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Sail Date: July 2019
We so enjoyed our “Civil War” cruise on the Duchess that we booked this trip “In the Footsteps of Mark Twain”. Two days before departure we were told due to the high waters the trip was changed -every port was different except the ... Read More
We so enjoyed our “Civil War” cruise on the Duchess that we booked this trip “In the Footsteps of Mark Twain”. Two days before departure we were told due to the high waters the trip was changed -every port was different except the starting point of St Louis. The Queen is much larger and the room we had chosen #502 was in the front of the ship-nice & roomy but so noisy we could not stay. The smokestack was laying on the deck so the boat could clear the bridges. A gigantic noisy exhaust fan was constantly running all right by the bedroom window. We moved to a lovely room in the middle of the boat #514 and were given a refund as a voucher for use on a future cruise in addition to shipboard credit. The staff is wonderful and could not have been nicer to us. However, the itinerary is rather boring, not much to see. The dinners have been a disappointment-the buffets at breakfast and lunch are nice as are the Front Porch snack options-a soft serve machine with toppings, cookies, coffee machine and popcorn.There is a small pool and Fitness Center. We are enjoying the lectures and the music/entertainment staff are good. The boat is very cold so bring a warm jacket and long sleeves. If I travel again I will stay with the smaller ship. If on this boat remember to choose a room in the center not in the front or back as both are extremely noisy. Also be aware that dining times are assigned -either too early or too late for us-5:45 or 7:45. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2019
What a wonderful week we had as we sailed down the Snake and Columbia Rivers aboard the American Empress! This was our first cruise with the American Steamboat Company and there was so much about the cruise that didn’t disappoint. We ... Read More
What a wonderful week we had as we sailed down the Snake and Columbia Rivers aboard the American Empress! This was our first cruise with the American Steamboat Company and there was so much about the cruise that didn’t disappoint. We have sailed many larger cruise ships but never a riverboat. The crew was the most friendly crew we have experienced. The Captain was visible and friendly too. The accommodations were excellent. Our room steward Gina was superb and quick to respond when we had questions or concerns. The ship was chilly and a large majority or passengers wore light jackets, sweatshirts or sweaters while on board. We did have two problems with our cabin while on board. On the second day our safe would not open. They responded quickly, opened our safe but were unable to fix it. However, later in the day the safe was removed and another safe was installed and it worked well for the remainder of the trip. At 2:30 am the next to last day of our cruises I saw a spark somewhere in the ceiling near our door. Smoke began to come out of the ceiling smelling like an electrical fire. When I called the main desk 3 people came to our cabin immediately, one with a fire extinguisher in hand. One of the crew opened a door in the ceiling where the air conditioner was located and began looking around. It was a bit dirty up there, which was noted by one of the crew. Smoke was still in the room. I asked if they cared if I opened the door to the outside. So I did. With the door to the hall open and the door to our balcony open the smoke began to filter out of the room. After a few minutes they determined that the motor of the air conditioner had burned out and said that it could not be replaced until morning. They said we should leave our 2 doors open to get the smoke out of our cabin and they left. We do wish the crew had checked to see if that was an option conducive to sleeping, since it was now after 3:00 am. The wind coming through the cabin sounded like a freight train coming through the cabin. So we closed the door to the hall and laid back down. Then the door to the deck was banging so it was impossible to sleep. We closed that door too, even though there was still some smoke in the room. By 4:00 am we were able to drift off to sleep. By 7:00 am we were leaving our cabin and met a crew member coming down the hall to replace the motor. He said he was leaving and needed to do that before he left. Good thing we were heading out for the day and didn’t get awakened again for the repair. When returning to our cabin after breakfast our cabin door was left open and no one was in the cabin which was a little unsettling. In the end our air conditioner was fixed and worked fine for the remainder of our trip. I still wonder what they can do to keep the area around the ac units cleaner. We were breathing that dust in our cabin and the dirt could have contributed to a fire. I thank the quick response of the crew. But I do wish that they had offered us a way to secure the balcony door so we could have left it open. And why was our cabin left unsecured? Even though we were a little tired that day we didn’t let that stop our tours and enjoyed the day and the remainder of our trip Read Less
Sail Date: July 2019
We wanted to experience the pacific northwest and travel with some good friends. The literature advertised this as upscale, all inclusive. We've taken many ocean cruises (15+) but never a river cruise anywhere. I'm not sure ... Read More
