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54 Memphis to North America River Cruise Reviews

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 ... Read More
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. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
We booked both a pre-cruise stay in Memphis and a post-cruise stay in New Orleans. They were great. We made use of the trolley passes in Memphis and visited several of the included attractions. The Sheraton hotel in Memphis was very nice. ... Read More
We booked both a pre-cruise stay in Memphis and a post-cruise stay in New Orleans. They were great. We made use of the trolley passes in Memphis and visited several of the included attractions. The Sheraton hotel in Memphis was very nice. We appreciated that we could check in for the cruise at the hotel. Great idea! The cruise started out great. Soon we started to hear that guests were sick with a stomach flu. We got on the boat on Monday afternoon. By Wednesday morning I was sick. The EMT on board was very kind and helpful. He mentioned that he was called in to work because there were several people sick on board. I spent the next day and a half in my room sleeping. Not how I wanted to spend my vacation! My husband also missed shore excursions so he could check on me. I recovered and resumed activities on the boat and shore excursions. As we talked to guests we heard of many people who were sick. The staff increased cleaning and the food service staff were serving all guests, no more help yourself. However, no one was enforcing the use of hand sanitizer. I am used to ocean cruising where every time you enter or leave a dining area or theatre they squirted sanitizer in your hands. We got off the boat after 7 days. On our bus tour of New Orleans one of our fellow cruise passengers vomited on the bus. The next day my husband was sick with the same stomach flu. Obviously not enough was done on the boat to stop the germs. I contacted American Queen guest services when I got home. They only offered me a free upgrade and onboard credit for a future cruise. I requested a partial refund and have not heard from them. Not impressed with their guest services. We did appreciate the Hop on Hop off bus at each of the stops on our trip. American Queen chose stops at interesting and historical places of interest. It was great that we could pick and choose which stops we wanted to visit and how long we wanted to stay at a stop. The Nottoway Plantation on the last day was beautiful and the tour was very informative. We ate most of our meals in the front porch cafe. The staff were very nice and the food was good. We were scheduled to eat dinner at 7:45 pm in the main dining room but find this is too late to eat a large meal. We only at dinner in the main dining room once, on lobster night. The staff were very attentive and the food was good. A highlight on board was the talk given by Lewis Hankins, acting as if he was Mark Twain. I also attended his second talk a couple of days later. I learned more about how funny Mark Twain was and some of his personal life. Excellent! The swimming pool was tiny and it was too cold outside to swim. A better option for a small boat would be a hot tub. Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
We love American Cruise Lines and delighted to sail on newest boat Harmony. Absolutely fabulous boat, superior crew and service. Our fourth trip on this line and we signed up for another ACL destination in 2020. Seamless operation from ... Read More
We love American Cruise Lines and delighted to sail on newest boat Harmony. Absolutely fabulous boat, superior crew and service. Our fourth trip on this line and we signed up for another ACL destination in 2020. Seamless operation from embarkation until disembarkation. Spacious and well appointed cabins, excellent entertainment, service and all around fun time. Immaculately maintained at all times. Crew seemed to enjoy being aboard. Love open seating with cocktail hours and dining left to each passenger. We felt pampered by crew and cannot wait to sail again on ACL. We enjoy fun and casual atmosphere and lack of forced organized activities. Each passenger is addressed by name and crew takes pride in individualized treatment. Our very favorite cruise line by far. Perfect vacation and cannot wait for our next journey. ACL prides itself justifiably on "small boat cruising done perfectly". This is absolutely true and not an advertising ploy. Read Less
Sail Date October 2019
In June 2019, my wife and I took the American Queen paddle wheeler on a one-week trip down the Mississippi River. Trip went from Memphis to New Orleans (the Deep South). I rate this trip as an overall 5 (on a scale of 5), based on its ... Read More
In June 2019, my wife and I took the American Queen paddle wheeler on a one-week trip down the Mississippi River. Trip went from Memphis to New Orleans (the Deep South). I rate this trip as an overall 5 (on a scale of 5), based on its distinctive niche for educational travel. The Mississippi River is America’s other “Route 66.” You can see it from shore by driving yourself along the Great River Road. Or you can see it from the water on a riverboat like the American Queen. Though this is the largest paddle wheeler ever built, it’s still small when compared to international cruise ships. It has six decks and carries a bit over 400 passengers. Travelers who never stop learning will be in heaven on the American Queen. It provides a comfortable level of overnight support for your daily “soft expeditions” ashore. The American Queen is a good fit for the same crowd that savors Elder Hostel (excuse me, Road Scholar), living museums, re-enactments, historic preservation, collecting national parks, and playing history detective. It’s also an alternative to those European river cruises -- both for Americans who want to stay home, and for Europeans who want to see a famous slice of America. Once you’ve left the airport, it’s like a prior era: a week of casually boarding and leaving the boat without TSA searches. But it’s not a good fit for passengers who only want a relaxing escape of doing nothing. And travel agents should use caution in booking customers who expect extensive pampering and privacy. The American Queen is heavily self-service, and for a similar price, they can get an ocean crossing with a more attentive level of luxury. SEE FOR YOURSELF Tips from travel agents will greatly help customers to make the most of this niche experience -- and to avoid the expectation gaps that keep popping up in Cruise Critic reviews. Needn’t be any surprises as to what it looks like aboard the American Queen. Last September, Gene Sloan did an exhaustive photo shoot (60+ images) that is published on USA Today’s travel website. Right down to the self-serve coffee machine. And, if you don’t consider it a spoiler, you can easily use the closeup views of Google Earth to scout the whole route in advance. You’ll quickly see that the river is less than a mile wide in most places. In other words, you’re unlikely to get seasick on this type of trip. NATURE CALLS THE SHOTS Days are spent on shore, and the boat paddles on in the evening. As with flightseeing tours, nature calls the shots here. Travelers may experience itinerary adjustments, big and small, based on the seasonal water level. The route may change if the water is low. In fact, the American Queen got stuck in the mud for a few days of its maiden voyage back in 1995 -- when the water on the Ohio suddenly got really low. And, like old aviators, they’ve been known to simply wait it out at a stop until conditions improve. If the water is high, the crew can adapt with little fanfare by cranking down the smokestacks and pilot house to get under a bridge. If you want to see this novelty, ask when you board as to where they expect it to happen. But if the water is really high, they may need to change your route to avoid a possible stranding between bridges. Last year, one of their trips addressed this by diverting over to the Illinois River (St. Louis to Chicago). Sounds like a good consolation prize, since the boat made quick arrangements for a lavishing of Lincoln lore. On our own June 2019 trip down the Mississippi from Memphis, flooding blocked us from one of the dockings planned in Louisiana. So the boat just went over to the other side of the river and tied up to the trees (like the old days). And there at the end of the gangplank were the buses in a state of readiness for the next activity. This little adjustment was certainly mild compared to some improvised landings in the 1800s. Back in the day, a riverboat could end up loading from the second story of a flooded building. Water conditions may also get the American Queen to a stop ahead of schedule. Maybe even a “bonus” overnight docking (as we got at Natchez). So pre-plan how you might use any extra evening ashore. There are often ghost, foodie, author, or pub tours available from the locals (not part of the American Queen). If nothing else, any overnight stop is a photo op to step ashore after dark and see the boat with all its lights. HOW THEY DO THE DAILY STOPS These guys do shore excursions right. The American Queen has its own fleet of comfortable buses that are well-maintained and well air-conditioned. They have their own crew of regular drivers, who follow along on shore and meet the boat every morning. Some buses take passengers on pre-reserved day trips (which cost extra). Other buses continuously shuttle you around town to sites that you can do at your pace. At these places, American Queen has prepaid any admission fee or expected donation. You just tell them that you’re off the American Queen and walk on in. American Queen publishes its own maps that show all the shuttle stops and prepaid attractions. These maps are more accurate, readable, and helpful than the crude port-stop leaflets I’ve seen on some international cruises. While river cruises can produce a traffic jam in Europe, passenger boats on the Mississippi are rare. Visits by the American Queen are a novelty, and the company seems to have cultivated a warm rapport with the locals at every stop. Often they’re volunteers. For instance, the boat’s shuttle bus dropped us off to see the Church of the Holy Trinity in Vicksburg. A parishioner in his 80s detailed the story of its six Tiffany stained-glass windows. The old Vicksburg depot is right by the dock and boasts a large collection of 250 ship models. They’re spread around the museum, and the friendly docent made sure that I knew where to find them. In contrast to the jaded herding of tourist-saturated Europe, I found the people of Memphis, Vicksburg, and Natchez to be among the most genuinely welcoming in the world. A MENU OF MANSIONS European river cruises have their palaces. On this route, the American Queen gives passengers their choice of 12 southern mansions built in the 1800s. A remarkable range of building styles and stories, often tragic. Some of these mansion visits come with extras like local cuisine, gardens, a costume museum, or a personal tour by the owner. For instance, the owner of Twin Oaks is quite the celebrity chef. She fed us well, told great stories, and gave us the run of her home. Shared her cooking secrets and left everyone with a copy of her colorful 200-page recipe book (Regina’s Kitchen tour). One of our all-time favorite shore excursions anywhere. The key here is pre-trip planning. Choose how to spend your day by studying the mansions’ websites. Even more online detail is available at the National Register of Historic Places. (www.nps.gov/subjects/nationalregister/database-research.htm ) One notable mansion was missing, though, and might be worth adding to the boat’s itinerary. While Hawaii had its well-known colony for leprosy at Molokai, the lesser-known mainland equivalent (the National Leprosarium) was at the old Indian Camp mansion on the Mississippi. Today there’s a driving tour of this former Carville colony. And a museum that tells how federal research at this site found the world a cure in the 1950s. Leprosy could now be treated with pills instead of exile for life. (www.hrsa.gov/hansens-disease/museum ) EVEN A CASTLE Like Europe’s rivers, there’s an old castle on the route: the former state capitol building in Baton Rouge. Just three blocks from the dock. Complete with towers and rooftop battlements. Interior like a gothic cathedral, with arches everywhere and a massive 2000-pane stained-glass dome. And, yes, this is the piece of medieval imitation that Mark Twain lampooned in “Life on the Mississippi.” With sharp language, he urged the state to demolish it and fund a replacement rather than a restoration. Interestingly, the outside looks a lot like the castle logo used by the Army Corps of Engineers. And the inside reminds me of the ornate Victorian decor found in the American Queen’s own Mark Twain Gallery. One wing of this castle now serves as a palatial venue for weddings. Another wing has the state’s Museum of Political History, with its candid look at the monarch-like reign of Governor Huey Long back in the 1930s. (https://exploresouthernhistory.com/louisianacapitol2.html ) The legislature debated Long’s impeachment in this castle. Long then built them an art deco skyscraper that remains the nation’s tallest state capitol building. There Long was shot to death, with some mystery remaining to this day. Historians contemplate how a Huey Long stint as President might have unfolded in the years surrounding World War II (instead of FDR). Long was already a U.S. senator when he was killed. THE 600-MILE ART WALK European river cruises have their art galleries. The American Queen’s version starts on the boat itself. Every public area of the boat is used to display a collection of 66 paintings that detail the history of American river travel. Paintings with a purpose, rather than mere decorations. Ask at the desk and they’ll give you their free booklet for the “Self-Guided Art Tour.” (There’s a “missing” painting, though. The boat needs a copy of Thomas Benton’s 1947 mural of “Achelous and Hercules,” which celebrates the efforts of the Corps of Engineers to tame the flooding Missouri. See https://americanart.si.edu/artwork/achelous-and-hercules-1910 ) Historic Hotels of America says this boat “has the largest private collection of Tiffany lamps in the United States.” And don’t forget to look upward. This is the Gilded Age, and there’s art in those ceilings. Like a sky mural above the Grand Staircase. When the boat docks at Vicksburg, you’re greeted by a series of 32 outdoor murals on the floodwall. (www.riverfrontmurals.com ) One of these murals depicts the deadliest maritime disaster in American history -- more killed than on the Titanic. In 1865, an overloaded troopship exploded near Memphis. The military man in charge was tried in the old courthouse that’s now a Vicksburg museum. After his conviction was reversed, he became a local judge and founded a suburb. Memory of the disaster was overshadowed by other events, that is, Lincoln’s death, Booth’s death, and the end of the Civil War. (Book: Jerry Potter, “The Sultana Tragedy”) Another Vicksburg mural recalls the deadly tornado of 1953 -- went right over the spot where we parked the boat. Locals wrongly assumed that the river protected them from tornados. This was a year before weather radar was invented, and the town’s paper got a Pulitzer for its continued coverage without utilities. (See www.weather.gov/jan/1953_vicksburgtornado ) In New Orleans, the most popular art forms are, of course, the floats and costumes for Mardi Gras. There are at least five museums about the event that are a reasonable distance from the dock. If, like us, your cruise ends upon reaching New Orleans, these are things for you to find, and pay for, on your own. About a mile south of the dock is our favorite: a factory that has built Mardi Gras floats since the 1940s. (www.mardigrasworld.com ) About a mile north of the dock is the Mardi Gras Museum. (www.themardigrasmuseum.com ) The state’s Presbytere museum in the French Quarter focuses