This was our second river cruise - the first was a few years ago down the Danube in August. The American Queen is a very special ship,not only because of the beautiful furnishings, collectibles and artwork which is abundant, but because of the paddlewheel. Its power is ever present, and is mesmerizing. Visits to the engine room are encouraged.
We cruised from New Orleans to Memphis. The printed material they distributed were clear and well-presented, from the daily newsletters to the material you receive pre-cruise.
There were some discouraging reviews that I read prior to departing, so was ready for anything, but I found most everything about this cruise to be very satisfying and agreeable.
Our room was excellent - well located, comfortable and beautifully decorated. The shower had good water pressure and plenty of hot water. The steward made up the room twice daily and left Godiva chocolate on the pillows nightly. The beds were very comfortable.
The food - the menus were varied and changed daily - everything labeled with information for cruisers with allergies or other special diets. The food came out hot, if a bit too quickly. I often ate fish, and my husband beef, and no complaints about either. The staff looks a bit disheveled, but everyone was friendly and aimed to please. We sat at a table for 2 (this was not requested) so were a bit disappointed about that. When we asked to change, we were led to a table on the opposite side of the room which was above the engine room. DO NOT sit here (left side rear when walking in). We had one meal here and returned to our original table - it was so noisy that you had to strain to hear anyone speaking. We took breakfast and lunch on the Front Porch, which had excellent food even though it was a buffet. There were not an endless amount of choices, but enough and of good quality. The staff assigned to work there were helpful and kept everything very clean. I found the coffee to be just OK, including the self-serve cappuccino. The soft-serve ice cream deserves special mention - I am not a fan usually, but this was really good, available 24/7, toppings with it, and choice of cone or cup.
Daily excursions - The hop on - hop off bus was an excellent way to get around and all pre-paid tours were indicated on the map of the town. There was more to do than we were able, even though we got off the boat early (it was also hovering at 100 degrees every day, so we could not move very fast!). Natchez was my favorite port while cruising. There were 8 hours of port time at each stop, except for St. Francisville. We couldn't stop at Greenville due to heavy traffic coming down river because of dredging.
My husband did the optional excursion to Vicksburg battlefield, which he said was excellent. I was happy with the ones included.
Entertainment - Without question, the best on any cruise. The shows each night were not to be missed. There were 4 performers which included the Cruise Director and Asst. Cruise Director (Ryan and Ashley), and all were very good to excellent. The back up band was excellent. There was nightly music in the Engine Room bar (rock and roll) and in the lounge pre-dinner for each seating. He had sing-a-longs booklets for all, played with a flourish, as well as being an engaging storyteller. All music on the ship was live.
On-board activities - We spent 2 full days cruising instead of one because of the river traffic traveling south. The options are limited, but the staff does have some organized activities that were enjoyable. I like to read and there was a larger pool than anticipated, so was pleasantly surprised and kept cool in there. There was a small gym with 4 pieces of equipment (usually unoccupied) and mats for stretching. I do yoga, so found that to be ideal for me. There were many board games, puzzles, daily crosswords and sudoku, and tables for playing. The chart room was always open and you could borrow books about the river and history of the South. Jerry, the Riverlorian, gave daily talks, and was very knowledgeable and engaging. He also gave daily tours of the Control Room. I learned quite a bit about the river, the history of the Civil War, and the many nuances that we did not learn in school.
Service - I was happy overall - service was good, not flawless.I am not a fan of mandating gratuities, and thought $18.50/day was high.
Overall - This trip was on my bucket list and well worth doing. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would recommend it for "older" clientele, even those with physical limitations. Also, they have you arrive one day prior to embarkation in New Orleans. I would recommend you spend at least an additional day there, as well as an additional day or 2 in Memphis.
We cruised on larger ships servicing the Caribbean and also on a Danube River cruise, and this was, BY FAR, the most beautiful cabin. It was decorated like a bedroom in a fancy southern home. We had a large bay window with venetian blinds, so there was plenty of light in the cabin. The furniture was antique (reproductions probably) and there was just enough to store all our belongings with room to spare. The bathroom was full-size - bathtub, pedestal sink, lots of mirrors. This cabin was on the 2nd level and very well located. We were on the main floor, with the purser's desk, engine room bar, theater balcony. As it turned out, this was a better cabin than the balcony cabins because those "balconies" were just the deck, and not private at all. Cabin walls are thin, so TVs, snoring from next door, etc could sometimes be heard.