quality. For breakfast and lunch you could order from the menu or eat from the buffet. Dinner consisted of appetizer choice, soup and/or salad, choice of entrée and dessert. Wine, beer, soda, coffee, tea included with dinner.
The included shore excursions were very interesting. There were enough places to visit in each town using the Hop-On Hop-Off tour buses that you didn't really need to pay for extra premium excursions. I did opt to purchase the Vicksburg, On The Front Lines of the Civil War, excursion. I felt that it was well worth the money. I was not impressed with the evening entertainment, but there were always other choices. The only downside was the fact that the Mississippi was the highest it has ever been. Consequently, we could not dock at several ports. However, we still visited most of the same towns, We could not get under the bridges leading to Memphis, so we had a long bus ride to the Memphis airport. We all made our flights on time. The staff of the cruise boat did a fine job of dealing with the swollen river and the problems it presented. Since I have visited Memphis many times, I did not stay over there. I would recommend doing so if you have not been there. Read Less
After having taken three ocean cruises, the cruise aboard the American Queen was a very nice change. We enjoyed the more personal service that is possible with a maximum capacity of 430 passengers. We appreciated the helpfulness and ... Read More
After having taken three ocean cruises, the cruise aboard the American Queen was a very nice change. We enjoyed the more personal service that is possible with a maximum capacity of 430 passengers. We appreciated the helpfulness and pleasant demeanor of all the staff we encountered.
The boat and its furnishings are very nice and seemed to be well maintained. The only equipment problem I noted was that one of the two treadmills in the gym was non-operational. That was not a problem for us as we never encountered anyone else in the gym when we were there. Our cabin #332 included a private veranda. Although we have stayed in larger suites before, we found this one to be quite comfortable and to meet all our needs. Unfortunately, we had a problem with cigarette and apparent pipe smoke being very noticeable from our veranda several times when we wanted to use it. On the second day I reported it to the Purser's office and they sent a security staff member to our cabin. He also smelled smoke but said he could not determine from where it was coming. I was later told by a different staff member that it was probably coming from the staff deck below. Sure enough, when I looked down at that deck from my veranda I saw several cigarette butts on the decking below our cabin. When I later mentioned that to the Purser's office I got the distinct impression that they were aware of the issue from prior experience but just chose not to take corrective action. I consider that to be very inconsiderate that they do not at least advise passengers where this problem might be encountered so they can make a good choice of cabin.
We found the food to be of very good quality. We ate half of our dinners at the Front Porch Café because we enjoyed the more casual service style here. The staff there was excellent and quick to address any service requests. We did not take any of the premium excursions and found the hop-on hop-off bus system to be well organized and easy to use. Read Less
This was a 4-night "add-on" to the end of the normal cruise season. The price was irrestible, plus the convenience of being a round-trip cruise. We'd previously done the traditional 8-day, one-way trip up the Columbia on ... Read More
This was a 4-night "add-on" to the end of the normal cruise season. The price was irrestible, plus the convenience of being a round-trip cruise. We'd previously done the traditional 8-day, one-way trip up the Columbia on this boat. Earlier this year, we did a lower Mississippi cruise on the American Queen. AQSC is a "class act", and we love the company. I hope they will expand to other rivers. There is hope, as AQSC just acquired another cruise line. It helps that AQSC's parent company is in the maritime business, so this isn't just another piece of a conglomerate empire.
I am trying to not sound like a company shill, so am being nit-picky about my complaints. With most cruise lines, they would be "lost in the noise" of other issues.
AQSC's cruises are not cheap. Their boats are built and registered in the U.S. That means that they must meet a higher standard of health and safety regulations than foreign-flagged vessels. Also, all crewmembers must be legal to work n the U.S. Their smaller vessels do not offer the economies of scale enjoyed by lines with larger ships (Carnival, NCL, Celebrity, etc.). The smaller size, and nature of operations, preclude ancillary income opportunities, such as spas, casinos, art galleries, tourist photos, and premium restaurants. Some cruise ships have more than 20 times as many passengers as the AE.