on Mardi Gras. There’s also a lesser-known (and free) museum of “royalty” wear in the back of Arnaud’s restaurant -- if you know to ask for access. (www.arnaudsrestaurant.com ) And African American costumes are displayed at the Backstreet Cultural Museum, which is just west of the French Quarter. (www.backstreetmuseum.org ) My favorite commercial art galley (anywhere) is M.S. Rau, on Royal Street in the French Quarter. Many of the paintings and sculptures are found behind a door disguised as a bookcase (seriously). Those in the know can ask to tour that hidden collection. Parts of it are online in the store’s archived exhibition catalogs at www.rauantiques.com/catalogs. (Be sure to check out the one from their “Vice and Virtue” exhibition.) But let’s be candid here. If you can afford to do more than just admire the inventory at M.S. Rau, you probably have your own yacht and aren’t reading this review. MUSEUMS OF SOCIAL JUSTICE Obviously, old mansions along the Mississippi didn’t start out as tourist attractions. Nor were they built by volunteers. On this Deep South route of the American Queen, you’ll find nine museums that focus on slavery and civil rights. Here’s the list: (1) National Civil Rights Museum (Memphis); (2) Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum (Memphis); (3) Cotton Museum (Memphis); (4) Frogmore Plantation (Natchez); (5) Forks of the Road slave market (Natchez); (6) Afro-American Culture Museum (Natchez); (7) William Johnson House (Natchez); (8) Rosedown Plantation (St. Francisville); (9) Oak Alley Plantation (Nottoway). Two further stops have some related nuances if you know a bit of the background. In Vicksburg, the boat’s bus will drop you off at a museum that was the county’s courthouse during the Civil War. A small exhibit in the courtroom recounts an early war crimes trial by the Union army. Nine Union soldiers were hung for killing a plantation owner’s wife during a looting. All nine were black soldiers. (Book: Gordon Cotton [former curator], “The Murder of Minerva Cook”) At St. Francisville, the boat did a bus trip over to the nation’s largest hard-core prison. Known as Angola or “the farm,” it was the American version of Devil’s Island back in the day. Some cite the convict lease system as a covert continuation of slavery up until World War II. (Book: Douglas Blackmon, “Slavery by Another Name”) The media continue to report concerns about conditions at Angola. All agree that the majority of its current inmates are lifers and black. Once again, the key is to choose your stops of interest with some pre-trip surfing of museum websites. One lesser-known civil rights site might be worth adding to the American Queen’s itinerary. During World War II, Japanese Americans were confined at two “relocation centers” near the Mississippi River at McGehee, Arkansas. There were 10 of these wartime camps around the country. McGehee has a museum about the ones there. (http://rohwer.astate.edu ) Once you get to New Orleans, there are some further options that you can arrange on your own. There is the New Orleans self-guided Slave Trade Marker Tour, with its free downloadable app. (www.neworleansslavetrade.org) And at least one company offers a tour about the city’s civil rights movement. (http://toursbyjudy.com ) THE BOAT ITSELF Perhaps the most unusual structure of the trip is the American Queen itself –- the largest paddle wheeler ever made. Back in 1995, the original owner resurrected the Victorian decor of the most lavish riverboats and produced a composite out of modern (much safer) materials. Though the boat’s a replica, it’s still a transportation icon. The missing link between covered wagons and the railroads. Belongs right up there with the Spirit of St. Louis. Before the railroads took over, steamboats like this one took passengers as far west as Montana. There was even a brief effort at running steamboats from Baja up to present-day Las Vegas. The American Queen is indeed propelled by a genuine steam-driven paddle wheel. But two modern propeller pods are available for tight maneuvers and emergencies. Unlike international cruise ships, passenger visits to the bridge (pilot house) and engine room are encouraged rather than forbidden. Due to the noise, you may want to visit the engines during a port stop if you really want to talk with the engineer on duty. There’s a good “steamplant” handout with enough details of the system for most of us. Time aboard the boat feels like a very realistic stage set, or “Night at the Museum.” In fact, the onboard shows and lectures occur in a “Grand Saloon” modeled after Ford’s Theater. A bit smaller, but you can still sit in a balcony box like old Abe did. (The two most forward boxes are open to anyone who gets there first.) I started to search the various public databases for the ship’s listing as a historic property. Then I remembered that this is a replica less than half my age. When it gets older, it should make the cut for the nautical category of the Historic American Engineering Record. The dining room recreates that of a legendary steamboat (J.M. White) whose wreck in the 1800s formed the Maurice Towhead, an island we passed near St. Francisville. Each of the three passenger lounges is a museum in itself, with wall-to-wall antiques, exhibits, artwork, and books related to the period. For serious study of the route, passengers have access to a real chart room (no, it’s not a bar). You even get a chance to play the boat’s steam calliope. Every area of the boat is well air-conditioned. Those who chill easily will need to bring along a sweatshirt (though you can adjust the temperature in your room). SCENERY ALONG THE RIVER On the Mississippi north of St. Louis (not this trip), a boat will transit up to 29 locks (sort of an extended Panama Canal). But our route from Memphis down to New Orleans had no locks or dams. The river south of Memphis is mile after mile of tree-lined banks, often with high levees. With the boat being six decks high, you get the unique perspective of a helicopter flying low and slow above the water. Common traffic on the Mississippi consists of tugboats (towboats) pushing long strings of barges. If you’re curious about life aboard the towboats, the Corps of Engineers has a well-labeled one as a museum by the dock in Vicksburg. With some climbing, you can explore the inside from top to bottom at your own pace. (Don’t miss the exhibit in the engine room about the Army’s construction problems with the “Big Shaky.”) Since there are no locks or dams on this route, there’s usually little to see at night beyond lighted buoys, towboat spotlights, and the silhouette of trees on the banks. However, there was quite the magenta sunset on our last night. Another night had a half-hour show of cloud-to-cloud lightning that rivaled the aurora. New Orleans is the southern end of the line for the American Queen. After New Orleans, the Mississippi River extends through its delta and eventually reaches the ocean. To see this last 100 miles of the river, you’d have to book an international cruise that starts at New Orleans and heads on into the Gulf. STAR OF THE SHOW The river on this route can get pretty monotonous if you don’t know what’s hidden in plain sight. Like the monotony of an opera unless they give you a written translation for following along (libretto). Fortunately, the American Queen has an onboard historian (Jerry Hay) who has authored mile-by-mile guidebooks for every river the boat travels (and a few more). Though designed for boaters, they’re your libretto for appreciating all the local lore you’d otherwise miss. Lots of shipwrecks and military history buried out there. (To buy these books, see www.riverlorian.com.) But you still have to know where you are on the river. Bring along your GPS or smartphone equivalent. A key feature of the trip is the talks that Jerry Hay gives about the river, the boat, and the stops. Since you’re here for the history, he’s the voice of the American Queen, your emcee, and the star of the show. He does up to four talks a day at various spots around the boat, such as the pilot house, chart room, and Grand Saloon. Backwaters all have their backstories, and Jerry Hay sure knows a lot of them. Seems fitting that the American Queen was originally christened by Mr. and Mrs. Paul Harvey. The couple who broadcast “the rest of the story,” what we’d otherwise have missed. (There was a “re-christening” by Priscilla Presley about two decades later.) Despite all the efforts at flood control, the river still seems to get its way much of the time. The charts show abandoned channels, oxbow lakes, and even parts of one state exiled within another state. Congress sets the boundary; nature resets the Mississippi. (See www.semissourian.com/blogs/pavementends/entry/36305 ) The national research center for river control is the huge Corps of Engineers lab that dominates Vicksburg. Since the facility is generally not open to the public, any shore excursion that the American Queen could arrange would be an impressive addition to future itineraries. Taxpayers are often unaware of good things that the government has done with their money. (See www.erdc.usace.army.mil/About/ ) ONBOARD MUSIC Much of the music that we’ve heard on international cruises has musicians playing along to a soundtrack. On the American Queen, 100% of the music on stage was totally live (no soundtracks). Just like the old days. It’s a full onboard band of veteran session musicians from around the country. They do evening shows of American tunes from the last 150 years. Just as enjoyable as the onshore music of the French Quarter. MEALS Except for dinner, meals are self-serve buffets with several basic American entrees. Certainly enough to keep you going, but nothing like the pig-outs with endless variety that you find inside casinos or luxury liners. Self-serve machines are available for your basic soft drinks, coffee, tea, popcorn, and soft ice cream. Each deck has a water fountain (“hydration station”) to fill the sports bottle that they give you at the start of the cruise. If strong, branded coffees (Starbucks, Peets) are part of your life support system, you’ll have to bring you own survival kit from home. Same deal if you insist on bottled water. The boat simply doesn’t have these things. You’ll get free beer and wine with dinner, but alcohol beyond that gets added to your bill. On the other hand, there’s no onboard casino to take your money. Dinner is the only table-service type of meal. You get an assigned time and table for the trip’s duration, and everyone in the room gets every course on the same tight schedule (or you’ve waived that part of the meal). You can, of course, skip this regimen and just do another self-serve buffet for dinner (like breakfast and lunch). Dinner had creative, nicely-presented regional entrees that changed throughout the week. Service was fast, and the food always arrived hot. Our three American waiters were just as skilled, attentive, and charming as the European waiters touted on international cruises. There’s one serious caution for travel agents, though. Two tables in the dining room are positioned directly above machinery whose noise and vibration make it difficult to converse (probably a generator). Travel agents should insist that their customers not be assigned to these two tables –- make it a deal breaker. With the boat pointed forward, the two tables to avoid are found in the forward part of the left side of the dining room. On the deck plan for the dining room, you’ll see an H-shaped service area. Draw a line from (1) the left bottom corner of this H across to (2) the left-side window with a hull access tower outside. Though the dining room may be completely full, the American Queen simply shouldn’t space its tables near this line. Travel agents should alert customers that the American Queen will automatically add on a “gratuities” charge of $37 per day per couple. While we only did a one-week leg, the brochure advertises “epic 16 to 23-day voyages” of the full Mississippi. In other words, they’ll be tacking on roughly $550 to $800 for couples who do the whole river. And, no, you can’t use your onboard credit to pay this add-on noted in the fine print. Since the “gratuities” charge is not based on any individual’s actual performance, it’s just a way of adding payroll to the quoted base fare. Like the unbundled (fragmented) billing of airlines, hospitals, and “resort fee” hotels. Theoretically, the boat says you can get nasty and negotiate this extra charge downward if you feel it’s undeserved. However, if a passenger really feels that abused, the better route might be a travel agent’s post-trip request to the line’s headquarters. THE CABIN For this type of trip, the extra cost for a window or outside entrance wasn’t worth it to us. We picked the cheapest inside cabin they had (no window), and it met our needs. The cabin was just our sleeping room while the boat was moving on to the next day’s stop. Since this was summer in the Deep South, good air conditioning was more important to us than a window. Our room’s air conditioning was effective and adjustable to our liking. However, travel agents should alert customers to a few idiosyncrasies. For instance, our cabin was far from soundproof. We could hear coughs, coat hangars, and conversations in the adjacent cabins. Also, some Deck 3 interior cabins (like ours) are above the Grand Saloon. Choose accordingly if you want silence before the second show ends about 9 pm. And, per the past reviews by others, you may want to sleep away from the laundry room. The instructions on the old room safe are ambiguous and tricky. You may want to ask the desk to translate before you throw all your goodies in there. You have to use your metal key to lock the door when you leave your room. It doesn’t automatically lock like modern hotel doors. Minimal towels were provided in our bathroom. So plan for that contingency (maybe bring along a roll of paper towels). The room’s free wireless Internet worked well with our PC. But we didn’t have cell phone coverage unless we opened the door a little. Probably not an issue for the outside rooms with a window. BOTTOM LINE There are endless things to see and ponder along this route, if you know where to find them. If I had my cruising retirement to do over, I’d spend more time in my own country, do more pre-trip homework, and take more trips like this one. Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
~~~April 25th – May 4th, 2019~~~ Yesterday’s flights from Orange County Airport, first to DFW and then on to Memphis, were surprisingly pleasant with little turbulence. Evidently, the flight to DFW was a day after a severe weather ... Read More