We wanted to experience the pacific northwest and travel with some good friends. The literature advertised this as upscale, all inclusive. We've taken many ocean cruises (15+) but never a river cruise anywhere. I'm not sure I'd say this is upscale, and I'm not convinced its worth the additional monies versus what you'd pay for a large vessel cruise. The Hop On/Hop Off bus is a nice feature, as is the wine and beer with dinner, but it's an expensive gimmick, not worth the extra money you pay. The cabins are nicely appointed but small, just like a larger ship. The intimate size (200+ passengers) was quite nice, but most were very elderly and the things to do were very limited. Food was good. Quantity was good, you could have extras. The number of menu selections were limited compared to a larger ship. The River Grill menu covers a wide range of items but it doesn't compare to a "for-fee" restaurant on a larger ship. The ambiance was not there. The guest performers were terrific. The on-board assistant cruise directors, who also performed, were not of the same caliber of talent. We all said we enjoyed this and we are very glad we did it. We just would not do another river cruise at this point. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2019
We chose this cruise to get a lifetime experience on the Mississippi River. The advertising of the cruise was very effusive about the standard of the service and the experiences that were to be enjoyed. But, let me tell you what really was ... Read More
We chose this cruise to get a lifetime experience on the Mississippi River. The advertising of the cruise was very effusive about the standard of the service and the experiences that were to be enjoyed. But, let me tell you what really was experienced. Meals: The restaurant setting is comfortable but crowded. The furniture needs a good clean. The meals were presented in a haphazard style with little appeal to the presented food, it was just placed on the plate. The menu selection on some of the days was appalling. Rooms: Our room was comfortable but included basic furniture. The bed was too short ( I am 179 cm or 5'11") and my feet hung over the end of the bed. The linen was a good quality. Entertainment: This was the highlight of the cruise. Variety and energy were the keys to keeping us entertained. Very good standard of delivery was held throughout the cruise. Gym: A very basic and barely adequate gym and pool is on board. Service: This was the most disappointing aspect of the cruise. After paying $AUS1,000+ per day for a cabin leading onto the veranda, service delivery was very poor. We had to continually request shampoo, soap and other bathroom amenities be maintained. The service in the dining room was appalling. Food was plonked on the table without any of the normal etiquette processes, wine was sloshed into glasses, orders were forgotten, explanation of selections was very poor and there was no continual supervision of the table. Excursions: The complementary shuttle bus service was very welcome and appreciated. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2019
This cruise for for my 10th anniversary. We were the youngest couple on the boat (not a critique, just an observation). It was the first river boat experience for both of us. There was one port-of-call change that was made after we ... Read More
This cruise for for my 10th anniversary. We were the youngest couple on the boat (not a critique, just an observation). It was the first river boat experience for both of us. There was one port-of-call change that was made after we booked due to an event at on of the ports that seemed significant enough to have warranted more warning. The excursions we took: The LEWIS & CLARK EXPERIENCE THE ULTIMATE PACIFIC NORTHWEST EXPERIENCE The PENDLETON TOUR THE COMPLETE LEWIS-CLARK VALLEY WINE TOUR The Hits: The room and service was excellent as expected The food was amazing with a variety of changing options at every seating The scenery in transit was beautiful The "riverlorian" The Lewis-Clark Valley Wine Tour Most of the entertainment The Misses: Some of the excusrions. The example I'll give is The Ultimate Pacific Northwest Experience, but we had similar experiences on more than excursion. This tour attempts to pack in far too much in one day. We were on the bus traveling between locations far longer than we got to spend at any of them. "Enrichment" on this tour is simply not an option. For example, stopping at the magnificent Multnomah Falls, we were allotted less than an hour. Only the most active and spry of us made it to the bridge, wit barely enough time to walk the rest of the grounds. It was basically race the bridge, then back down to spend a few minutes in the gift shop before taking off to the next place. Lunch was great, but maybe a catered lunch at Timberline instead, with more time at that location (and the others) would have made this excursion better. Maybe it's just me, but I would prefer more detailed enrichment at fewer places than less at more locations and spending too much time travelling between locations. The Entertainment The quartet contains talented musicians and excelled at the small scale pieces tasked to play. It was perfect for the '50-60's night. For some of the bigger themed pieces, a quartet is just not big enough to simulate some of the "big band" or Broadway orchestra pieces that were presented. This band would be so much better served with just one more member, specifically a horn, either trumpet or even a trombone, and it would really round out the sound. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2019
