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American Queen Cruise Review
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
212 Reviews

The overall cost is not worth the product

American Queen Cruise Review by Pamgoes

9 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Dec 2019
  • Destination: North America River

Pre-cruise:

We arrived in Memphis a day before the boat was to depart and stayed at the Riverboat Company hotel, the downtown Sheraton. In spite of having read a few negative reviews, we were well pleased with the hospitality shown us by the staff from our first greeting by the bellmen, front desk staff, early check in provided, service in the restaurant for dinner (on our own), and the comfort of the room. We had no issues with noise in our 5th floor, king bedded room. We were on our own for the day and for dinner that night. Tours were offered but we were already familiar with Memphis, so we opted out of the tours.

Registration was easy at the hotel. We received our 3:00 boarding passes in the evening for the next day’s sailing. Luggage is picked up between 8 & 9 a.m. from your room.

Embarkation:

We were picked up at the hotel by the ship’s buses and taken the short drive to the American Queen. Boarding was as simple as walking on board, being greeted by the staff, and directed to our cabin where our luggage was already waiting. This is a great convenience…no waiting for bags to be delivered or milling about in the buffet waiting for the cabin to be readied. Our keys (real keys, not plastic rectangles) were in the cabin where we were greeted by our room steward, Richard, who maintained our room with efficiency and promptness throughout the trip.

The Private Veranda Cabin:

(# 348) We purchased a cabin with a private veranda for our first US River boat cruise and we are glad we did. As mentioned elsewhere, the cabins are quite small. Being able to open the louvered French doors onto the veranda gave us more space to enjoy the scenery and fresh air. Above the French doors is a screened transom that can be opened for fresh air when the doors are closed. Note that there are limited rooms with private verandas. Also note that the verandas are not entirely private: there is a louvered partition between each veranda which is hinged for opening between two or more cabins, so friends and family can share the space if their cabins adjoin. The is a nice benefit for folks traveling together. Otherwise, it is much like on other cruise ships where conversations flow from one veranda to the next. There is NO smoking allowed from the verandas, so we were grateful our neighbors complied with that.

We were told by the steward that all Private Veranda Cabins are identically furnished. Our queen bed had lights directly above it for reading. One side had a small nightstand with a drawer. There were two smallish chairs and a tiny table along one wall. The other wall held a reproduction piece with a small desk and drawers (see pictures). Directly inside the cabin door was a narrow set of 4 drawers below a mirror (see pictures). The closet was open with hangers and a safe. With a little arranging, we were able to stow everything we had in spaces provided along with suitcases under the bed.

Note: There are only 2 electrical outlets in the main part of the cabin and they are both on exterior walls—one being hidden by the furniture. An extension cord could be handy. There is no clock or night light in the room. There is no mini-fridge in the room.

The Bathroom:

Easily larger than a standard cruise ship bathroom, there is a full-sized tub with grab bars and shower, a full-size sink and standard toilet. A two-tiered glass shelf is available for stowing toiletries along with a glass shelf above the sink. Hairdryer and toiletries are supplied. There is a standard outlet in the bathroom rather than the usual shaver-only outlet. Water was plenty hot but the tub frequently drained extremely slow, leaving one standing in a bathtub full of water while showering.

Food: Overall, the food is considered ‘southern’ --- fried, gravied, and sweet---with fried seafood and chicken and gravy sauced meats. There is plenty of sugar in the foods, including breakfast bacon that is sugared heavily. At one breakfast a ‘croque Madame’ sandwich was offered made with sweetly battered, soggy French toast..an unusual presentation with ham and cheese swimming in a white, rather tasteless gravy. Breakfast and lunch in both the formal, J.M. White Dining Room and the Front Porch Cafe include extensive buffet items (more in the JM than Front Porch) but similar dishes. Few dishes seemed prepared using fresh ingredients, but rather pre-formed and pre-frozen.

Coffee is generally available in machines on both the second and first decks along with room service.