~~~April 25th – May 4th, 2019~~~ Yesterday’s flights from Orange County Airport, first to DFW and then on to Memphis, were surprisingly pleasant with little turbulence. Evidently, the flight to DFW was a day after a severe weather day there, and the late afternoon flight on into Memphis followed a morning of severe weather there. So, I lucked out! My flight from DFW to Memphis was delayed almost an hour which gave me sufficient time for a large, delicious Chicken Burrito at Pappasito’s Cantina, along with a Margarita, of course. I was set for the rest of the day. ~~~Memphis. Tennessee, April 25th~~~ Arrival in Memphis was at around 4:35 pm and my one piece of luggage was one of the first to arrive on the carrousel. Following the hotel’s instructions, I used the provided hotel reservation telephone to call the Guesthouse at Graceland for a shuttle from the airport. I was told to go out to the middle island of the parking structure where I immediately located the hotel’s shuttle and was soon on my way. A moderate rain was falling on departure from the airport, but it had stopped by the time we got to the hotel, only a short distance away. Checking in at the hotel was easy since I was expected, a packet of information from American Cruise Lines awaiting me. My room is 625 in the North Tower of this rather large and new hotel, right next to Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley, and is very nice and large. The bath has a huge shower with multiple faucets provided a “rain” of water. Quite nice! Being exhausted from my full day’s travel and early rising, I spent the evening in my room, enjoying the free wi-fi and large flat panel TV, before finally going to sleep at around 11 pm (9 pm PDT) in the large, comfortable king-sized bed. I slept until almost 7 am this morning. After showering under the overhead and side faucets, I changed for my included buffet breakfast downstairs at Delta’s Kitchen. Being on Friday, I found breakfast to be quite crowded but easily served myself to my satisfaction. The fare was rather mundane except for delicious fresh fruit: honeydew, pineapple, cantaloupe as well as cheese-scrambled eggs, bacon and biscuits. Excellent coffee, by the way. ~~~Graceland VIP Tour, April 26th~~~ Meeting other members of Linda’s Group waiting in the lobby for our shuttle bus over to Graceland for the included VIP tour, we were quickly transported at 9:15 am across the Elvis Presley Blvd to the entrance to Graceland, a vast and extremely popular tourist attraction here in Memphis. We were checked in, showing our ID, given our tickets including one for lunch, as well as lanyards and wrist-bands, and then directed to other waiting shuttle busses for transfer back across Elvis Presley Blvd. to the Graceland Mansion. Rather modest under today’s standards, the Mansion tour started first with a visit to the living room and adjoining music room, all protected behind ropes. Then it was a tight fit down a hallway to see one of the bedrooms. Elvis’ bedroom and other personal rooms upstairs are NOT available for viewing. Then it was through the dining room into the kitchen and down a narrow stairway to the basement where first we viewed a TV room containing several vintage TV sets showing period-specific TV shows. Then next door into an elaborate game room with a pool table and fabric-covered walls AND ceiling with dizzying colors and designs. Another narrow stairway leads back upstairs and outside to the mansion’s rear with views of a lush paddock complete with grazing horses. Several other buildings were also visited including a handball court, Vernon’s office (Elvis’ father), and another containing a myriad of Elvis memorabilia. The final attraction was the Garden of Memories with the graves of Elvis and other family members around a spectacular pool with dancing fountains. This was adjacent to the swimming pool for the Mansion. Although our tour could last all day, enough was enough, and we returned to the spot around the rear of the Mansion to which we had been delivered earlier for the return shuttle back across Elvis Presley Blvd. to the extensive complex there including a display of Elvis’ planes, one a converted Convair 880 named “Lisa Marie” after his daughter and the other, smaller Lockheed Jetstar named “Hound Dog II”. Other buildings housed collections of Elvis’ many luxury cars as well as motor cycles and other motor craft. There is certainly enough to see up to one’s personal endurance limits. Mine was easily achieved and I sought out one of the several eateries in which to use my $15 lunch voucher. Glady’s Diner caught my eye and I entered to find many options available; my choice was for the Chicken Alfredo Pizza, receiving a huge quarter pizza for $7.89 along with a 20-ounce chocolate milkshake for $4.95. The pizza was delicious, and I ate every bit of it, enjoying the chocolate shake with it. My $15 meal voucher just paid for it, I was informed. Finally, it was time to call it quits and return by shuttle bus back to the Guesthouse. Tonight, I have planned a trip downtown to the Rendezvous Restaurant for their famous barbecued ribs, taking a pre-paid shuttle at 6 pm provided by the hotel for $10 RT. They are NOT in business for the pleasure! On return to the hotel I purchased a glass of Sauvignon Blanc at a bar downstairs and was charged $15! They do have a captive audience here, but REALLY! That’s all for now. More later on this evening’s dining experience. ~~~My Evening at the Rendezvous in Memphis, April 26th~~~ At 6 pm I took the hotel’s shuttle into the downtown district to the corner of 2nd & Beale Street, next to the Hard Rock Cafe, at the very entrance to the very active entertainment district on Beale Street. Two blocks are blocked off from vehicular traffic, allowing the throngs of merry-makers to roam the street at leisure. My destination was the Peabody Hotel, about three blocks down 2nd; the Rendezvous Restaurant is just down the alley from there. With some difficulty locating the right alley, I finally found the Rendezvous about half way down the alley and entered to encounter stairs down to the basement location which seats over 700 diners. Quickly I was seated at a table for two and placed my order: half rack of ribs with beans and cold slaw, along with a local amber beer. It was incredibly delicious! When finished, I walked back down 2nd to the Hard Rock Cafe, the pickup location to return to the hotel; the next shuttle would not come until 8:30 pm so I went inside the Hard Rock for a beer. At 8:30 pm on the dot the hotel shuttle arrived and soon we were on our way back to the hotel near Graceland. On arrival I returned to my room to repack for our departure the following morning, requiring our luggage to be placed just inside the door to my room, before 7 am the next morning. Then it was to bed. ~~~Embarkation Day, April 27th~~~ The next morning, after a big breakfast at Delta’s Kitchen, I met with others in Linda’s Group in the lobby, awaiting our departure, first for a city tour of Memphis, followed by the trip to the riverboat. Getting on our bus I was surprised and delighted to be recognized by Lily, Cruise Manager for American Cruise Lines, whom I knew from last July’s Grand New England cruise; she was checking the passenger list for boarding. We departed The Guesthouse at Graceland at 9 am. The highlight of our city tour of Memphis was our stop at the Peabody Hotel where we were treated to the 11 am parade of the ducks, down the elevator from the roof - their home – waddling down a red carpet to the fountain in the lobby where they would remain during the day until 5 pm when they would ceremoniously return back to the elevator on the red carpet and back to the roof. There were 6 or 7 ducks who noisily made their entrance, much to the delight of the crowds of onlookers; I went up to the mezzanine for a better view of the events. Then it was back on the bus, and on to the riverboat. At about noon we arrived at the docking location for the America, our riverboat home for the next week, different from the usual location due to high level of the River which had flooded the Beale Street Landing. Instead we found the riverboat docked at a landing on Mud Island, just across from downtown Memphis. Walking down the rather steep ramp to the extended gangway, we all went onboard, crowding the area near the elevators; I chose to bypass them and go directly into the dining room where lunch was being served. I would worry about finding my room and checking in until afterwards. Lunch was delicious along with a glass of cold Sauvignon Blanc wine. Then it was time to find my room, #414 on Deck 4. The crowds around the elevators had disappeared by this time and I quickly found my single room, first door aft of the elevator. The door was open and inside I found my luggage along with a folder of information as well as two door keycards. I then took my boarding pass down to the Office on Deck 2. Security seems almost nonexistent! The riverboat departed Memphis right on schedule at 1 pm, next stop Vicksburg, Mississippi. ~~~Gliding Along the Mississippi River, April 27th~~~ During the afternoon after departing Memphis we glided along the Mississippi River under brilliantly blue skies, enjoying the peace and tranquility of the passing scenery. Occasionally we encountered long barges with several units in tow, plowing their way up or down the River. I found it amazing the length of these barges, some pushing up to 5 or 6 units! How could they negotiate the many bends and turns along the River? At 2:15 pm there was an Excursion Briefing in the Magnolia Lounge where Hotel Officers explained the many different shore excursions offered during our 7-day cruise, most being complimentary with only a few being for a fee. We were given a schedule of all shore excursions and asked to indicate our choices, keeping a copy for our personal reference. Then it was time to unpack! I leisurely did my unpacking and organizing my spacious single balcony stateroom, using only a small part of the very ample storage provided. Being only a week-long cruise, I had packed very sparingly and only used my carryon sized luggage. Soon I was finished and ready to go to the one Happy Hour located in the Sky Lounge, just down the passageway from my room, Aft on Deck 4; another Happy Hour location was in the Magnolia Lounge down on Deck 2 Forward. The Magnolia Lounge is a large room used for many gatherings including the evening’s entertainment. Happy Hours feature open bars with complimentary cocktails of choice besides a large selection of wines, beers, and appetizers; one of the benefits of this rather expensive cruise. Being an American-flagged riverboat, the crew is all American which requires American-level wages, also contributing to the high cost of the cruise. After a couple glasses of my favorite Sauvignon Blanc white wine, it was time to go down to the Dining Room on Deck 1 for dinner. Open seating allows one a choice of places to sit and mine was at a table of several of Linda’s Group, a group of 17. Dinner was excellent with an appetizer or salad followed by an entree, topped off with a delectable dessert. Although there was a banjo player entertaining in the Magnolia Lounge, it was time for bed for me after enjoying two or more glasses of wine. Returning to my stateroom I found my bed turned down and the drapes pulled. There is twice-a-day room servicing aboard. First, I opened up the drapes revealing the passing scenery and then turned on the flat-panel TV to MSNBC, volume turned low, and got into my twin sized bed, and very soon fell asleep. ~~~Vicksburg, Mississippi - April 28th~~~ Although our scheduled arrival time was 12 noon, we actually docked in Vicksburg at around 7 am. Shore excursions would not begin until 2 pm, my choice being the one to the Vicksburg National Military Park. Breakfast is served in the Dining Room from 7:30 am until 9 am and my arrival around 8 am found the Room already fairly full. I had showered in my rather small sized shower stall and then discovered that my Old Spice stick deodorant was almost completely depleted! I had not checked it during my packing. Also, the single purpose razors I had packed must have been quite old as they were almost ineffectual. Some onshore shopping was in order. Back to breakfast, my typical order was a Western Omelet with a side of bacon, along with a toasted English muffin, preceded by glasses of cranberry and orange juices; and delicious coffee, of course! Afterwards it was back to my stateroom to relax before my afternoon tour. My room had already been serviced by then. After lunch, which included my Sauvignon Blanc, it was soon time for our 3-hour tour of the Vicksburg National Military Park, at 2 pm. Being one of the complimentary shore excursions, there were two busloads of us which loaded and departed from alongside the dock and traveled for about 30 minutes through the town of Vicksburg and out to the Park. The countryside was hilly and forested except for the main battlefield where the Confederates had cut down all of the trees on the slopes, placing the trees pointed downhill with barbed wire strung among them as defense against the Union forces. This tactic apparently worked because after repeated attempts, the Union forces failed to prevail. The Union commander, Ulysses S. Grant, then changed his tactic to one of siege, encircling the Confederate forces and attempting to starve them out. It worked and eventually the Confederate commander, John C. Pemberton, surrendered and Vicksburg fell to the Union forces. Our tour was all around these battlegrounds where many monuments are located; northern states’ forces were commemorated: Illinois, Ohio, Maine, Michigan, etc.; as well as southern states’ forces: Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, etc. Vicksburg, sitting on a high hill on a bend of the Mississippi River was of crucial importance to both the North and South; it dominated traffic along the River. Abraham Lincoln was quoted as saying, “Vicksburg is the key! The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket.” Our tour included a stop at the U.S.S. Cairo Museum where is located the partially reconstructed Union ironclad warship, sunk in the Mississippi River north of Vicksburg by two Confederate electrically detonated torpedoes (mines). It lay submerged until 1956 when it was rediscovered and, with great effort, recovered and partially rebuilt and is now on display, protected beneath a large canopy. The conclusion of our tour was in the Visitor Center that contains many artifacts of the war. Our return to our riverboat was right at 5 pm, just in time for Happy Hour! That first glass of Sauvignon Blanc sure tasted good! ~~~Vicksburg, Mississippi - April 29th~~~ After spending the night at dock at Vicksburg, breakfast had to be completed early in preparation of our 9 am tours. My usual order was delivered quickly, and I finished in plenty of time to return to my stateroom briefly. At 9 am I went down to catch the shuttle bus up the very steep hill into downtown Vicksburg but evidently got on the wrong bus, the Historic Vicksburg Comes to Life, a two-hour guided walking tour. It did turn out to be a very interesting and informative walk although my poor feet and legs were certainly complaining by its conclusion. We saw many classic homes of the antebellum style, trudged up and down the brick streets, and observed the many churches. The tour ended on a downtown street where is located the original store selling Coca Cola. I easily found a pharmacy where I was able to buy deodorant and another razor and then caught one of the shuttles back down the hill to the docks and our riverboat. It was a relief to return to my room and give my legs and feet some well-needed rest. Lunch would be at 12 noon, just before the America departed Vicksburg at 1 pm. Next stop, Natchez, Mississippi! ~~~Gliding Again Along the Mississippi River, April 29th~~~ Having departed Vicksburg during lunchtime, at 1 pm, we were again gliding down the Mississippi River under brilliantly blue skies. We have been so VERY fortunate with our excellent weather since first arriving in Memphis last Thursday when we encountered a brief shower on the way from the airport to the hotel. Since then it has been absolutely clear and beautiful! During the afternoon in the Magnolia Lounge, members of the staff presented a special presentation of future cruises, both on American Cruise Lines as well as on Pearl Seas Cruises, the sister company of ACL. Future cruises could be booked with a 15% discount plus forgiveness of the port fees and taxes, a considerable savings! Since I had previously booked the 15-day “Canadian Maritimes & St. Lawrence Seaway” Cruise with Pearl Cruises, I was interested in possibly rebooking in order to take advantage of the onboard booking savings. At first, I was told that - once booked, it was not possible to rebook. However, in my discussion with Keaton Jamerson, Guest Services Advisor, he suggested it might be possible to cancel my existing booking, pay the cancellation charge, and then immediately rebook onboard with the above-mentioned savings. He was on the telephone several times with Pearl Seas discussing my situation. There was the possibility that, once cancelled, my coveted choice of Single Stateroom 512 might not be available for my rebooking, and there were no other such single staterooms available. Long story short, Keaton was successful in rebooking that stateroom 512 on the