We wanted to do a paddleboat River Cruise and our friend that owns a travel agency suggested we try this ship. The ship and the crew were fantastic. However, we found no out that people that booked in the month before the sailing were ... Read More
We wanted to do a paddleboat River Cruise and our friend that owns a travel agency suggested we try this ship. The ship and the crew were fantastic. However, we found no out that people that booked in the month before the sailing were given room upgrades and up to $1000 credit. Apparently so many people cancelled due to the ports being closed because of high water levels that the line needed to fill rooms. We booked 6 months in advance and were not offered any upgrade. We took an interior room which we normally do on cruises as we are not in the room often. The room was so small my husband would shower and get dressed and leave and then I would do the same. The first port for the Oak Alley tour was closed due to high water. The Francisville and Greenville ports were a dud. We spent only 45 minutes in Greenville and Francisville was an hour. Nothing at all to see. Natchez and Vicksburg were amazing. We wish we would have had an entire day in Vicksburg as there was so much to see. We had wonderful table mates for dinner from California and Oregon. Ages 55-75. We all agreed that the terms used in the towns were racist. Tour guides pointed out where “ The Jews” settled. Not a Jewish community. Just kept saying “ The Jews” . I asked Clint our guide about seeing the Catholic Church on the list and he said don’t go on their because you will go blind. He was a native of Greenville and obviously didn’t care for Catholics. I know it wasn’t just us because it was the topic of conversation every night at our dinner table. We were all appalled and uncomfortable. The food was ok. Dinners had odd choices and was generally cold. You are better to eat on deck 3. We only ate in the dining room because we loved our table of cruisers. They were hysterical. We are happy we did the bucket list of a river cruise. But we would not suggest anyone of our friends take this particular southern route. Especially if you aren’t from the Deep South and are not used to terms such as colored, The Jews, those Catholics, etc. it was an eye opener for my family and our dinner table. Also do the reverse cruise from Memphis to New Orleans. Better ports Read Less
Sail Date: June 2019
We selected this cruise as we were traveling with 2 other couples who live on our street. This is not the best of the ships in this line but selected as one couple needed a lower cost cruise. Rooms small and cramped and flooded during ... Read More
We selected this cruise as we were traveling with 2 other couples who live on our street. This is not the best of the ships in this line but selected as one couple needed a lower cost cruise. Rooms small and cramped and flooded during rains. Employees who work hard were up at 5am pushing rainwater off deck, but the problem, aside from the noise, was that water was pushed inside the cabin. Cabins not soundproof as next door phone conversations could be heard regularly. Awful fumes noticed inside cabin. The Hop On Hop Off buses do NOT have tour guides onboard in the afternoon so if you are not an early bird you are out of luck. Excursions booked through the cruise line were not as advertised,, and when a complaint was made to the excursion director, Alex, it was totally ignored. On the last day of the cruise, which disembarking the ship, we inquired about our concern and were told nothing would be done as it was not a cruise line excursion: BS! We booked with the ship. Forget the Elvis Graceland adventure through the ship and get a better deal with a local tour company. Our friends who had a problem with their swamp adventure were given a g=credit for the problems they had. Their excursion, like ours, was booked through the ship. Nothing is worse than being lied to by a ship representative. Room service on several occasions failed to deliver our order completely; this was for breakfast only. Dining room selection of food and service was excellent. All but one waiter (Kathisa) was fantastic. She was one who refused us a table for 2 at lunch when many tables were available and finally seated us at a table with no view---we declined it and asked for a different table. After a bit of attitude we were seated properly. Patio restaurant closes at 2 pm which is a problem when returning late from a morning excursion. You are left which a choice of hot dogs or hot dogs. Laundry machines broken at times and no hot water for showers on the last day. We had the beverage package and service varied a the different bars. Brian on deck 5 was excellent as was bartender outside the patio restaurant. The pre-cruise hotel,, The Sheriton in Memphis was less than satisfactory; air-conditioning problems and issues with door locks. We had to have a room change analog with one of our friends. Definitely not a 4 star hotel. Entertainers very enthusiastic and shows enjoyable. The band was great. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 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
