We had sailed previously with Victory Cruise Lines who was bought by American Queen. I will begin by stating that this was a very fun cruise and one of the best that we have taken in a life-time of travel which includes approximately 35 cruises. Saying that, there are many minor issues. I am 73 and Wanda is 72 (which is not an issue), two very fit individuals. Most passengers are in their 70s-80s and many are disabled, often with wheelchairs or walkers. This means that much of one's time will be spent waiting behind people with mobility problems. The Countess has a capacity for 245 passengers but we were told there are only 165 on our cruise. The food is nutritious, but mediocre in taste. We were scheduled for early dinner (5:30) daily in the Grand Dining Room but were changed a couple days before cruising to late dining (7:45). As a result, we ate all meals in the buffet style River Grille (dinner here is 5:00-7:00). The staff is all-American (although one of our servers was from Jamaica) and typical of American young workers, nothing enthusiastic, but the job was done. Most alcohol is complimentary and it was reported that there are 15 different beers and wines. Mixed drinks are quite strong, the bartender told us its double shots, but it looked more like triple shots. I drank Coors Light and Bud Light and Wanda drank the same with an occasional "light" margarita. The Lobby Bar is open most of the day and the River Grille bar is open at lunch and for the evening meal. Premium drinks are extra and include a 15% service charge. The bartenders, Anthony and Luke are average, nothing outstanding but they performed their duties. I had read reviews of long waits at the bar but we did not encounter that experience. We are accustomed to Filipino bar servers who are always first class with their enthusiasm. We did not view any of The Theater performances but the entertainment singers (particularly Ian) and the band performed well on the several occasions we saw them in the Grand Lobby. Since we did not eat in the Grand Dining Room and served ourselves at the buffet in the River Grille, I reduced our gratuity from $19.50 per person each day to $14.50. The Purser did not question me or try to convince me otherwise, which was appreciated. Almost every day the Countess was an hour to several hours late to its destination. American Queen uses Hop On-Hop Off with 3-4 buses that provide transportation through the port cities. The buses make a circuit every 25-40 minutes and the stops and pick-up points are clearly marked. Maps are provided to each cabin to assist one in locating pick-up points. We did not purchase any of the premium excursions and used the HoHo on only a few occasions. We walked the circuit at most ports which meant we were one of the first to disembark and we did not have to wait for the buses or passengers to load/unload. There are several of the ships features out of service. The mid-ship elevator was inoperative the entire cruise (although we always use stairs) and the popcorn machine had been inoperative for weeks. Often the Perks coffee maker was was down due to no one cleaning out the used coffee grounds. COVID vaccination cards are required and all passengers were supposed to have a COVID nasal swab test in the preboarding hotel but the test materials were not available so we (and the others around us) were not tested.
Day 1, St. Louis. We flew to St. Louis and took the Metro-Link subway to the 8th and Pine Station. The cost is $2 each for seniors but we observed that no one pays other than us. We walked 5-6 blocks to the Hilton, a very nice hotel. American Queen personnel were not prepared for the 2:00 registration so it was delayed 15-20 minutes. We had to show our COVID cards at least 5 times and often to the same person twice. The hotel allowed us to check-in at 1:30. We walked to the Gateway Arch National Park and La Cleade Landing although most of the bars and restaurants were closed. We used our military I.D. cards (retired) to get free tickets to the Cardinals (6)- Phillies (1) game and received nice left-field seats.
Day 2. Complimentary breakfast at the Hilton. Checkout is at 11:00 so we had 3 hours to kill to wait on the bus to transport us to Grafton. We used this time to walk the streets of downtown St. Louis. Since we registered early we were able to get the 2:00 transfer tickets for the 50 minute bus drive to Grafton. Our original embarkation port was Alton but it was changed for a reason not divulged to us. Check-in at the Countess was uncomplicated other than the check-in device was out of order and we were recorded as being on board by pen and paper. Champagne is available for new arrivals but we stayed with the Coors Light.
Response from BriannaH, Guest Relations @American Queen Voyages