Pearl Mist for me, after I had emailed my cancellation request to Pearl Cruises, and with the 15% discount + port fees and taxes! I saved over $2600! Happy Hour afterwards was especially happy! We arrived at Natchez at 6:30 pm, during dinner, but docked across the River in Vidalia, Louisiana, due the high waters flooding the Natchez docks. At the very base of the large bridge crossing the River, we pulled up to a pretty riverside park area, and let down the gangway for disembarkation, tying up to nearby trees. This was the second time that the high-water level of the River had affected our docking location. After finally getting to sleep, fighting the traffic noise from the nearby bridge, I slept until the morning’s traffic resumption awakened me around 6 am. For such small towns of Natchez and Vidalia, the volume of bridge traffic connecting them was surprisingly heavy. ~~~Natchez, Mississippi and Vidalia, Louisiana - April 30th~~~ Breakfast was my usual Western omelet with bacon, and I had to rush things a bit in order to get to my 9 am shore excursion to the Frogmore Plantation. It was a short bus ride into Louisiana from the park area next to our riverboat’s docking to this very interesting and thorough tour of a working a cotton plantation: During a visit to this historical plantation, visitors will gain an understanding of the complete antebellum lifestyle. This tour compares and contrasts a working cotton plantation from 1790 through today. Visitors learn about slave culture, sharecropping, and modern technology. During this narrated tour, explore the plantation’s buildings, including a rare antique steam gin and the only completely computerized gin in the nation. At the conclusion of the tour, we were all seated on benches facing the porch of one of the buildings, forming a stage of sorts, and were presented with a narration of the history of the plantation, interspersed with a cappella singing by two very accomplished singers, one an elderly white man in period dress, the other a black lady dressed also in period costume. They were excellent! A perfect ending to a memorable experience. Back at the America, it was time for lunch when we returned. There would be a second shore excursion across the River in Natchez at 2 pm. Lunches were always delicious with unique salads, using a lot of spinach leaves, accompanied by sandwiches, pasta dishes, or HUGE hamburgers. Dessert for me became my usual mint-chocolate chip ice cream. AND, of course, my Sauvignon Blanc wine! The afternoon shore excursion was to an antebellum house in the Historic District in central Natchez, the Joseph Newman Stone House, over 140 years in the same family: "Rare antique maps adorn the walls of this unique property, outstanding for its antebellum origins as a private billiard hall built in the style of a Greek temple, as well as for its rare pocket doors with ornamental glasswork. The builder was David Stanton, whose brother built world-famous Stanton Hall, also located in the Downtown Historic District. Acquired in 1877 by Joseph Newman Stone, it has remained in the Stone family for 140 years, now operating as a bed & breakfast, featuring family portraits and antiques. Each fall the house is open to the public during the Natchez Pilgrimage. Additionally, it has won the Historic Natchez Foundation's 2003 Restoration Award as well as TripAdvisor's Travelers' Choice Awards in 2012 & 2013 for the top 25 bed & breakfast inns in the United States. Bed & breakfast accommodations are offered in the Master Bedroom or the Cottage. A full Southern breakfast is served in The Dining Room on antique Limoges china. Guests who stay a minimum of two nights are invited to a 'Soirée Musicale' featuring live piano entertainment with complimentary wine in The Antebellum Music Room, while The Antebellum Billiard Hall showcases a fine antique billiard table. Stone House Musical B & B is found in the Downtown Historic District, an easy walk to many tour houses, antique shops, fine restaurants, other B & B inns or hotels, as well as the famous 200-foot bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, making it an ideal destination for any vacation on the Great River Road or Natchez Trace." Upon entering we were all seated in the front parlor facing a grand piano in front of large pocket doors containing beautiful glass panels. The owner and great grandson of the original owner, Joseph Britton Stone, greeted us and proceeded to pleasure us with his musical mastery, presenting a concert of four selections of classical music on the 1903 Steinway Parlor Grand Piano. We were all mesmerized by his talent and the ambiance of the setting. We were then given a tour of the several rooms of the house, all spectacularly adorned with family photos and artifacts as well as exquisite furnishings and chandeliers. There was the dining room, with the table set with formal tableware including Limoges china, the billiard room with its antique billiards table, the kitchen, and one of the bedrooms, papered with unusual wall coverings and presenting a high canopied bed. All absolutely gorgeous! Then the owner offered us all our choice of champagne or a select liqueur, served in beautiful crystal glassware. A real unexpected treat! All during our visit, the house puppy, “Precious”, a rare Tibetan Spaniel, mingled and sniffed us all, a very friendly “cohost” of the house. As we departed this treasure of a home, Joseph Stone stood at the door with Precious in arm, bidding us all adieu. It had been a most special visit! By the time we again crossed the River using the bridge back to our riverboat on the Vidalia side, it was almost time for Happy Hour! This company surely does not spare the expense as far as alcohol! The Sky Lounge on Deck 4 was my favorite, preferred over the larger Magnolia Lounge, although it did become quite crowded at times. There was an outside seating area just back of the Sky Lounge where comfortable chairs provided a pleasant place to sit and view the surroundings and our spectacular weather. After dinner this was my one time to stay up late and go to the Magnolia Lounge for the entertainment with tonight’s feature, Judy Davis, a large black lady who was EXCELLENT! Her material was nonstop hilarious, interspersed with vocal selections, also quite good. Her comedy was most enjoyable, and I didn’t regret my choice over another early night to bed. Our riverboat departed our docking at 11:30 pm, next stop Baton Rouge, tomorrow, May 1st. Our time is passing much too rapidly! ~~~Baton Rouge, Louisiana - May 1st & 2nd~~~ Traveling overnight from Natchez, Mississippi, we arrived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana early in the morning of May 1st where, after some expert manipulation in the fast-moving waters of the Mississippi River, our riverboat tied up to a new pier near downtown Baton Rouge. Our location was adjacent to the permanent home of the USS Kidd which is open to the public: "Known as the “Pirate of the Pacific,” this Fletcher-class destroyer is a memorial to the men and women that served in the American armed forces. Take a step back in time on this self-guided tour to see artifacts and aircraft from World War II. This is an experience that will leave you speechless." Our original schedule called for our docking at St. Francisville for our shore excursion to the Rosedown Plantation, but the high-water level of the River had flooded the docks there, requiring our early docking in Baton Rouge and a bus trip back up the River to St. Francisville and the Plantation. This would happen at 2 pm in the afternoon. Breakfast was leisurely with no time pressure, just sitting in the dining room, enjoying my Western omelet with bacon, cranberry and orange juices with coffee and an English muffin, looking out the large windows at the bright clear morning and the stunning skyline of downtown Baton Rouge. The historic Old State Capitol Building was very close, and the tall tower of the new State Capitol Building could be seen in the distance. The rest of the morning was spent in my stateroom relaxing and getting ready for the afternoon’s tour. Soon after lunch was over, at 1:30 pm, we exited the America and walked to the end of the pier, crossed a railroad track, to get to our busses. This being one of the complimentary shore excursions, almost everyone onboard was going, requiring 4 busses; I was on bus #1. It was a scenic ride of one hour back up the River passing through lush green forests and fields. Our arrival at the antebellum Rosedown Plantation then required a short walk from the parking lot up to the main house where our bus group assembled on the large porch, awaiting entry. The lady guide, dressed in a period costume, explained the history of the Plantation and then ushered us inside to the parlor and then past the stairway into the front bedroom. Furnished with authentic items, the feeling of being in the past was overwhelming. We then went up the long stairway to the second floor to other bedrooms and then down the back stairway into the kitchen. Then it was back outside where we encountered the second bus group awaiting their turn. Quite a bunch of visitors to accommodate all at once, but well-handled if I do say so. The exterior of the mansion was fronted by tall white columns, so prevalent in the architecture of the period. The surrounding grounds were carefully manicured gardens with interwinding paths. Then it was time to return to our bus for the short trip into the small town of St. Francisville. We traveled up and down several streets in this small picturesque town, at one point seeing the road down to the flooded docks, until we stopped at a store where we were allowed a shopping break. The place was huge with a wide array of merchandise, mostly very eclectic. Fresh lemonade was freely offered, which tasted fantastic! Bathroom facilities were also available. Then it was back on the bus, back to Baton Rouge and our floating home by 5 pm, just in time for Happy Hour! Many passengers chose to walk off the riverboat and walk into town for shopping, sightseeing and dining, but I chose to stay aboard for the night. Tomorrow we would once again be docked in Baton Rouge with a city tour scheduled for 2 pm. ~~~Baton Rouge, Louisiana - May 2nd~~~ Knowing about my upcoming visit to Baton Rouge, I had previously contacted my friends, Bob and Virginia Bogan, who live here, and invited them to join me aboard the America for cocktails and dinner, an advertised benefit offered to passengers. Virginia had also expressed a desire to join me on the afternoon city tour and, with approval of the manager, this is what happened. There were two different times for the city tour: 9 am and 2 pm, and we had decided on the later. I had given details about the Bogan’s to the staff to facilitate their coming onboard and shortly before 1:30 pm Virginia showed up in Magnolia Lounge where I had been waiting. Virginia is the sister of Jim Innerarity, my dear friend who passed away three years ago; we had spent time together on several occasions while Jim was alive, so I know her well. We went back up to my stateroom for a brief bathroom visit and then back down and off the boat, walking to the end of the pier to the waiting bus. Traveling around the downtown area we passed by the Old State Capitol Building, and later the “New” State Capitol Building, built in the 30’s by Governor Huey P. Long of Louisiana’s notorious fame. We also passed by his “new” Governor’s Mansion which strongly resembled the White House in Washington, D.C. Huey had presidential aspirations also! But he was assassinated before he could pursue that. Further driving around the downtown area brought us to the Capitol Park Museum where we allowed to spend an hour viewing the extensive displays and exhibits portraying the history of Louisiana. It would have taken much longer than one hour to fully investigate this vast collection! By the time we returned to the riverboat it was almost time for Happy Hour and, after a quick trip back to my stateroom, Virginia and I went to the Sky Lounge on Deck 4 to partake of a beverage. Bob and their daughter Jennifer would be joining us shortly for dinner. In fact, just after we sat down, Virginia called Bob on her cellphone and, immediately Bob and Jennifer walked into the Lounge! They had gone to my stateroom and heard the noise down the hall from the nearby Sky Lounge. We all ordered drinks and enjoyed visiting for a while before going down to dinner. Since several of the passengers had chosen to dine ashore, the dining room wasn’t very full and the four of us easily found a nice table by the window. The Bogan’s were all impressed by the menu and, at my suggestion, ordered the Beef Tenderloin (fillet mignon, really); my order was for the Rack of Lamb. Desserts were also enjoyed by all and then it was time for a brief tour of the America before my guests had to depart. Going up to the top deck, we just caught the fading sunset, but the clear evening provided a fantastic view of the skyline of Baton Rouge. They were all very impressed. Then it was time for our goodbyes and the departure of the Bogan Family. It had been a VERY enjoyable and meaningful reunion. Next stop: New Orleans! ~~~New Orleans, Louisiana - "Oak Alley", May 3rd~~~ Traveling the short distance from Baton Rouge, having departed at 11:30 pm, our arrival at the Port of New Orleans was early on the morning of Friday, May 3rd. Today would be the last of our wonderful cruise and the one task remaining was the settling of our onboard accounts, easily done by verifying our charges and authorizing credit card payment. Mine was only $75 for the two shore excursions that were not complimentary. Breakfast was as usual with views of the modern Port of New Orleans Building outside the dining room windows, under sunny blue skies. My order was a Western omelet with bacon, juices, muffin and coffee. It would be hard to say goodbye to our very talented servers, most of whom were college students; they had been most friendly, cheerful and efficient performing their excellent service. There was an early lunch at 11:30 am because of the early departure of the afternoon’s excursion at 1:30 pm to Oak Alley, a magnificent plantation mansion: "The Plantation has been called “The Grande Dame of the Great River Road.” Enjoy the 1/4-mile canopy of 300-year-old live oaks as you make your way to the Greek Revival antebellum home. Take a tour of the Big House, led by guides in period clothing and then spend some time exploring the magnificent grounds on your own. For the full southern experience, don’t forget to take time for a mint julep." So after enjoying one more lunch in the dining room, with time for a quick trip back to my stateroom for a bathroom call, it was off the America and a short walk over to the busses (4) to begin our hour-long drive back up the River to Oak Alley which is located just on the other side of a large River levee. The drive out of New Orleans was enjoyable with views of the downtown high-rise buildings along with the Superdome, so famous from the Katrina disaster. We were on Interstate 10 with heavy traffic for the first part of the journey. Out of the city, the freeway became a series of bridges over a swampy landscape, some classified as being a bayou. No place to have car trouble! Most of us took quick naps during the drive awakening only as we departed the Interstate for a smaller highway that followed along the large levee of the Mississippi River. Finally arriving at Oak Alley, we drove past the legendary entrance walkway through the canopy (alley) of huge old oak trees, but didn’t stop until reaching the large parking lot, provided for the hordes of visitors to this popular tourist attraction. It was then quite a walk from the parking lot into the grounds of Oak Alley, entrance requiring tickets provided by our own guide. We were guided to the front of the Mansion where a cue formed, awaiting limited entrance inside; only a certain number were admitted at a time. When our turn came, we were escorted into the main parlor that was furnished with authentic period