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2019
I was always looking at Mississippi River cruises, but they seemed too expensive. My husband and I usually cruise in the Carribean on ships that have a lot of attractions. Oasis,Allure) Then,Cruise Critic advertised this cruise The ... Read More
I was always looking at Mississippi River cruises, but they seemed too expensive. My husband and I usually cruise in the Carribean on ships that have a lot of attractions. Oasis,Allure) Then,Cruise Critic advertised this cruise The American Queen is small compared to large cruise ships (425 abt.) but all the luxuries were there. Great food in the dining room, the informal buffet at dinner time always had prime rib, and a great fish and chicken offerings The entertainment was superb. The troop may only had four people, but they were extremely talented. The ship had resident jazz band who played at the shows, and late nights sessions in one of the bars. The historian on board was also good We embarked in New Orleans, and the ship provided one night in a central hotel. When we got to a port, we were provided with a hop/on bus which brings you to the attractions, with the entry feee already paid. We could not get to all the attractions. The ship is decorated in high Victorian style Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2019
ATV outdoor shore excursion at Natchez was the highlight for us! Well done to David and the Team for putting this outdoor adventure together. Civil War battleground tour at Vickisburg was also excellent. Our particular thanks to the ... Read More
ATV outdoor shore excursion at Natchez was the highlight for us! Well done to David and the Team for putting this outdoor adventure together. Civil War battleground tour at Vickisburg was also excellent. Our particular thanks to the thoroughly informative speakers/guides - especially the gentleman who dressed and acted the part of a soldier of the day - he really made a difference! Plantations at St Francisville were amazing - such informative guides at Rosedown and host at Catalpa willing to share her home - such wonderful hospitality! The food and the service on board the American Queen has been second to none! All of the waiters & staff have gone out of their way to make us comfortable & have the most amazing honeymoon of a lifetime! We feel truly special that we've been able to join this cruise and spend it making friends for life! We will definitely take another cruise again! Thank you & a special mention to Ambrose & Brian - the most deserving of recognition out of a truly exceptional crew Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2019
My husband was interested in historic stops and I wanted to relax and be pampered. We both got what we wanted. I was able to stay on board while he went site seeing. Our cabin was small but had everything you could want. Our bed was ... Read More
My husband was interested in historic stops and I wanted to relax and be pampered. We both got what we wanted. I was able to stay on board while he went site seeing. Our cabin was small but had everything you could want. Our bed was very comfortable and the room was clean. Housekeeping stopped by twice a day to freshen up. Bathroom was larger than expected and plenty of hot water for showers. Any questions were answered thoroughly and quickly. The Hop On and Hop Off bus was just what we wanted. If we wanted more to see and do that was an option or we could just take a round trip and get back on board. Food was plentiful and delicious. Staff were very helpful and friendly. The boat is "small" so you got to meet lots of people since you would see the same people at meals or out walking. This encouraged friendliness. Truly delightful. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2019
I chose this cruise because a group of 18 of us wanted to cruise on a riverboat. This group cruises frequently but never a riverboat. Nothing about this cruise line is current. You can't even make online reservations. We had planned ... Read More
I chose this cruise because a group of 18 of us wanted to cruise on a riverboat. This group cruises frequently but never a riverboat. Nothing about this cruise line is current. You can't even make online reservations. We had planned and booked everything before boarding, premium excursions, private cocktail reception. After boarding no one at the customer service desk or tour desk seemed to know what they were doing. Everyday our group had to go to the desk about issues. We paid top price for a private reception before the cruise, they didn't have this booked onboard, even after we confirmed and went to the room for the reception, they still didn't know anything about it. The cabins are so tiny, dingy, lack of storage and not worth the price that we paid for this cruise. The dining room service was horrible, they simply didn't care. The towns that we stopped in are mostly small and not much to see. Glad we booked premium tours that actually went somewhere else. Disembarkation was very confusing, they really didn't tell you what to do, you just followed other cruisers that kind of knew what to do. The 'Local riveratarion' turned out to be the same man that does the lighting in the theater!! Nothing local about that, he shared his very political opinions, that were not always appropriate. Sorry American Queen our group won't be back. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
