To the Cruise Reviewers…Here’s a Breaking News story….The American Steamboat Company’s American Queen is NOT A CARIBBEAN CRUISE FUN SHIP…..That’s the rewarding thing about this wonderful Steamboat…..So don’t disparage this ‘Gem of the Mississippi ‘where you can slow down and take a leisurely cruise on America’s Premiere and Historical River.
My wife and I booked the American Queen Steamboat cruise up the Mississippi for the first full week of September 2019 sailing from New Orleans up to Memphis. We’ve been fortunate to have cruised on ships of many sizes and many locations and have even cruised down the Danube River several years earlier but this time we were seeking a trip back through time and history on an authentic Steamboat that still travels the waters of the Mississippi here in the United States. The American Queen is a ship that fits the profile of a slower paced travel and the Mississippi presents a good travelogue of stories about ‘The Old Man River” and adventures in the deep south of the United States. This is not a trip for families with children but a trip for adults of many ages.
Built in 1995, The American Queen is the largest Steamboat ever constructed at 418 feet long and 89 feet wide with a draft of approximately 8 feet. She’s a true stern-wheeler with and array of modern improvements for navigation on the Mississippi. The beauty of steamboat travel is the slower pace of cruising on a river and how the passengers arrive at the towns on the cruise’s itinerary on the gangways stowed at the front of the steamboat.
There’s a wonder steam calliope at the Top Deck River Grill & Bar played by the ship’s Master Pianist and Calliopist Phil Westbrook who hold court nightly at the Main Deck lounge with music and stories to entertain all.
There’s a small pool on the top Sun Deck where travelers can also access the small Fitness Center.
For late night, guest’s can be entertained at the Engine Room Bar with lively music and dancing, if one desires , lead by two of the ship’s versatile entertainment staff, Norman Bergen and Jim Schweikert.
The main guest entertainment is held at the Grand Saloon Theater space, complete with balcony box seats and vaudeville styled main stage. There is also a smaller movie style theater on the Deck 3 – Texas Deck. With that said the ships company of performers and musicians all well versed in their art and provided great entertainment nightly. The Cruise Director, Ryan Faino and his Assistant Cruise Director, Ashley Edwards along with fellow performers Michaelyn Oby and Glenn Springs made evening entertainment a real pleasure for such a small troupe of performers and their equally talented band know as the Steamboat Syncopators.
The J. M. White Dining area is a wonderful old world steamboat styled double story dining venue. There is one drawback experience in the dining room which is the ventilation noise that emanates from below deck and at window level due to the ship’s ventilation system on the port side forward of the dining, room. Our dining seating was on the opposite side of the dining room so our dining experience was not impacted by that noticeable mechanical noise.
The Buffet dining area known as the Front Porch Café, is located on Deck 3 forward – Texas Deck with dining for guests inside and in a wrap around deck outside this eatery
The real masterpieces of the Queen can be found on Deck 2 – Cabin Deck where guests find the Mark Twain Gallery & Lounge along with Men’s and Ladies Parlor Rooms. These spaces or well decorated with period pieces, artwork, photographs, river and steamboat artifact, charts and models an internet café area and a specialty coffee machine with a well stock fresh cookie cabinet.
A more unique space in the ship is the areas above the Front Porch Café in a space know as The Chart Room, where Riverlorian, Jerry Hay, weaves the tales of the river and its historic ebb and flow that are an integral part of the heartland of America.
Lastly, take some time to walk around all the decks of the ship to a catch a bit of the flavor of what river travel life might have been on some grand stern-wheeler of the 19th Century, like the American Queen, on the muddy water of the Mississippi.
Food and Excursions
Our food & dining experience on board the American Queen was wonderful. High tech has made its way into dining service in the J. M. White Dining Room with wait staff texting orders to the kitchen for prompt preparation and delivery to the dining guests. The food quality was very good, but don’t hesitate to bring to the attention of the dining room staff anything that is not up to what you, as the diner, might consider substandard. Service was tops and food was well prepared. Food up at the Front Porch Café buffet was also of the same quality and caliber except here’s where self serve ice cream could be found along with a full service bar and guest beverages area.
Although the lower Mississippi river does not possess the charm of the enchanting river towns of the European river waterways, you will find the Antebellum South and Historic river towns of Natchez and Vicksburg on this cruise. Vicksburg battlefield is a must trek. The Steamboat Company provides well apportioned coaches that run like clockwork for travel around each the river towns where the ship stops. With regards to the other river town stops on this cruise (St. Francisville and Greenville) they are a look into typical river town life that that have survived the trials and tribulations of the Mighty Mississippi River.
The American Queen Steamboat cruise may not be a cruise for every traveler but this great ship and cruise does give its guests plenty of river time to slow down and unwind on this Great American River treasure or to pick up the pace to explore the finer elements of Southern Living.
We selected a cabin in the category – Cabin Deck – Deck 2 which had a Bay window which allowed for a wonderful amount of natural light in our cabin. We were assigned Cabin 206 which happened to be in a great location, mid ship, near the elevators, the Pursers & Excursion Desk and the “period decorated” and very comfortable Mark Twain Gallery.
Our Cabin 206 was good sized when compared to those of the more traditional cruise ships. The real pleasant surprise was the size of the Bathroom which out did any of the ships that we had previously cruised on the Caribbean or up to Alaska. This Bathroom was full sized with a full size a tub with shower, similar to one to be found in a normal single room apartment. Reports by other cruise reviewers about poor cabin and furnishing conditions are over exaggerated based on observations from this former hospitality facility site inspector. Since we had selected a cabin with a bay window, there was a nice window cushion that you could sit upon to gaze out the window as the rural scenery and ship traffic on the Mississippi passed by.
Our Cabin Stewart, Ismael, was prompt, courteous and friendly and our cabin was well tended to during our stay.