We sailed aboard the Duchess from New Orleans to Minnesota departing July 16th.
The Duchess is a beautiful boat with room for 166 guests. The design of all the rooms is pleasing to the eye and very airy with high-ceilings. We entered the boat into the room where Pursuer is located. Access to the bar and grand dining from the Purser is through a hallway lined with beautiful replicas by Monet masterpieces.
The bar area is spacious, centered by the staircase accessing two decks. Large Austrian chandeliers hang from the ceiling, an abundance of blown and fused glass artwork line the walls there, in addition there are cozy seating areas outfitted with sofas and chairs.
The dining room is large enough to hold all the guests. Breakfast (6:30 to 9) Lunch (11:30 to 1) and Dinner (5:30 to 8:00) all meals are open setting, an option that allows guests to eat meals at their leisure. The food was delicious, varied and often local. The service was exceptional, the dining room staff is friendly, professional and willing to go the extra mile.
In addition to the grand dining room there is a smaller dining area, River Club and Terrace, on the second deck serving buffet style breakfast and lunch with open setting. Dinners are table service and require reservations. Perks, a little café, is also located on the 2nd deck with a self-serve cappuccino machine, soft serve ice-cream with toppings, juice dispenser, popcorn maker, soda and delicious cookies.
Since the Duchess is a river boat and not a ship, one cannot expect the same type of entertainment and activities. However, the entertainment overall was very good. Day time activities were offered by the activities staff and an excellent river laurate. On several occassion a movie was shown and several people arrived with popcorn. A 4-piece band entertained each day before dinner, during the nightly shows and in the evening after the shows. The nightly shows were provided by the activities staff and/or local talent offering an enjoyable way to spend an hour or so each night.
I cannot walk, so I traveled with a scooter. The Duchess has done a wonderful job in making it easy for those who must travel with a wheelchair or scooter to navigate the boat by adding slight inclines everywhere there is a door jam. The halls ways were wide enough for me to scoot down even with people coming in the opposite direction. The walls are lined with art work depicting river cruising. There are 2 spacious elevators available at each level which allowed me in my scooter and up to 6 other passengers to ride the elevator.
At each port, a Hop On Hop Off bus tour was included,the stops were varied and interesting. Each day we were given a data sheet with details of each stop and an indication which stops were wheelchair (or scooter) accessible. Each bus is outfitted with a lift, so I was able to go on all the tours in my scooter. The bus drivers were wonderful loading me on the bus and off the bus as often as I wanted. They eliminated any concern I had about taking the tours and made me feel safe going up and down the lift. I suggest if you know anyone who has a mobility problem, they will be pleased with taking a cruise aboard the Duchess.
We were in a wheelchair accessible cabin in the aft of the boat, which we were excited about as we could sit on the balcony and watch navigating the Mississippi from both sides and up close and personal seats as we went through the locks. They installed a ramp under the carpet which enabled me to access the balcony with ease. (If I were to make a suggestion, I would ask that they provide the same type of ramp outside the doors on the observation decks, as the height of the door jam was too high for me to get back into the boat without someone manually lifting my scooter). The room was large enough for me to navigate with my scooter and the bathroom had a large roll-in shower. The only problem with our room was the noise from the paddlewheel was sometimes annoying and there were nights we were wakened by that noise. If you are considering a cruise aboard the Duchess and desire either a wheelchair accessible cabin or one at the aft, just bring earplugs and/or sound abatement equipment.