The wait staff was superb, extremely accommodating. The cleaning crew did a superb job. Kristen, the EMT, and Kashawna, the Purser, went above and beyond to arrange an oxygen concentrator when "Special Needs" failed to provide a ... Read More
The wait staff was superb, extremely accommodating. The cleaning crew did a superb job. Kristen, the EMT, and Kashawna, the Purser, went above and beyond to arrange an oxygen concentrator when "Special Needs" failed to provide a working concentrator. I am extremely thankful and forever in their debt. Without their service, I might have been unable to complete the voyage. Two days without oxygen was challenging for me since I have a very severe case of Sleep Apnea that requires an oxygen concentrator and a CPAP machine. I am forever in their debt for the extraordinary service they provided for me. Their extreme care made this a successful vacation. It is heartwarming to know that the cruise line was here to accommodate my every need, but these two workers were unabelievably accommocating. I am so grateful for their care. They successfully arranged a concentrator and a backup to be delivered after we had already set sail. After two days without oxygen I was beginning to wonder if I would have to discontinue my cruise. Thankfully, they rectified the problem. I look forward to taking another excursion on the American Queen Steamboat Company,. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
My husband and I took this cruise as a celebration of our 25th anniversary. We cruised from New Orleans to Memphis. Pros: excellent food and wait staff. large variety of entrees and dietary needs met. clean staterooms, ... Read More
My husband and I took this cruise as a celebration of our 25th anniversary. We cruised from New Orleans to Memphis. Pros: excellent food and wait staff. large variety of entrees and dietary needs met. clean staterooms, common areas (except the sticky laminate flooring) variety of hourly activities variety of Premium Excursions Cons: Only one location for dinner, even though alternate venue was advertised average age of cruisers on our cruise looked to be 75 activities geared more to the older crowd, including musical shows in evening cost of Premium Excursions included excursions need to be updated. Several stops had little to see 18.5% per person per day gratutites added at end of voyage(not included in cost) Hotel in New Orleans (included) was filthy This was our first cruise and didn’t know what to expect. There was a lot of “hurry up” then wait, especially since there were so many cruisers with mobility issues.We will not return. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2019
As experienced ocean cruisers we chose this cruise up the Mississippi in late April to see some southern states before the summer heat. This year the heavy spring rains within the Mississippi watershed had created major upstream flooding; ... Read More
As experienced ocean cruisers we chose this cruise up the Mississippi in late April to see some southern states before the summer heat. This year the heavy spring rains within the Mississippi watershed had created major upstream flooding; however, the only impact to our cruise was two of our docks were damaged and unusable and one of our planned stops was canceled. Overall, the cruise was great and certainly met my expectations. The staff was great. The entertainment exceeded my expectations and the river historian dded a lot of knowledge to the cruise. The food was good and with great variety. Only complaint was a couple of servings on the lukewarm side. Also, serving sizes were noticeably smaller which did not impact me in the slightest. There certainly was plenty of food. Our cabin was good and very comfortable. The bathroom was good size with a great shower! The internet services were free and far superior to our ocean cruises. The highlight of the shore excursions was the visit to Chef Regina Charboneau's home in Natchez. She is absolutely delightful, a very entertaining guest, and we got a beautifully autographed copy of her latest cook book! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
We had been recommended the American Queen by a close friend, who is quite choosy so we felt confident all would be prefect! Not quite! Disappointed with quality of some of entertainment. Particularly the lounge singer- we felt ... Read More
We had been recommended the American Queen by a close friend, who is quite choosy so we felt confident all would be prefect! Not quite! Disappointed with quality of some of entertainment. Particularly the lounge singer- we felt very poor, could have been much better. Sadly dinner service was lacking, although did improve so I guess someone at a neighbourung table may have said something? We were served wrong meals repeatedly, had to ask for drinks to be served and the attitude of some staff was very off hand. Front porch cafe- always great service and choice- both at breakfast and lunch. Top deck bar- likewise, always good. This isn't a cheap trip and expectations were so high and I have to admit we were disappointed with these areas! In other areas they excelled, organistaion around trips, both additional and standard were excellent- we did both. Ease on and off at ports was great- never been so easy! The 'Hop on/Hop off' bus service fab! In terms of value for money- depends on your point of view - I know some of my fellow dinner partners felt it wasn't. However if you use all the facilities, all the trips provided as part of package, along with buses it does feel like you know what you are paying for. I think the poor service at dinner and 'not so good' entertainment in places left it feeling wanting. We , for insatnce , seldom ate lunch- but suited ourselves and made a sandwich which we took with us when on shore for a trip. Had fruit etc to eat during the day so we gained in other ways. Satff in general really great, helpful, friendly. Staterooms as expected- really clean, comfortable and well serviced- we had a private verandah which was great. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