Over the years, I've spoken to many AQSC employees. Uniformly, they seem to enjoy working for the company, and feel valued and well-treated. The boat's staff, including non-public folks, such as engineering and deck divisions, seem focused on a pleasant experience for the guests. I wish that I'd been as happy during my careers (military pilot, airline pilot, and aerospace engineering analyst).
I have some very minor complaints, described in the "Cabin" section. Also, the Wi-Fi is very weak, and often so slow as to be unusable. Mostly, I used my cell's hotspot. However, the desktop computers in the Paddlewheel Lounge were okay. Considering that nearly every other cruise line charges exhorbitant fees for slow Internet access, it's not much of a complaint. I did find it interesting that, when my devices connected to the AE's Internet service, the internal clocks synchronized to Central Time (company's headquarters).
Because of the nature of this add-on cruise, Portland was one of the ports. Rather than the usual Hop-On, Hop-Off cruise, the AE's buses were used for a "2-hour city tour". It was interesting and done well. The only odd part was a 1/2-hour visit to Washington Park. We weren't told that we would be leaving the bus. Not everyone was prepared for a walk in the rain. Otherwise, these HOHO bus excursions are an outstanding idea, and a signature perk for AQSC. Generally, we don't take the premium excursions, because the HOHO ones are so good, and I don't want to miss in-port activities on the boat.
Since this cruise was very different from others on this boat, some of the guidance was more relevant to other cruises than this one. That caused a bit of confusion, but nothing major. Again, I'm trying hard to find fault with this cruise. "It ain't easy".
For the size of the vessel, entertainment was outstanding. The Cruise Director, Greg, did "double-duty" as a singer. A few of the songs weren't a good match for his very talented voice, but I would assign him an "A" grade as a singer and "A+" as Cruise Director. Jordan Gonzalez is a new addition to the staff, and was spectacular. Besides assisting Greg in both roles, she is a talented singer with a very versatile voice. The house band's main job is to support the singers. They did that very well. It's difficult to describe Laurence Cotton, the "Riverlorian". He was on our first AE cruise. Columbia River and Northwest history aren't a job or a hobby for him -- they're a passion that is infectious. I attended every one of his events, even missing some other interesting ones. I dunno about his counterpart for other cruises, but I would definitely pick a cruise on which he's working. I can't say enough good about him!!!
Overall, AQSC's cruises (we've also cruised on the American Queen) are very close to "all-inclusive". Bottled water is widely available. Unlimited Northwest beers and wines are available with dinner. Cocktails are reasonably-priced. There is no pressure to purchase cocktails in the bars. The servers are equally happy to provide you with alcohol or glasses of water. We often had water, after having enough wine with dinner to last the evening. My sense is that AQSC views alcoholic drinks as a service to their guests, rather than as a source of income. Ditto for the premium excursions -- there's no pressure to sign up for them.
We (traveled with another couple) signed up for dinner in the River Grille on the first night, assuming that others wouldn't. We guessed correctly, as it was nearly vacant. It is the buffet dining area for breakfast and lunch, but the alternative (reservations required) dining venue for dinner. The menu is very appealing, but constant throughout the cruise. I enjoyed a mouth-watering dinner of lobster tail. Yummy! The rest of our party enjoyed their meals. We ate other dinners in the Astoria dining room. Service there ranged from good to excellent. The cuisine was great, with many menu choices available for each meal. The buffet breakfast was comparable to that in many hotels, but included made-to-order omelets. Lunch had many choices, and was as good as a buffet can be.
Soft-serve ice cream is available at any time in the River Grille. Snacks are available in the Paddlewheel Lounge from 3 to 5. Popcorn is available for a few hours more. I felt that the popcorn was too salty, though some might disagree. Even so, I would have preferred that it be available from late morning until the evening entertainment ended.