furniture and many other items of historic nature. Our guide was a young black girl who spoke clearly and informatively, well versed on the history of Oak Alley. Then we were ushered into the dining room where we found a large dining table all set with china and tableware. Over the table was a large fan-type panel which would have been swung back and forth using a rope by a slave child to provide air flow for the diners. We had seen such apparatus in other dining rooms in other antebellum homes. We were then directed up the long stairway to the second level; “long” because of the very high ceilings of the first floor. Upstairs we toured through several bedrooms complete with high canopied beds; the beds seem to be set quite high off the floor, I thought. In one of the bedrooms we observed a baby’s crib. Our exit was onto the wide second floor balcony that surrounded the entire house with a stunning view down the “alley of oaks” in front, a most impressive view! Then it was back down that long, steep stairway and out of the rear door where we were presented with the wide expanse of shaded park-like setting with many benches for resting. On the other side of this park area was the commercial side of things: a gift shop and the “Spirits” Bar. It was to the bar that I went for my complimentary mint julep! Not waiting very long to be served, I received my drink and then selected a table outside under an umbrella at which to sit and enjoy my first mint julep! It was GOOD! Surprisingly strong with bourbon - for a free drink, l found it to be quite tasty and refreshing. By the time I had finished my drink it was time to start the long walk back to the parking lot and our bus for the long trip back to New Orleans and our riverboat. Needless to say, our ride back saw most passengers dozing. The weather had been phenomenal as I commented to our guide upon leaving the mansion. She responded that it was not always so, as I was later to learn. Arrival back at the America was right at 5:30 pm, just in time for Happy Hour! Funny how this has happened so frequently! My tall glass of cold Sauvignon Blanc tasted good as ever. Several of Linda’s Group were in attendance and eventually we all wandered down to the dining room for our last dinner aboard. And what a dinner it was! “Surf and Turf” consisting of a lobster tail stuffed with crab meat accompanied by a small beef tenderloin (filet mignon). What a finale to an outstanding cruise! The wine also flowed freely, and our goodbyes were given to the crew. It was with great reluctance that I excused myself to return to my stateroom to pack; our luggage was requested to be placed outside our doors before retiring. My packing didn’t take very long; dirty shirts don’t have to be carefully folded! About this time the storm hit with lightning and thunder. Good timing as far as our cruise was concerned, but not too good timing for those of us flying home the next day. Sleep came with difficulty. ~~~New Orleans, Louisiana, Departure Day - May 4th~~~ The storm continued through the night and the next morning was dark and cloudy and rainy. Early breakfast began at 6:30 am and we were requested to vacate our staterooms by 8 am, so with my luggage now gone all I had to carry was my Princess bag contains paperwork and my iPad. I had gotten Keaton of Guest Services to print my AA boarding pass the previous day, not being able to get it done on my own. I had checked in with American Airlines successfully on my iPad, requesting my boarding pass to be emailed to me as a PDF, but when I went to the AA website using the computer onboard, the option to PRINT was not available on the AA website, and I cannot print from my iPad! So, I forwarded the AA email to Keaton and he graciously printed the attached PDF boarding pass for me. Thank you, Keaton! I did order my usual Western omelet with bacon and the other items and finished my breakfast with plenty of time to return to my stateroom to retrieve my Princess bag and then go to the Magnolia Lounge to await our call for the shuttle bus to the airport, scheduled for 8:30 am. Shortly after 8 am the rain had let up briefly and we were called to disembark and proceed to the busses, thankfully parked nearby the riverboat. After quickly identifying my piece of luggage, and watching it being loaded aboard, I boarded the bus just before the rain began again. When all were loaded aboard, our bus pulled out of the parking lot and proceeded to leave for the airport, using the same route out of town that had been used the day before for our drive to Oak Alley. (We had passed the airport on the way to Oak Alley.) The rain continued all the way to the airport although the Saturday morning traffic was mercifully light making our drive uncomplicated. We arrived at the New Orleans International Airport a few minutes after 9 am. Getting off the bus right in front of American Airlines Terminal, I retrieved my one piece of luggage and soon had checked it with the AA Skycap, tipping him, of course. He directed me inside the terminal and to the left towards the Security Checkpoint. Having TSA Pre-check, I quickly proceeded through with no delay and was soon on my way to the appropriate gate for my 11:19 am departure to DFW. It was quite a walk to Gate C12, but I had plenty of time. The storm was still raging outside with frequent flashes of lightning and accompanying thunder so it became increasingly clear that my flight would be delayed. After a while, once a gate agent had arrived and started taking questions, I thought it best to join the line to inquire about my connecting flight in DFW. The line moved painfully slowly but at last it was my time. The agent agreed that I would NOT be able to make my connecting flight in DFW and proceeded to rebook me on a later flight from DFW on to SNA (Orange County); it would arrive at 6 pm, only two hours later than my original flight’s arrival of 4 pm. She even got my seat assignment almost the same as originally booked: 8D instead of 8C! You can’t ask for better service than that! With the projected departure time now delayed until 1 pm, and my rebooking done, I decided it was time for a cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc, and there was a wine bar just down from my Gate C12. The wine I got was superb! I learned that it was from New Zealand, the place known for their excellent Sauvignon Blanc. Then I got the check: $15! Wines are expensive in the South! I enjoyed it never the less. Shortly after 1 pm our flight was called for boarding; the flight had originated in DFW and been held up from departing until the weather had cleared in New Orleans. I boarded - almost 3 hours late, found my Main Cabin Extra Seat 8C, and settled down to an otherwise uneventful one-hour flight to DFW. Once in DFW I had a few hours before my rescheduled flight so, once I had found out my departure gate and trudged the considerable distance to it, I still had enough time to enjoy a delicious BBQ Chicken Sandwich at a nearby Friday’s with delicious onion rings and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc wine, of course. My AA flight 2779 left DFW on time and the 3-hour flight went uneventfully, with my consuming two little bottles of white wine (complimentary), and we landed in Orange County Airport shortly after 6 pm. My luggage had successfully been rerouted and arrived on the carrousel soon afterwards. Then it was out of the airport and over to SuperShuttle where I had prepaid transportation home. The agent told me that it would be 30-45 minutes before he had a van for me and suggested just cancelling my $20.50 SuperShuttle ride for a refund and take a taxi, which is what I did, costing only $23.00 + tip, but I was home! So ends my Lower Mississippi River Adventure, a wonderful experience despite its ending! Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
This cruise was chosen by a neighbor in my community, Sun City Palm Desert California, who organizes group trips. I was fortunate to be invited to join the group, and because I was cruising without my husband (who stayed at home with our ... Read More
This cruise was chosen by a neighbor in my community, Sun City Palm Desert California, who organizes group trips. I was fortunate to be invited to join the group, and because I was cruising without my husband (who stayed at home with our dog), I was paired with a roommate who is also a neighbor in our community. There were 34 people in our group. The cruise we were on is the Lower Mississippi departing from Memphis and terminating in New Orleans with stops in Helena, Arkansas; Vicksburg, and Natchez, Mississippi; Baton Rouge, St. Francisville, and Nottoway Plantation, Louisiana. However, because the Mississippi is flooding at this time, our itinerary was altered extensively. There were no complaints about this that I heard, and myself and everyone I talked to enjoyed every day. We spent the first night in Memphis at the Peabody Hotel; this overnight is part of the cruise package. The hotel is old, charming, and delightful especially if you are able to see the ducks paraded through the lobby and into the fountain. They stay all day and then are paraded back to their quarters on the roof of the hotel in the evening. The next morning, we were bused to Graceland for the Elvis Experience. This is an additional “Premium Tour” offered by the American Queen Steamboat Company. I highly recommend doing this tour; it is a must for anyone who ever enjoyed an Elvis song. Due to the flooding, our boat could not dock and depart from Memphis, so we were bused to Greenville, Mississippi, for our departure. This was about a two-hour bus ride. That evening, we boarded our boat, American Duchesse, and enjoyed dinner in the main dining room. The menu there is extensive, dining is leisurely and the food is delicious. Alternatives to the main dining room are a buffet for breakfast and lunch serviced in a bar called the River Club at the rear of the boat, and snacks and beverages available 24/7 in a little room called Perks at the front of the boat. Room service is also offered, but I didn’t have a need for it. The buffet meals in the River Club are outstanding and are perfect when you want a quick meal. Also, you can eat outside on the rear deck if you eat at the River Club. Fruit, soft serve ice cream, popcorn, sandwiches, cookies, pastries and all kinds of beverages are offered in Perks. You literally cannot go hungry on this boat, and the food is wonderful. Actually, we spent two nights in Greenville, then Vicksburg, Mississippi; Vidalia, Baton Rouge, New Roads, Louisiana; and the last day of our cruise was spent cruising the Mississippi between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Buses meet the boat at every stop offering what is called Hop On Hop Off tours of that particular area’s highlights. This service is included in the cost of the cruise. There are Premium Tours offered at every stop that seemed to range between $79-$129. These are exceptional tours and well worth the additional cost. Some are half-day and some are full-day. My roommate and I had a veranda room which I took full advantage of. Nothing beats sitting on the veranda and watching the world go by. There are areas for doing this all over the boat in the front, in the back and on the very top of the boat called the sun roof. Highlights of this cruise for me were the meals, the historian who offered talks everyday about the Mississippi, the Mark Twain impersonator who performed twice, the visit to Graceland, the visit to BB King’s Museum and Bar, many beautiful sights offered by the Hop On Hop Off buses tours, and especially the Premium Tour to Angola Louisiana State Penitentiary. This last item may sound strange, but be assured it is an uplifting and eye-opening experience. Most of all, though, I enjoyed just being on the boat. The cruise staff are friendly, helpful, outgoing and accommodating. That includes the Captain, officers, pursers, performers, tour guides, bus drivers, dining staff and cleaning staff. We all got to be family for the brief week that we were together. You could do this cruise all by yourself and not be alone, or you can have all the privacy you want. The bottom line, I guess, is would I do this or any cruise on the American Queen Steamboat again; you bet I would. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We chose this in order to see the Southern states of USA .We are experienced cruisers .The moment we set foot on this boat we knew it was not going to be very good.The boat smells musty and damp .When we were shoen the cabin I wanted to ... Read More
We chose this in order to see the Southern states of USA .We are experienced cruisers .The moment we set foot on this boat we knew it was not going to be very good.The boat smells musty and damp .When we were shoen the cabin I wanted to leave .We had Suite 509 .It was shabby,depressing ,dark and poorly equipped .We tried to change but the boat was full . The experience in the dining room the first evening confirmed our thoughts .The maitred Oscar told us we had assigned seating on a big table when in fact we had booked a table for two .He insisted we hadn’t and said that there was nothing he could do and suggested we changed to early dinner to get a table for two .We went to the pursers desk,complained and amazingly a table for two appeared .The dining experience was poor .Poor quality food,poorly presented,always cold the worst we have experienced in 25 years of cruising on all kinds of boats and ships .Information on disembarking was incorrect and cost us 20 dollars for a transfer to a hotel we didn’t want when we were told there were no taxis allowed in the port on that day .This was utter rubbish as we saw lots of people getting taxis from the port .A very expensive,disappointing experience .We do not recommend it .Better to drive the route and stay in some of the amazing plantation houses . Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We chose this cruise because it was an opportunity to cruise the entire Mississippi River. That did not happen. The river levels were high all summer long, and we understand that itinerary changes caused by weather are routine. However, ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it was an opportunity to cruise the entire Mississippi River. That did not happen. The river levels were high all summer long, and we understand that itinerary changes caused by weather are routine. However, ACL started notifying us of a change of the embarkation port from St Paul MN, to Memphis TN only 4 days from departure. Instead of attempting to put our thoughts in a narrative, I will instead provide the pros and cons in an abbreviated list. The only compensation offered was repayment of additional travel costs and $2,000 credit towards a future cruise. We of course will not be cruising with ACL in the future. PROS: Very good meals, always fresh, lots of variety, minimal repeated menu items, good regional selections, and great pastries/breads/desserts Great dining room service Cabin service very good Beer, wine, happy hour very well done First guest lecturer excellent, both educating AND entertaining Guest musicians very good to great Memphis pre-embarkation Hotel (Peabody) excellent Ship generally very clean with many public areas Really enjoyed the limited daylight sailing time on the river CONS: Highest per night price paid in our 60+ cruises ACL definitely did NOT live up to slogan “Small Ship Cruising Done Perfectly” Bad Business practices at corporate: Embarkation changed from St Paul to Memphis due to high water levels However, Mississippi River levels were high all summer Per Tour Director on board, ACL did only one cruise between July & October to Upper Mississippi River Therefore, change at the very last minute was unnecessary. It could have been done sooner. ACL began itinerary notification just 4 days before cruise start, notification process haphazard at best, no details provided, no assistance offered Few notified as late as 24 hours before embarkation, at least one cabin never notified (they caught up on their own half way through the cruise) Suspect late notice to minimize cancellations and insurance payouts Many further last minute itinerary changes once on board although river conditions remained unchanged (high) Disappointing choices of alternative ports Missed St Paul & Red Wing MN, Dubuque & Davenport IA, La Crosse WI, Hannibal & St Louis MO Added New Madrid MO, Chester Il, Paducah KY, Greenville MS, Houmas House LA Cape Girardeau added and dropped No ACL representative at Memphis airport/hotel, no information provided on pre-embarkation times or meeting locations Guests from two ships (ACL & American Queen) staying at Peabody and hotel staff not informed about ACL guests As you can imagine, the timing and manner of the last minute change was a steady conversation subject throughout the cruise Corporate Hotel Director Steve Benson sailed with us for three days, yet he only spoke to scattered groups of guests during that time, and he took NO NOTES Promises made by corporate telephone sales staff never transmitted to ship, sales staff requested our drink choices, kept information in folio, but never passed on information, also said on board staff would do guest laundry, they don’t On board Hotel Director/Cruise Director/Tour Director staff inexperienced, unresponsive, unprofessional, untrustworthy, unable to make decision without asking corporate High on board staff turnover, many visibly unhappy Poor inventory management aboard, on 14 night cruise, with daily port stops, ran out of butter, cream cheese, bananas, yogurt, selected beers, etc. Shipboard Wi-Fi service very slow, even in port Embarkation poorly done, check in handled while guests waited aboard three coaches by only ONE staffer, using paper listing and checking off names with pen No muster drill Guests could not start safety video on TV Tours disappointing or non-existent: Most frequent were shuttles from levee into town and coach tours to plantations/museums, many done on our own Did not dock in St Louis, and 90 minute each way coach tour did NOT include Gateway Arch or time to visit on our own Graceland tour poorly handled, passing out mansion tour tickets resembled a rugby scrum Disembarkation poorly handled, luggage collected on pier only partly covered by tarps in heavy rain City tour/drop off coach guide unprofessional, and made inappropriate political remarks & moral/social observations Luggage unloaded at drop off and not secured, guests kept from leaving bus to maintain visual contact with luggage Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
What better way to explore America than on the great Mississippi River? I wanted to get a feel for travel by riverboat, and the American Queen did not disappoint! We embarked in Memphis and ended in New Orleans. The river ports along the ... Read More
What better way to explore America than on the great Mississippi River? I wanted to get a feel for travel by riverboat, and the American Queen did not disappoint! We embarked in Memphis and ended in New Orleans. The river ports along the way-- some big, some small-- were all charming and exciting in their own way. While on the boat, the staff were outstanding. The housekeepers were probably the nicest people on the whole boat. You couldn't ask for better service! The shore excursions were top notch and very well organized and executed. The hop on hop off was a great way to see each town. Many times the first bus out left at 8:30. I tried to go on this bus before the crowds came out for the more popular times of 10-10:30. The bus drivers were so friendly and had a great sense of humor! There were also premium excursions, although you had to pay extra for them. In St. Francisville, I took the one to Angola Prison. I wasn't going to go, but the tour specialist said it was one not to miss, and one that has won awards. I am incredibly glad I did go-- it was truly an inspiration experience and highly recommend! When we docked at Nottoway Plantation, I went on the "Grand Plantations" excursion that went to Oak Alley and Houmas House. If you want to witness the opulence of the antebellum south, you need to see these two plantations. Oak Alley felt rushed. Glad I saw it, but Houmas House was truly the gem! The best thing about this cruise is that the staff truly cares about you and your experience. Everyone from the housekeeping, to the waiters, to the tour specialists, and everyone in between, were beyond exceptional. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
Although we are listing a bunch of issues that we encountered, we had a great time on our Memphis to New Orleans cruise. The cabin, dining, staff, hop on-off and premium excursions met and/or exceeded our expectations. The Peabody and ... Read More
Although we are listing a bunch of issues that we encountered, we had a great time on our Memphis to New Orleans cruise. The cabin, dining, staff, hop on-off and premium excursions met and/or exceeded our expectations. The Peabody and Intercontinental hotel selections were excellent choices. But, as a passenger with mobility issues, the following items are presented and if remedied would make the Duchess an ideal selection for those with physical impairments. American Duchess embark process was cumbersome - lengthy lines and 2 different stations to get through. We were on the 3rd deck and got a notice in the a.m. that balconies would be washed between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. - open balcony curtain at 8 a.m. and the crew was already washing our balcony. In the afternoon we went to stern, 2nd deck, to find that the dirt from the 3rd deck was washed onto 2nd deck rockers and chairs making them unusable. The rockers were never cleaned. The bow stacks, which are for decoration only, were up and down as required for clearance. The stern stacks were stuck in a down position which, when engines engaged, blew carbon flakes on our balcony (and us, when we were sitting there). Most of the guests were senior citizens like us and a few, including me, had mobility issues. The bow elevator was closed for maintenance during the entire cruise leaving guests to walk to middle of the boat to access the only working elevators. The rug on the sun deck had significant bumpy areas which present a dangerous trip hazard even during the daylight hours. The cabin maintenance staff left their vacuum cords unsecured when vacuums were in the hallway aisles. It was a pretty common experience where we had to step over these cords. When we were still in port in Memphis the Duchess was experiencing power issues - lights flickering, etc. A beaker finally blew when we ported in Natchez, requiring us to stay in port there for an extra day, missing out on our Baton Rouge stop. While the captain and cruise crew made the extra day as comfortable as possible we did miss on of our most-looked-for destinations and our all day Cajun experience. The open bar and adding a Natchez excursion helped but we were very disappointed in missing Baton Rouge. Read Less
Sail Date September 2018
We chose this cruise as a way of exploring the deep south in some luxury. It was very expensive at over £1000 per night per cabin but we thought that the quality of service would be at least equivalent to a European river cruise or an ... Read More
We chose this cruise as a way of exploring the deep south in some luxury. It was very expensive at over £1000 per night per cabin but we thought that the quality of service would be at least equivalent to a European river cruise or an American sea cruise such as Holland America or Princess. It was nowhere near up to this standard, especially the catering and waiting staff. Firstly, the positives. A great way to see the Mississippi and absorb the history and culture. Our balcony room was good, the entertainment was fine. The food was decidedly average apart from 2 delicious evening meals, a steak on the first night and a fish dish half way through. When attending for a meal, you have to wait to be seated, quite often 10 minutes standing first in line whilst the manager serves water or hands out menus. Despite waiting long times for service, food was often served lukewarm or sometimes cold. We saw numerous occasions when waiting staff were on their mobiles (no, Steamboat Company, this was not the food ordering devices, we can tell the difference). We constantly had to ask for rolls, cutlery etc. This is not the staffs' fault but that of the management who either didn't care about high standards or didn't know what it was (difficult to imagine since we were in America). I don't think there was a single tea spoon on the boat, had to stir coffee with the knife handle! Enough on catering, except to say that the upstairs evening dining room was freezing cold and very uninviting. booking is required despite it being half empty. We only went once. Half way down the river, the boat broke down. A common theme it seems. There were power cuts every day even after the "fault" had been fixed. So we were stranded in the quietest part of the river with nothing to do but read all afternoon. That meant that we missed out on Baton Rouge, the largest town (city) on the trip downriver. I later discovered that the boat was only 22 miles from BR so why on earth did they not hire some coaches to transport us in and back. Not difficult but, as far as I am aware, not even considered. I just wish I had had the foresight to ask. So we were just supposed to accept a major port was excluded. Compensation? A free bar for an hour (2 drinks) and 1 opportunity to win $500 dollars at bingo. Think carefully about this cruise line that seem to accept that you are a captive audience and they have very little competition so, why bother? Read Less
Sail Date September 2018
We both wanted to see a part of the United States that we hadn't seen before and a steamboat tour seemed the best idea. Although we knew that the weather would be hot and humid, it wasn't that terrible and most of the places were ... Read More
We both wanted to see a part of the United States that we hadn't seen before and a steamboat tour seemed the best idea. Although we knew that the weather would be hot and humid, it wasn't that terrible and most of the places were air conditioned. We spent an additional night in Memphis at the start of the cruise. Embarkation was smooth because of early check in the day before. We went on this cruise with long time friends who also thought this was one of the best cruises they had been on too. While the cabins are small, there is so much to do that you don't spend much time in your cabin. I can't say enough about the entertainment, especially the Ensemble. We went to see them each time and loved the way their voices blended together and they were in sync with their choreography. They seemed to really enjoy each other and what they were doing. Especially enjoyed watching Hannah interact with passengers. Liz in the dining room made the meals for us. She was so personable and remembered everything we told her about ourselves. We enjoyed all of our meals on the boat. While some of the ports seemed depressed, the sites that we saw on our hop on hop off buses were great. We went on the post cruise too in New Orleans and found it was well worth the money. We especially liked the World War II museum. I had not initially been planning on going there but was so glad I did. I think everyone should see this museum. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
We just finished cruising the Mississippi on the American Queen Riverboat. What a wonderful trip we had. The food was excellent and they have great selections. If you have special dietary needs they go out of the way to prepare them for ... Read More
We just finished cruising the Mississippi on the American Queen Riverboat. What a wonderful trip we had. The food was excellent and they have great selections. If you have special dietary needs they go out of the way to prepare them for you.The service is impeccable . Beer & wine is free with dinner. There are plenty of activities on the boat and free hop on/hop off excursions that are free in each river port you stop. There are also premium excursions that you buy. We did Angola Prison, A Plantation, and the Vicksburg Civil War Battlegrounds. All are excellent. The entertainment is above any other boat I have been on by far. They are shows nightly and one is better than the other. There was also a sock hop and karaoke nights which are a lot of fun. Music in the bar afterwards as well. And if you just want to relax, you can sit on the front porch in a nice rocking chair, spend some time in the Mark Twain library or just wander the beautiful boat. You just might run into Mark Twain. We will definitely book another trip soon. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
This was my wife’s first cruise so I booked the owner’s suite. Truth be told while it provided a larger cabin and a few more perks, just about every cabin on this boat has a veranda, a great hotel room experience (king size beds) and ... Read More
This was my wife’s first cruise so I booked the owner’s suite. Truth be told while it provided a larger cabin and a few more perks, just about every cabin on this boat has a veranda, a great hotel room experience (king size beds) and all of the perks that American provides - impeccable service, great food, and full access to a virtually unlimited supply of top shelf alcohol and great wines - with no upcharge for anything. Most tours are included and the evening enmterttgainment is excellent. This is a small boat so there is NO waiting in line for anything. The Hotel Director - Steve Benson - was in touch with us prior to the cruise and very helpful, from then until the moment that we departed in New Orleans. I just read a criticism of American Cruise Lines as generally as too expensive and comparable in “cost” to an ocean cruise. This had to have been written by someone who has never cruised on American and apparently unaware of the up charges for about everything on an ocean cruise and the crowds on these boats - not to mention their cost for a veranda cabin. I had read some of these reviews and in an email exchange I told the Hotel Director that I hoped to be able to write. “10” rating fairness the cruise. Truth be told - it’s a “9.9” - horrendous Wi-Fi/Internet on board. The acid test - we booked our next cruise while on board. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
One might assume that paying for the most expensive class cabin AAM Private Balcony (except for the “owners cabins”) would get you at least the largest cabins. . Not so on the boat America. Room 513 is noticeably smaller. Cabin ... Read More
One might assume that paying for the most expensive class cabin AAM Private Balcony (except for the “owners cabins”) would get you at least the largest cabins. . Not so on the boat America. Room 513 is noticeably smaller. Cabin selection from their on line deck plans..they are as it may be said “not to scale” We moved some furniture for me to get into the bathroom when my wife was sitting at the desk. There are canvas dividers that can make your deck private. If you wish a private balcony they will quickly install a divider. Fully controllable a/c unit in your room. The boast has five levels with two elevators. I thought I wanted to be on the left side going downriver to avoid the afternoon sun. Nope, they parked every which way so either side of the boat is fine. All boat staff extremely friendly and want to give you a good cruise. Our Memphis to New Orleans (175 passengers) no children, maybe a couple or two in their 50's but I would have to guess the average passenger age over 65 (I'm 79). Many infirm and slow moving people cheerfully accommodated. Cocktails and hors d'ouvre nightly at 5:30 in two different lounges with a 6:30 open seating dinner in the dining room which can hold everyone at one sitting. We received information that you could reserve a table but it had to be done before leaving on the cruise. Many tables for 6 and maybe 5 tables for 4. There will be a bottle of red and a bottle of white on your table easily exchanged for a different variety if you prefer. Nightly entertainment at 8:15 with root-beer floats, ice-cream Sundays and popcorn. The bar remains open after dinner. If you don't see a bottle of your favorite, ask, they may have it in the closet. Expensive but really well done...if you don't spend it the kids will. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