We (my wife, myself, my daughter and her spouse) had always wanted to try a US Cruise Ship on the Mississippi River, We started at New Orleans and traveled to Menmphis, the hotel the ship chose was a part of the pre trip was excellent ... Read More
We (my wife, myself, my daughter and her spouse) had always wanted to try a US Cruise Ship on the Mississippi River, We started at New Orleans and traveled to Menmphis, the hotel the ship chose was a part of the pre trip was excellent and we actually booked it via separate reservations a day early, The room on board was nice, however our steward was at best poor, in fact the ship changed him out after the 3rd night of almost no service. The staff, were all USA residents, and the lower staff, were often indifferent to most. They seemed to get better as the trip neared its end. Food, was at best, medium. On the first night I ordered a baked potato, it was cold and would not melt the butter. They brought me a second "15 minutes later", it was colder then the first, they then sent the assistant head waiter over, he went and found a 3rd baked potato, again this took "15 minutes", by then I had finished my meal. It never got better.... The value for $$$ was far below what I expected. The dining room chairs were broken and most had extremely stained seats. Not at all what I expected for a US cruise line. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
I always wanted to visit New Orleans and my companion had always wanted to go down/up the Missisipi River. This cruise offered the best of both worlds. Unfortunately i was disapointed to find that the food was not always of good quality ... Read More
I always wanted to visit New Orleans and my companion had always wanted to go down/up the Missisipi River. This cruise offered the best of both worlds. Unfortunately i was disapointed to find that the food was not always of good quality and did not cater well for vegetarians. Unfortunately there was also a lot of fried fish rather than fresh fish. There were also times when the boat ran out of basics such as English Breakfast tea and some herbal teas. Most of the staff however were very good, very helpful and friendly. The hop on and off tours were rather interesting however in some of the towns; Greenville especially there was not much to see, and what we did see while being of some interest had been covered earlier on in the tour some museums were random and disjointed in there collections. Perhaps if you stayed in one of the bigger towns for longer of even arrived earlier in Memphis. However i have had overall a good experience. The staff were especially welcoming and helpful. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
Cruised before on the American Queen. Loved the service and staff. 5 stars. Thought the Empress might be similar and it was just as good, maybe considering the scenery, better. First, the cabin. Knowing that the cabins on these boats ... Read More
Cruised before on the American Queen. Loved the service and staff. 5 stars. Thought the Empress might be similar and it was just as good, maybe considering the scenery, better. First, the cabin. Knowing that the cabins on these boats tend toward being a bit smaller and knowing that the weather would be cold and rainey, we opted for one of the biggest cabins onboard, 704. Cabin was large and comfortable, well decorated, lots of storage. Yes, you've heard that the bathrooms are small - they are, but certainly not the big deal that some reviewers thought. Not an issue for us in the least. Yes, the walls are thin and you can hear next door's TV and the toilets flush. Again, not a biggie, and not bothersome for us. You know these things going into this cruise and if you think it is a problem (it is not), well it just comes with the territory. Some of the TV bleed through could be avioded if the speakers were not inside the TV cabinet, against the wall where they would use the wall as a sounding board. But again, it did not impact upon this 5-star cruise. Food was mostly excellant. Never had a meal that was less than a 9+, and most were a "10." Had lobster 3 nights (two in the River Grill). Steaks were supurb. Wines were very good, although I thought the house red could have been better. That said, we had the drink package and had the upgraded wine list to choose from. I'm nit picking here, but if you were on the drink package and wanted the better wines, it took the staff forever to get it to our table. Again, this is nit picking. Service: It simply does not get any better. We have been on 40+ cruises, mostly on upscale lines, and American Queen and Empress are the