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American Duchess Cruise Review
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
34 Reviews

Prison Ship for the Elderly provides no sternwheel and substandard food

American Duchess Cruise Review by MECR2020

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Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Feb 2020
  • Destination: the USA

I chose this cruise because it had always been a dream of mine to cruise the Mississippi on a sternwheeler. I made it specific to my on-line discount travel clearinghouse that it had always been my dream. Firstly, American Queen failed to disclose the condition of the ship even though they had advance notice that the sternwheel had fallen off on a previous itinerary. This notice had been shared with other cruisers, but not all of us. We were not the only travelers disappointed by this lack of notice as we would have absolutely NOT booked this trip.

We were planning a 30 day itinerary and would have made other arrangements.

The Peabody stay, staff, and on boarding crew from American Queen were top notch, and I am grateful for their assistance when we were pickpocketed shortly after check-in. A shout-out to Peabody security for their efforts.

Secondly, there is a toxic culture on board toward the elderly (the very demographic they depend upon for their survival). Portions are pathetic, plating is nonexistent, employees are surly (yes, you the so-called “Riverlorian”), and tours are driven by lead-footed drivers who speak to complainers as though they are driving prisoners to the penitentiary (yes, YOU, Patty). When the guides respond to complaints about the attractions whizzing past, the response is, “They drivers have a schedule to maintain...” well, not if they have no tour attendees!

The most expensive tour (Memphis/Graceland) was led by a “guide” who mis-quoted references from The Firm (perhaps Memphis’ most famous movie to date), shooting from the hip... each tour we took (even the free ones) were peppered with answers like, “Oh, I don’t know, I’m sure you can Google it...”. The St. Francisville tour guide had such a debilitating speech impediment (and I lived in Louisiana, so I know the difference between an impediment and an “Accent”) that he could not pronounce any S’s. Considering the ages of the people trapped on those buses, someone who speaks clearly would have been a consideration (if they had any respect for the older people in the first place... which they don’t).

This vessel was going into dry-dock upon arriving in NOLA and every employee on board was miserably awaiting their debarkation. In fact, according to the only driver who exhibited ANY concern for his passengers (yes, you, Randy), all the deckhands abandoned their posts and we had to return to the dock and schlep our own luggage to the buses. A couple got off the ship and depended on a non-employee’s direction and was sent the opposite way, got lost, and had to pay a $20 taxi ride to get back to those of us waiting on the bus for the NOLA tour. THe female member of the couple was health compromised, so she gasped and moaned for the first 15 minutes of the tour until she at least partially recovered (apologies to the Null party, since I’m sure you’ll get nothing from AQSC.

The saving grace on this trip was the hospitality staff (housekeeping even had to be begged to remove the dirty glasswear piling up in the room on day 4). The main dining room servers were wonderful (even though the meager portions and complete lack of plating was dismal. The buffets on the other floors were horrid and those attending to those buffets routinely ignored patron’s requests.

Bryan, the bartender on loan from the American Queen raised the standard for the others (really, should we have had to beg the other bartenders to turn around and hand us our “welcome glass of champagne” after staring at their backsides for way too long the moment we arrived?!?). When I said, “Excuse me... could we have our glass of champagne?” It was with raised eyebrows that these two ladies deigned to had us a drink. They later began behaving appropriately, but it set the tone that was a consistent disappointment from beginning to end.

The next time I want to visit with Bryan (which we would) it will not be on the ships but from an RV en route.

Never have I had a worse experience in travel and I sailed through El Niño in ‘94 off the coast of CA.

Very Truly Pissed in

Manchester, WA

MECR2020's Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Bought the cabin for the paddle effect of the sternwheel off our balcony for sleep interruption. No sternwheeler = no paddle effect (white noise). THe company’s failure to disclose consitatutes bait and switch and we will be seeking compensation through all means available.

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews


Memphis tour guide bs’d his way through the tour... gave incorrect info on The Firm references and locations (some of us are film buffs, you know) and was generally unprepared. In fact, all the tour guides with the exception of Danielle in NOLA were generally unprepared.

Baton Rouge

Every question that was asked by the passengers was met with, “Oh, I don’t know that... I’m sure you can Google it...”. Freckled-Fred redhead who was bubbly but uninformed.

St. Francisville

Guide’s lack of ability to pronounce an “S” made it impossible to understand anything he was saying (and NO, this is not a case of a heavy Louisiana accent! I lived in Louisiana and know the difference). Led footed drivers also could care less about their passenger’s enjoyment. It is matter-of-fact, pile ‘em on the bus, fly through the tour, get ‘em off the bus. At over $1,000 a day per person, this was the worst investment I’ve ever made in travel. Never again for American Queen.

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