I want to tell you about our January trip on the American Duchess . . . To celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday, we decided to take her on a riverboat adventure! You see, Mom & Dad had, in their later years, enjoyed taking a ... Read More
I want to tell you about our January trip on the American Duchess . . . To celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday, we decided to take her on a riverboat adventure! You see, Mom & Dad had, in their later years, enjoyed taking a riverboat trip almost every year and had many wonderful memories. As Dad had passed away, we felt this would be a wonderful treat for Mom – as well as marking her 16th or 17th riverboat cruise. There were eleven of us traveling. We were especially excited about our first night stay at the Peabody Hotel – I had taken mom there before when we traveled together but never stayed there – boy, was she excited! The Peabody is a true boutique hotel and frankly, from the way we talked it up, everyone was so happy to start our adventure with a night there. Then we learned it was not going to be the Peabody but rather the Sheridan – which by no stretch of the imagination is a “boutique” hotel. However, having stayed at different Sheridan hotels before, I was hopeful that it would be fine - - it wasn’t. To put it bluntly, “The Sheridan was a dump!” Checking in was a joke as we had to wait for someone to show up (did I mention it was FREEZING out?), then they couldn’t have been more disinterested in us or less helpful if they had tried. Our room was filthy, dusty, and probably hadn’t seen a vacuum in months. There were stains on the dust ruffle, on the carpeting, and even on the lamp shade which was also broken. I would not walk in the room, or bathroom without shoes on – that is how horrid it was. The topper was, when I went to get ice there was MOLD in the ice, so obviously the ice machines were never tended – not only a health hazard but also a huge gross out. We spent the balance of the next day down at the Peabody just hanging out and having lunch and cocktails. While I realize the cruise-line has no control over the weather, we had expected temperatures in the 50s and 60s. What we got was around 9 degrees, which made using our verandas – which were covered in snow and ice – a “no go.” The first stop was not made - no access because of ice, so basically, we were on a floating hotel with lots and lots of trip hazards which we all got a taste of. Luckily, they have a medic on board. It seems strange to me that this type boat, which statistically carries “mature” patrons, would have so many places to trip over and so few views – we didn’t find that on the American Queen. With limited viewing except for the upper deck – which was closed as it had turned to an ICE RINK – there was little to do unless we came to a port. The weather was so awful that my mother chose to mostly just stay on the boat, as did the other two “more mature” women in our group. As I had pulled this trip together, I spent much of my time apologizing for it. On the third morning, Mom had slept in, and I took her to the breakfast buffet that had the deck (which was closed off due to weather), there was little left in the buffet and one of the chefs behind the counter offered to make her an omelet. I thought, “Wow, well that is nice!” She was half way through eating when I heard the fellow hacking and coughing behind the bar and my first thought was, “Oh – Please God, no.” For a day or so, everything seemed okay until one by one our group – as well as many other passengers - started to cough, and get runny noses. Since several in our party had scrimped and saved to go on this trip, we were determined to make the best of it. Bring on the DayQuil! My husband and his friend kept saying, “Well, at least we will get to go on the airboat tour of the bayou.” They felt that that would redeem some of this trip for them as there were only three men in our party, and they were holding on to this one “manly outing” – that excursion was cancelled – and last minute too. The food was great and we were, despite being in a floating hotel with very little access to views, together. On Saturday night, I sat down to dinner – yay, it was going to be lobster! Yet I soon realized I could not even sit up, the flu hit hard and fast. I had my husband take me back to our cabin where I promptly went to sleep and that is where I spent the next day as well. Ultimately, I would spend 5 days in bed once we got home but it gets worse from there. Mom had, like most of our group, contracted the Flu B virus (I am guessing from someone handling the food?) being from the west coast the flu vaccine was for flu A, and though mom had a flu shot it did no good. Unfortunately, Mom’s flu also caused respiratory failure, and pneumonia. She experienced an ambulance ride and spent over a week in the hospital and six additional weeks in a rehab center relearning how to talk, walk, communicate and feed herself. Once back from rehab she spent another three weeks with physical, speech, respiratory, and occupational therapy in the home. Then I got another surprise. My travel agent called and timidly asked if we had enjoyed the wine and on-board credit she had arranged for us. Well guess what? We never received it! And to make matters even worse, this is not the first time this has happened to us on one of the American Queen steamboat cruises! I wrote to the ship about our experiences and they sent an apology for the Sheraton and for not sending the wine and onboard credit – yet they completely ignored the fact that my mother suffered terribly from an illness contracted on their ship, not to mention that the rest of us were very sick as well. Poor follow-up American Queen - you give a lot of lip service to how much you care for your customers (who keep you employed) yet the proof is in your actions - in this case you are a fail. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
We decided to take a maiden, winter cruise aboard the American Duchess from Memphis to New Orleans. We found the newly refurbished boat to be beautifully yet simply appointed with lots of eye appeal. The Duchess is small, able to carry ... Read More
We decided to take a maiden, winter cruise aboard the American Duchess from Memphis to New Orleans. We found the newly refurbished boat to be beautifully yet simply appointed with lots of eye appeal. The Duchess is small, able to carry 160 passengers and that adds to the intimacy that this lovely vessel affords. Our weather was not terribly accommodating with ice, snow and low double digit record temperatures but that didn't dampen the spirits aboard the boat. We took no premium excursions and chose to use the complimentary hop on hop off buses and the sites that were provided with each stop’s location. I don’t believe we missed much when talking to other passengers. Food, though not gourmet, was definitely well above the average, plated beautifully and delicious. Executive Chef Jeff Warner's careful menu planning insured that there was something to suit every palate. If not, they were ALWAYS able to accommodate requests. We chose to eat in the Grand Dining Room for dinner and in the River Terrace buffet for several breakfasts, especially if we had to leave early for excursions. Alcohol was extremely expensive, however dinner came with complimentary house wine and one's glass was never empty due to the attentive wait staff. A red and white was made available each evening. Happy hour each evening shaved a dollar or two off each drink and that together with the complimentary wine at dinner would be adequate for us without breaking the bank. A beverage package runs approximately $250.00 per cabin and with an "auto gratuity" of $50.00 tacked on your drink package is an easy $300.00--definitely overboard for the quality of wine offered. Most bottles on the open market run less than $12.00 yet bottle prices began in the $32.00 range on up. Skip the package, save the money, use happy hour and drink wine at dinner. The true gem in this company's tiara is its staff, which in my opinion is 5 STARS! They are highly attentive, yet not intrusive, knowledgeable, professional, and ever present with a wonderful sense of humor. The boat, though lovely, pales in comparison to this All American staff and it is my hope that the management of this company recognizes the value in what they have. We found officers, the Executive chef, managers and even Crystal, the Hotel Manager, waiting tables when the dining room was full. There doesn't appear to be a visible hierarchy, except for shoulder epaulets and the entire staff seems to work like one big, well-oiled machine focused solely on client satisfaction, accommodation and comfort. A special mention of Serena W, a Purser on board the Duchess is essential. We found her to have exceptional skills with an ability to listen, hear, assess, intervene and problem solve on every occasion. She is truly outstanding in every way. It is the staff and their genuine, earnest desire to serve that would bring this TripAdvisor reviewer back to this company. This All American staff gets a standing ovation from this passenger indeed. Side Note: The company’s literature states that the included, pre-board evening would be spent in the Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis. That is not the case. We were housed in the Sheraton, a huge, modern hotel that unlike the iconic Peabody is located away from most of the attractions. An upper level staff member at the Peabody told us that the company has been doing that for some time, so this type of seemingly deliberate deception is simply not acceptable as is the advertising of state room “suites.” Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
Created from a 1995 hull, 340 foot-long paddlewheeler, American Duchess, features four decks and employs 80 American crew to run the boat and manage its 80 suites—the first all-suite paddlewheeler to cruise U.S. rivers. The maximum ... Read More
Created from a 1995 hull, 340 foot-long paddlewheeler, American Duchess, features four decks and employs 80 American crew to run the boat and manage its 80 suites—the first all-suite paddlewheeler to cruise U.S. rivers. The maximum passengers she will sail with is only 166, so the crew-to-passenger ratio is quite high. Our cruise was sold out; however, the boat never felt crowded at any time, even in the show lounge where there were always plenty of seats. (There were 165 seats available, including the chairs that line each wall.) One of the reasons there was always so much space to roam was the fact that the suites range in size from 180 square feet (for an interior cabin like ours) to 550 square feet for a two-story loft suite featuring 19-foot ceilings. Those suites (and the Owner’s Suite) had their own “River Butler” to spoil them rotten, so I’m guessing those passengers spent a lot of time in their cabins! For those passengers who had the “Commodore Services” included with their suite and had a butler, he was available for them throughout the ship. We saw him everywhere, and he made sure his passengers knew it. Have you heard of helicopter parents? Well, he was a helicopter butler. Although the décor of the boat wasn’t to my taste, the abundance of blown and fused glass artwork was. Bruce and I absolutely loved it, especially since Bruce is a glass artist and glass is our favorite art medium. The American Duchess had a modern boutique hotel feel to it, rather than a traditional riverboat ambiance. In all honesty, we preferred the 1800’s motif of the American Queen, built and decorated to replicate the paddlewheelers of their heyday. Most notably, the Duchess lacks a promenade deck, a must for open air enjoyment of the views, especially for a sunset stroll. Of course, Winter Storm Inga didn’t allow for much of that; however, I would have sorely missed a promenade deck had the weather been better. (The Duchess does have a large sun deck; however, it just doesn’t have the appeal of the top deck space on the American Queen.) Sadly, the Duchess also lacked a calliope, a charming feature I enjoyed so much on the American Queen. The most impressive area of the Duchess was the bar, dining room, and stairs leading up to the Lincoln Library. The dining room layout was similar to the American Queen in that it had tall ceilings on each side with a lower ceiling in the center. Without a doubt, the dining room on the Duchess was nicer, though, because even though the boat was sold out (like it was when we were on the Queen), there was much more room in between the tables. In addition, there was only one seating; however, you could be seated any time within the open hours (5:30 – 8:00 PM for dinner) and dine either alone or with others. There was no assigned seating, and they accepted reservations for parties of six or more. Since the American Queen Steamboat Company has an executive chef who creates the menus for all three of their boats, the menus were similar to what we enjoyed on the Queen, and the food was similar—fabulous on both boats. The service on the Duchess was better, though, and much more relaxed. (By the way, we had the same Maitre D’ on both cruises! Oscar boarded the Duchess the same day we did.) The desserts (at least the chocolate ones!) were better on the Duchess, though. Rachel did a great job! I especially liked the creative little birthday dessert that was left in my cabin along with a card. I also received an incredible piece of chocolate ganache cake in the dining room for dessert! In addition to the dining room, the River Club and Terrace was a more casual option for meals. Breakfast and lunch were buffets, whereas dinners were table service. We enjoyed a lobster tail there on our first night aboard, when we joined the other Steamboat Society of America members (repeat cruisers with the company) for an invitation-only dinner. The final option for food was in Perks, a little café with a self-serve cappuccino machine, juice dispenser, popcorn maker, and windows to sit and watch the river. Those were all well and good; however, it was the fresh-baked chocolate chunk cookies I was after. Yeah, there were other varieties, too, but it was always extra special when I could nab my favorite! (In the morning, they had pastries, and fresh fruit was always available.) Entertainment included “Riverlorian” talks during the day, as well as the usual bingo, Name That Tune, trivia, etc. What we enjoyed the most, however, were the lounge shows each evening. Max (also the cruise director), his wife, Darcy, and Matt were three talented and personable singers who performed each night backed by a top-notch band. We had a few chats with Scott, the bass player, and it turned out we new several of the same San Diego-based jazz musicians! By far, the best feature of the American Duchess was its crew, from the captain on down. They bent over backwards to make every passengers’ experience a memorable one—especially when we were hit with snow and temperatures that averaged twenty degrees below normal. The day after the blizzard, Captain Joe McKey was out on the River Club Terrace scraping snow off the deck and cleaning things up. (Yes, you read that right; the captain!) In the dining room, Executive Chef Jeff Warner constantly came out to the “front of the house” (in restaurant speak) to help serve or pick up plates. He was very personable and made sure all his passengers were happy. Read the book Waiter Rant, and you will soon learn that is not typical. I know, because I worked in the restaurant/ hospitality business for several years, most notably at the University Club in San Diego for my last seven years. Unless it was to take a bow at an event or receive kudos from a requesting club member, the chef never left his comfortable domain of the kitchen. One thing that brought a smile to my face one late evening in the Lincoln Library was seeing one of the bartenders playing Monopoly with a young passenger who had nobody her age to pal around with on board. At another table, the Riverlorian was playing a card game with some other passengers. Whether that was permitted by the hotel manager or not, I don’t know; but, I sure hope they didn’t get reprimanded. As a matter of fact, I hope they will be encouraged in the future to do more of the same! It is an example of the congenial atmosphere that is evident between the crew and passengers, and it was, in a word, special. I hope they always keep the magic they have created. American Queen Steamboat Company has a winning formula down to every detail. The success they have had and the awards they have won are well-deserved. It is my hope they can sustain it and never cut back or cut anything out like what has happened with several of the large cruise ship lines. Ask any of the long-time cruisers with Princess Cruises or Royal Caribbean Cruise Line what I mean, and they will tell you. As a former guest lecturer with both companies, I speak from experience. When you start cutting back, people notice, and you will lose your most loyal customers. More importantly, word gets around. American Queen Steamboat Company, you have a great thing going. May it always stay that way!" Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