Probably because of the price, the size of the vessel, and the orientation of the amenities, this isn't a cruise for children or for young adults looking for excitement. Passengers who aren't eligible for Medicare will be in a minority, though they're unlikely to feel like misfits. The entertainment is generally done by 10pm, unlike cruise ships that appeal to younger folks. Events happen at the scheduled time, which I appreciate, coming from a military and airline background. I'm frustrated by live performances ashore that seem to start a minimum of 10 minutes late.
I tried hard to have more complaints to share with you, but I failed. Read Less
AQSC has river cruising figured out. The Duchess is an awesome vessel and continues the tradition of first class river cruising started by her mother, the American Queen. Our cruise from Nashville to Chattanooga on the Cumberland and ... Read More
AQSC has river cruising figured out. The Duchess is an awesome vessel and continues the tradition of first class river cruising started by her mother, the American Queen. Our cruise from Nashville to Chattanooga on the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers was very relaxing and historical and the scenery was beautiful. Even though the Duchess is not nearly as big as the Queen, she is very elegant and well laid out. Large cabins, sufficient public spaces, excellent dining, impeccable service and excellent entertainment are some of the attributes that make this a nearly perfect vessel to explore America's great rivers. Entertainment trio of Dustin, Courtney and Jeff did a fantastic job each night and are some of the hardest working entertainers we have witnessed. We appreciated that they performed music from the 50's and 60's. The riverlorian, Mike, gave daily informative, interesting and entertaining talks about the river history, lore, navigation and other subjects. Teresa did an awesome job with our daily shore excursions and hop on hop off itinerary.
We love AQSC and always look forward to our next cruise on America's rivers on either the Queen, the Duchess and hopefully, the Empress. Read Less
We chose this in order to see the Southern states of USA .We are experienced cruisers .The moment we set foot on this boat we knew it was not going to be very good.The boat smells musty and damp .When we were shoen the cabin I wanted to ... Read More
We chose this in order to see the Southern states of USA .We are experienced cruisers .The moment we set foot on this boat we knew it was not going to be very good.The boat smells musty and damp .When we were shoen the cabin I wanted to leave .We had Suite 509 .It was shabby,depressing ,dark and poorly equipped .We tried to change but the boat was full .
The experience in the dining room the first evening confirmed our thoughts .The maitred Oscar told us we had assigned seating on a big table when in fact we had booked a table for two .He insisted we hadn’t and said that there was nothing he could do and suggested we changed to early dinner to get a table for two .We went to the pursers desk,complained and amazingly a table for two appeared .The dining experience was poor .Poor quality food,poorly presented,always cold the worst we have experienced in 25 years of cruising on all kinds of boats and ships .Information on disembarking was incorrect and cost us 20 dollars for a transfer to a hotel we didn’t want when we were told there were no taxis allowed in the port on that day .This was utter rubbish as we saw lots of people getting taxis from the port .A very expensive,disappointing experience .We do not recommend it .Better to drive the route and stay in some of the amazing plantation houses . Read Less
We had driven through the Columbia Gorge, but wanted to see it up close at a gentle pace.
Our trip started in Spokane. One night at the Historic Davenport Hotel was included in the trip. We opted for an extra night and were glad about ... Read More
We had driven through the Columbia Gorge, but wanted to see it up close at a gentle pace.
Our trip started in Spokane. One night at the Historic Davenport Hotel was included in the trip. We opted for an extra night and were glad about that. The Historic Davenport Hotel is a destination in its own right.
Registration was at the hotel. The next day we went by bus to Clarkston, where we boarded the Empress. We had a "deluxe veranda stateroom" which was cozy but efficient.
The dining was very good to excellent. This website's review expressed disappointment that regional wines were not served with dinner. Clearly, the parent company heard that, because we had wines from a different regional winery every night.