We were seated at a table for two for dinner, table #64, which is directly over the engine room…along with two or three other tables that are in the rear of the JM White Dining room (the rear of this dining room is actually in the bow of the boat). This is THE table others have complained about as the noise and vibrations are distracting. Because tables for 2 were at a premium, we kept the table throughout the cruise. Only one of the several servers at our table, Brianna, was cheerful and attentive. She greeted us each night, knew our preferred beverages after one meal, and remained cheerful throughout the week. Others seemed to be looking forward to the end of the year and a possible break.

Mike, bartender at the Front Porch, was fantastic! Friendly, knowledgeable, personable…all around great guy!

Entertainment: The highlight of the cruise was the group of four young, talented performers (Ashley, Ryan, Glen, and Michalynn), who entertained us most nights along with the piano player (Phil Westbrook) in the captains’ lounge area, and the Syncopators. The Riverlorian is an absolute gem, filling us with so much history and folklore, geology and economy of the river. His talks were some the highlights of most days. Ryan, the Cruise Director, (and also part of the entertainment ensemble) is incredibly energetic, hospitable, informative, and just an all-around great guy. Most, if not all Sundays, and Christmas and Easter Day, there is a non-denominational church service which is generally very well attended. During the week there were pilot house tours, trivia games, river chats, calliope concerts, movies in the small theater on a big screen TV, a couple of bingo games.

Excursions: Rhea, the Shore Excursion specialist we dealt with, is a gem. Friendly and knowledgeable. The included hop on hop off bus excursions were fairly simple and short in most locations. Because we were traveling over Christmas Eve and Day, our routes had to be changed because several tour options were closed. This put us in a small casino town of Tunica on Christmas Eve with only casinos available after lunchtime. Included tours were the Tunica Museum (small, not well organized), River Park and Museum (best shot of the American Queen from the walk out on the 3rd floor—not much else there), and the Gateway to the Blues Museum (we found this to be extremely well organized and a good history of Blues for music lovers.)

Christmas Day on the river was slow and easy.

Vicksburg hop on hop off was okay but the extensive, (4 hour) pay-for tour of the Vicksburg Military National Park was the highlight of Vicksburg. Hop on/off tours included Church of the Holy Trinity (closed at the time), Court House Museum, Anchuca Mansion (quick walk through-this is now a B & B), The Coca Cola Museum (small, 15 minute worthy walk through), Lower Mississippi Museum ( a decently organized and informative explanation of the value and changes of the Mississippi River), the Old Depot Museum (great for fans of model RRs, ships, battlefields, etc. Takes about 15 minutes.)

Natchez, Mississippi was the highlight of our trip as we purchased Regina Charboneau’s Kitchen, an up close and personal visit to the renowned chef’s home, Twin Oaks, where we had lessons in biscuit making (unbelievable recipe!) and joined her in her dining room for homemade chicken pot pies. She is delightfully charming, hospitable, and talented. As a bonus, we each received one of her cookbooks…a treasure trove of Southern cooking! The day we took the tour was the last day she was entertaining at her home as she and her husband had sold the mansion and were moving to smaller digs. She is opening a downtown Natchez venue where she will continue to give cooking lessons, but no longer at Twin Oaks.

It was a dreary winter day when we toured St. Francisville, Louisiana. The hop on hop off took us to Old Market Hall (tiny market where 5 or 6 women were set up selling mostly handmade jewelry), Greek Episcopal Church (closed for a wedding), a walk along Royal Street including a stop at Grandmother’s Buttons (including a button museum and high-end boutique clothing), and the West Feliciana Historical Society Museum (a portrayal of the history of St. Francisville taking 15-30 minutes). We were given an ‘added bonus’ tour of Myrtles Plantation, supposedly ‘The Most Haunted Mansion in America”. If you believe in such things, it could be an interesting stop. It was a lot of ‘wild imaginings’ to us. That afternoon we took the Plantations of the Back Roads extra tour to Rosedown Plantation (dark, dreary, musty) and on to Catalpa Plantation (privately owned and welcomed by the owner) where we enjoyed a glass of sherry on the porch with Miss Mary, the owner.