The American Duchess Brochure promises 'classic elegance and modern luxury' as I would expect at the Four Seasons and delivered a Holiday Inn Express but at more than 10 times the price. The menu choices were very good and the ... Read More
The American Duchess Brochure promises 'classic elegance and modern luxury' as I would expect at the Four Seasons and delivered a Holiday Inn Express but at more than 10 times the price. The menu choices were very good and the food quality acceptable. The dining room staff was chronically short-handed with Officers pitching in to bus tables. The suggested dress was country club casual but I never saw sweat pants worn to Christmas dinner at a Country Club. The entertainment was every good and delivered as a clever and well-delivered show every night. We have cruised with Tauck Tours on the Rhone River and on the "Windstar" from Istanbul to Athens ...and 5 day cruise in Patagonia to Cape Horn on the Stella Aurelius so we know luxury/adventure cruising when we see it. The American Duchess is not a luxury cruise. I do not believe the American Duchess delivers a "new world of class and sophistication" as advertised. Certainly not $22,000 worth for 8 days.... a far higher price than any of the above noted cruising experiences. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
My Wif on the wanted to do a River Boat cruise. We did one in 1986 on the Mississippi Queen. She was the sister boat to the American Queen and Delta Queen. We had a great time but the average age was at least 70 plus. But we still had a ... Read More
My Wif on the wanted to do a River Boat cruise. We did one in 1986 on the Mississippi Queen. She was the sister boat to the American Queen and Delta Queen. We had a great time but the average age was at least 70 plus. But we still had a great time. We are now retired so we fit right in with all the senior citizen. The cruise started in Memphis and you could start your day with a tour of Graceland and other Memphis Stops. We were dropped off at 3 to board. We went to our cabin which was a suite on the 5th deck and our Luggage was on our bed. We unpacked and headed down for our departure party. The next morning we approached Greenville Tenn. It was very foggy and rainy, the captain navigated the narrow channel and got us landed, However the fog and drizzle was getting worse. he announced we were leaving early and had cancelled the days tour, Most all stayed aboard to meet new friends and explore the boat, Meals are served in either the main dining room with 2 seatings. The other restaurant was the Front Porch up front on Deck 3. The Main dining room is deck one as well as the theatre. The Pursers desk, gift shop, the Mark Twain lounge, the Men's parlour and the Ladies parlour are on deck 2. Cabins are on decks 2 - 5., We also s Very highly topped in Natches and Vicksburg. a tour of the battle ground was offered. We also stopped at a plantation called Nottoway.very heavily decorated for Christmas. We saw a dance demo then had dancing for the passengers, As we left to go back to the boat, they lit a bonfire on the levy. We were a day early. we saw more bonfires on the levees Christmas Eve. We spent the night and left the next afternoon, We arrived in New Orleans on Christmas Day about 1, They had a great Christmas Day buffet. They had a church Service Sunday morning and Christmas morning, There was lots to do, Talks about the river, tours of the pilot house and engine room. You were right down with the engines. The engineer on duty would come over and answer questions and you could watch the engines turn the paddle wheel. The entertainment was very good with lots of music provided, The crew was very friendly and all would speak as they passed, the entertainers did likewise and mingled with the passengers. At the end of the cruise we had a tour of New Orleans and saw everything from Bourbon and Royal and Canal Street. Also saw the Trolleys that we had passes to ride. We spent two nights at the Intercontinental Hotel. Very up scale we got vouchers for one of the Brennan's Restaurants and breakfast vouchers, Some guests stayed at the main Hilton. The cruise is slow paced. we traveled at about 15 mph as we were going down stream. There were a few passengers younger than 40 but not many. Most are 70 plus. They had golf carts to take people up the levee to the tour buses that follow the boat, If you haven't tried a river boat cruise, try the American Queen. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
Several members of my mom's family took a cruise on the American Duchess, from Memphis to New Orleans, Oct. 16-23. There was a pre-cruise hotel included in Memphis, the Peabody Hotel on the 15th. First, about the Hotel, we ... Read More
Several members of my mom's family took a cruise on the American Duchess, from Memphis to New Orleans, Oct. 16-23. There was a pre-cruise hotel included in Memphis, the Peabody Hotel on the 15th. First, about the Hotel, we had 2 rooms on different floors. Both had not been vacuumed, there was debris on both of the room floors from previous occupant(s). The food was good, but the prices were high. On the American Duchess, both cabins had not been dusted or vacuumed from probably the first sailing of the vessel a few weeks before our sailing. On other cruise lines, the rooms would be vacuumed, dusted, towels changed, and beds made every day. On this boat, you had to put out a placard on the front of your door to even have the room steward change your towels. Both rooms were never dusted or vacuumed our whole trip. On the matter of being wheelchair friendly, which the cruise line publicized about this boat, you had to have a strong helper to help lift the front of the wheelchair to get out/into the cabin, from the hallway to another area, from the inside to the outside deck. There was a raised barrier to get to each area, include the dining room, Perks, the 24hr. snack room, and even the gift shop. On five other different cruise lines, I could propel myself throughout the ships with no help from anyone. Most of the Premium optional tours were not made for people with wheelchairs. I had booked a Premium tour in each port, and wasn't told until we were already on the boat, that I couldn't go on those tours. The hop on hop off bus tours, included in the price of the tour, were wheelchair friendly and they had a golf cart that was utilized to get you from the boat to the bus, which was very nice. All of the food on the boat was very good except the breakfast buffet, which had cold food, including items which should have been warm or hot. The entertainment, which were the same group of musicians and singers/dancers the entirety of our journey, were very good(four musicians, and three singers/dancers). Also, for a cruise on the Duchess that was to be for the more affluent, it didn't past muster. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
Going down the Mississippi on a paddle boat has always been on my bucket list. We were put up at the Sheridan in Memphis. Good choice. Easy five minute trolley from and to Beale St.Went to Sun Studios and Beale Street. Excellent breakfast ... Read More
Going down the Mississippi on a paddle boat has always been on my bucket list. We were put up at the Sheridan in Memphis. Good choice. Easy five minute trolley from and to Beale St.Went to Sun Studios and Beale Street. Excellent breakfast included. Loved the food and music on Beale St. From embarkation to disembarkation on the American Queen, everything went smoothly. The great majority of our shipmates were in their seventies as were we. Everyone very friendly and easy to get to know. Our outside cabin was of good size. Large bathroom with a super shower. Food was excellent. Entertainment was better than outstanding. The shore excursions each day were very informative with very knowledgeable guides. Staff was friendly, helpful and seem to take pride in their work. I would rate the American Queen 10 out of 10 stars and would and have recommend everything about the experience. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
Everything was wonderful! The embarkation and disembarkation at all ports was great--the crew was helpful (my husband is wheelchair-bound)--but we don't get to use the Grand Staircase (duh!) we had to go around the Dining Room ... Read More
Everything was wonderful! The embarkation and disembarkation at all ports was great--the crew was helpful (my husband is wheelchair-bound)--but we don't get to use the Grand Staircase (duh!) we had to go around the Dining Room through coiled ropes, storage lockers, etc to get to the front of the ship, but even that was interesting to see what they have. The food was delicious! I ate a lot of fish and tried to keep desserts to sorbet (I am maintaining a 60 pound weight loss) so I always added the fresh vegetables, which were different every night (yippee!) We ordered lunch to go when we were on long excursions and they were really nice sandwiches, etc. with carrots and celery when I remembered to request them. The desserts were delicious and a real challenge to eat the whole thing. Yummy! The entertainments was nice--a bit country for my taste, but enjoyable nonetheless. I did one of the games early in the cruise and made several friends that I kept running into, so that was nice. There is a self-service laundry (free) so I didn't have to pack so much and could just do a load when I needed to, nor did I have to pack dirty laundry to take home. I really enjoyed watching the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers as we floated by. It was really lovely! And relaxing. And going through the locks was quite interesting! I also enjoyed reading in the Ladies Lounge--very light and comfortable chairs to sit in. Hint--Don't try to use the computers onboard if you want service. It is really spotty, but I knew that before. I also enjoyed walking around the Promenade Deck each day. People were very nice to cheer me on and I got to see both sides of the ship while I walked. I didn't really use the gym--why a treadmill when the view is fantastic?? HINT--take a sweater or sweatshirt to wear to the Dining Room, Show Room and some of the other public rooms. They are kept at Arctic temperatures!! I wore the provided bathrobe more in public rooms than in my cabin. Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
We were very disappointed during this trip. Maybe we set our expectations too high but considering the cost of the cruise ($11,000 for 7 days), this trip lacked features and quality found in cruises costing much less. Dining room ... Read More
We were very disappointed during this trip. Maybe we set our expectations too high but considering the cost of the cruise ($11,000 for 7 days), this trip lacked features and quality found in cruises costing much less. Dining room service: Waiters and waitresses were college kids with little to no experience. Every person we talked to were new to the industry within the last few weeks. None of the people we talked to were actually paid by the cruise line, they were college kids earning college credits. Their inexperience showed. They tried their best, but for what we paid and the fact that the cruise line stresses it's top of the line service, the staff has a ways to go just to get to "average". On Board Activities: Not much to speak to since, other than happy hour at 5:30, there were very little activities. During the entire week, there were two activities provided. . . . Bingo on Friday afternoon and a miniature putting competition on Wednesday, that's it. Very little to do onboard. If you are not eating, there is literally nothing to do. Dining: Food was excellent and plentiful. The cook staff would prepare whatever you asked for, even if it was not on the menu. The meals were definitely the highlight of the trip. Lectures and Shore excursions: On board lectures were informative and entertaining. The main lecturer was an owner of a local working plantation. There was a good variety of shore excursions including plantation tours and town tours. Entertainment: Very talented. Ranging from music to storytelling. One issue was the length of the shows. They provided music show that was perfect for dancing. The problem was the bands only played for minutes. One night, when the band finished after only 45 minutes, we asked why they did not play longer and they responded that the cruise line was extremely "cost conscious" and that 45 minutes was all they allowed. The other issue with the short performance is considering the shows start at 8:15, they are done by 9:00. Once the entertainment ends, there is absolutely NOTHING to do. The night basically ends at 9:00 pm, EVERY night. The Positives: Meals, Shore excursions, On Board Lectures and Entertainment. The Negatives: Below average Service, Lack of activities, Lack of ship amenities, Extremely overpriced for what you get. Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
We were celebrating our 20th anniversary and wanted to try a river cruise. Honestly, when we first saw the age of the passengers we were a little uncertain because we are in our early 50's and they were 75+. But we agree that we had ... Read More
We were celebrating our 20th anniversary and wanted to try a river cruise. Honestly, when we first saw the age of the passengers we were a little uncertain because we are in our early 50's and they were 75+. But we agree that we had as much fun with these passengers than we have ever on a trip! And we made friends who we will stay in contact with for years to come. The boat was very comfortable, the rooms large with private balconies. The food was all locally sourced, delivered fresh at every stop, and as good as any 4-star restaurant. The onboard historian was excellent and spoke several times on a wide variety of topics. The musical groups were very professional and personable and had the whole boat singing along, clapping and dancing. The onshore excursions were really good, but my only complaint with the entire cruise was that they tended to rush us through the excursions in order to get us back to the boat in time for meals. We all would have opted to skip a meal rather than rush through the historical excursions. The service was impeccable! From the cleaning crew to the deck hands to the the service crew to the "hotel manager" - I cannot say enough wonderful things about them. They all made the effort to greet us by name, to stop and chat, to share about themselves. Truly a one-of-a-kind experience. Read Less
Sail Date June 2017

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