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.
The cabins were very nice - and the cabin stewards kept them spotless. The verandas were inaccessible due to ice, and we had to have someone come in twice since the heater was not working and it was about below degrees in our cabin.