The boat docks right at Nottoway Plantation. This is the only included tour featured this day and you are free to go, visit, tour at your leisure. There are no hop on hop off buses. The Plantation has been purchased and expanded to a 4 diamond AAA hotel, spa, and restaurant so the tour has been shortened. We spent most of this day on the boat.In the afternoon we went on the pay-for Swamp Tour. BE AWARE: the trip to and from the swamp boat is 1 hour each way…the tour is only about an hour long. If you have ever been in a swamp anywhere, they are all pretty much the same. Save your money on this one.

Disembarkation: NOTE !!!! There are no taxis available at the New Orleans port…it is a private, secured area! Cars nor drivers can access this area. We did not know this! When you fill out the disembarkation form on board, if you are NOT going to stay over or take the tour, mark the box that you want the Direct Hotel Transfer. It cost another $10 pp and takes you to the Hilton Hotel where you can then get a cab. We had quite a scramble to get this at the last minute but were able to do so.

The Bottom Line

This was our first U.S. River cruise. We have taken 20 US, Mediterranean, and Caribbean cruises and 7 European and Egyptian River cruises. It is unlikely we will take another trip with the American Queen Cruise Line. The overall cost is not worth the product. In addition to your base cost, add on beverages (drink package $399 pp), gratuities ($18.50 pp/day), pay-for excursions (running from $79-149 pp/trip), and you are quickly approaching the price of a luxury cruise elsewhere. This is NOT a luxury cruise. Cabins are miniscule unless you have a suite on deck 4 or 5. I would rate the food 2½ out of 5. Staff generally seemed tired and disinterested except for a few as noted. Parts of the boat are incredibly noisy (over the engine room and near the paddle wheel). The plumbing does not always work and there are vile smells at times throughout the boat.


Pamgoes's Full Rating Summary
Cabin
Onboard Experience
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
Service
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Cabin Review

(# 348) We purchased a cabin with a private veranda for our first US River boat cruise and we are glad we did. As mentioned elsewhere, the cabins are quite small. Being able to open the louvered French doors onto the veranda gave us more space to enjoy the scenery and fresh air. Above the French doors is a screened transom that can be opened for fresh air when the doors are closed. Note that there are limited rooms with private verandas. Also note that the verandas are not entirely private: there is a louvered partition between each veranda which is hinged for opening between two or more cabins, so friends and family can share the space if their cabins adjoin. The is a nice benefit for folks traveling together. Otherwise, it is much like on other cruise ships where conversations flow from one veranda to the next. There is NO smoking allowed from the verandas, so we were grateful our neighbors complied with that.

We were told by the steward that all Private Veranda Cabins are identically furnished. Our queen bed had lights directly above it for reading. One side had a small nightstand with a drawer (maybe 20" between the bed and wall). There were two smallish Victorian style chairs and a tiny (less than 12" wide) table along one wall. The other wall held a reproduction piece with a small desk and drawers (see pictures). Directly inside the cabin door was a narrow set of 4 drawers below a mirror (see pictures). The closet was open with hangers and a safe. With a little arranging, we were able to stow everything we had in spaces provided along with suitcases under the bed.

Note: There are only 2 electrical outlets in the main part of the cabin and they are both on exterior walls—one being hidden by the furniture. An extension cord could be handy. There is no clock or night light in the room. There is no mini-fridge in the room.

The Bathroom:

Easily larger than a standard cruise ship bathroom, there is a full-sized tub with grab bars and shower, a full-size sink and standard toilet. A two-tiered glass shelf is available for stowing toiletries along with a glass shelf above the sink. Hairdryer and toiletries are supplied. There is a standard outlet in the bathroom rather than the usual shaver-only outlet. Water was plenty hot but the tub frequently drained extremely slow, leaving one standing in a bathtub full of water while showering.


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