The entertainment exceeded our expectations. On a ship this size the music team has to be small (seven in all, I think), but they did a great job. The "Rock and Roll Dance Party" on the next to last night sounded corny, but it was a blast. Many crew members joined passengers on the dance floor.
The Hop-on Hop-off buses worked very well. We took three premium tours, which delivered what they promised.
I must comment on the friendly staff. Everyone on the ship worked hard to make our trip memorable. We were taken by how many staffers learned and remembered our names. The entertainers were friendly and approachable. The Riverlorian's lectures were always interesting. After this trip, ask me anything about Lewis and Clark! (Honestly, if you aren't interested in learning about Lewis and Clark, take a different cruise. That expedition's history permeates every port of call.)
Definitely not a cruise for children, unless they were teens who are fascinated by history.
The WiFi was mostly a bust. After a bit, we decided that this would be a great week to drop out of the daily news cycle anyway.
Would we go again? Yes. We could do all the same day trips and take in different sites everywhere. Read Less
Seeing the mighty Mississippi has been on our list, if only for the size and its place in history. We travelled from Australia to cruise on the American Queen for a 9 night Lower Mississippi New Orleans to Memphis itinerary. Cruise ... Read More
Seeing the mighty Mississippi has been on our list, if only for the size and its place in history. We travelled from Australia to cruise on the American Queen for a 9 night Lower Mississippi New Orleans to Memphis itinerary. Cruise included a first night stopover in New Orleans at the very convenient Riverfront Hilton, which had a pre-checkin facility, which was easy to do. We did our own exploring rather than used the optional premium tours. First view of the boat tied up was impressive, the Queen is certainly a big boat and certainly looks like a riverboat of bygone days. On boarding day we climbed aboard and went directly to our state room,
Dining was a treat, the Dining room was well appointed and we had a set 2 person table for dinner, which was a mixed thing in that we did not mix with other guests much. Staff attention was good and the food very good to excellent, with nicely sized portions. All the bar staff were very good and the River Grill/Calliope Bar on deck 5 became a favourite, where you can view the large river and all on it and the mesmerizing rear paddle wheel. Ensure that you go down to the engine room to actually see the steam engines at work, again the duty staff were just too happy to answer questions. Dining options also include the more casual Front Porch with a nice open air and some inside dining tables which often was the lunch choice, to enjoy the outside weather and views of the river.
On our trip we chose only a couple of the option excursions, both of which were quite good, with the Laura Plantation at the Nottoway stop being a standout. The Vicksburg Battlefield tour gave a great overview of the siege of 1863. Included Hop on Hop tours at the ports of call cover the stops quite nicely, but we chose to walk into most ports of call, but caution some of these are some distance so this method is not for everybody.
We are a late 50's couple so the demographic of the cruisers on our trip was largely quite senior, which was largely within expectations, met some really nice folks from all over the US, Canada and fellow Antipodeans. Highly recommend the daily Riverlorian talks, Bobby Durham, the Riverlorian on our trip was terrific and very entertaining with his presentations on river history, geographics, commerce and folk lore. The entertainment was not quite our scene but the 4 performers and resident band were able to put on a good show for the presentations we attended, with the timings set so that both dinner sittings could partake if they desired.
This type of cruise is a more laid back type, there are vast stretches of river where all you see is riverside forest with occasional industrial works and many, many working barges. The Mississippi is still largely a working river. There are not a lot of riverside towns, What was fascinating to watch the way that the often very large barges and their Tow navigate this winding river.
Disembarkation appeared to be quite seamless, we chose the independent option, where our bags were moved to the Memphis terminal, we walked off and picked them up and proceeded off to our hotel, not choosing the post cruise options
We feel we would quite possibly travel American Queen Steamboat again.
Our expectation was to watch this river go by and get an appreciation for the part the Mississippi played in driving the US expansion and economy in the 1800's and indeed today. That is exactly what the cruise provided.
Having a great room, great food and terrific staff was a bonus. Read Less