best. Never saw anything but smiles, and they were real. Staff seemed to enjoy themselves as much as the guests. Their simply was nothing that they could not do to make your cruise even better. As an example, American Airlines as usual lost our luggage for a couple of days. The hotel manager (purser's office) actually drove back from Clarkston to Spokane in the middle of the night (a four-hour round trip) to retrieve our luggage. We actually had a similar experience on the "Queen" several years back that sold us on this company. On board entertainment was certainly not Broadway (you will need RCCL large ships for that), but considering the venue, the singers and band - supurb. If you like 50s, 60s, and 70s music, this is for you. Throughly enjoyed every evening's entertainment. Tours: First, the scenery is absolutely spectacular throughout the entire trip. Jet boat to Hell's Canyon had great staff, lovely scenery and commentary, but I though it was an hour or so too long. Still, well worth while. The trip to the nuclear plant was again great, although the guides explanation was a bit too technical for me, and I was a physics major, The lunch boxes are made in China would you believe. The Falls: again some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever viewed. Well worth while. The HOHO bus tours: The first couple of towns were really small, not much for us to see and do. Astoria, however, was well worth walking the downtown area. I've given Fitness and recreation only one star, but that really is not fair, as I knew going into this that there was not gym (thankfully). It is really as "n/a." Would I do this again? In a heartbeat! Thank you AQSSC. Frank. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2019
Entire boat was reserved for Road Scholar members for this cruise. Instead of the standard one day stay in New Orleans with tours, Road Scholar had two before boarding. The food and service was outstanding, either in the Main Dining ... Read More
Entire boat was reserved for Road Scholar members for this cruise. Instead of the standard one day stay in New Orleans with tours, Road Scholar had two before boarding. The food and service was outstanding, either in the Main Dining Room with a very good selections or in the Grill Room/Terrace buffet. Most of us chose the Main Dining Room for dinner, wine and beer is included with dinner. and the Grill Room for breakfast and lunch. Weather was good enough for enjoying the meals on the open terrace. Cabins are very comfortable and there are suites with separate sitting area, even two story suites with seating below and sleeping area up the stairs. Lectures and tours are included, with experienced and enthusiastic guides. Free Hop on/off busses are at every port. There was good entertainment with a four piece band and three singers performing every night. Music in the Lounge during the cocktail hour and after the show. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
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
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
I was invited to join friends on this cruise. New Orleans is a great place to visit pre-cruise. Our hotel was within walking distance of many attractions. Cabin was small but compact, clean and orderly. The bathroom was good size and ... Read More
I was invited to join friends on this cruise. New Orleans is a great place to visit pre-cruise. Our hotel was within walking distance of many attractions. Cabin was small but compact, clean and orderly. The bathroom was good size and the walkin shower excellent. Amenities included were shampoo, lotion, shower gel, nice size bar of hand soap. The food was plentiful, many choices, and of excellent quality. For breakfast and lunch you could order from the menu or eat from the buffet. Dinner consisted of appetizer choice, soup and/or salad, choice of entrée and dessert. Wine, beer, soda, coffee, tea included with dinner. The included shore excursions were very interesting. There were enough places to visit in each town using the Hop-On Hop-Off tour buses that you didn't really need to pay for extra premium excursions. I did opt to purchase the Vicksburg, On The Front Lines of the Civil War, excursion. I felt that it was well worth the money. I was not impressed with the evening entertainment, but there were always other choices. The only downside was the fact that the Mississippi was the highest it has ever been. Consequently, we could not dock at several ports. However, we still visited most of the same towns, We could not get under the bridges leading to Memphis, so we had a long bus ride to the Memphis airport. We all made our flights on time. The staff of the cruise boat did a fine job of dealing with the swollen river and the problems it presented. Since I have visited Memphis many times, I did not stay over there. I would recommend doing so if you have not been there. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
After having taken three ocean cruises, the cruise aboard the American Queen was a very nice change. We enjoyed the more personal service that is possible with a maximum capacity of 430 passengers. We appreciated the helpfulness and ... Read More
After having taken three ocean cruises, the cruise aboard the American Queen was a very nice change. We enjoyed the more personal service that is possible with a maximum capacity of 430 passengers. We appreciated the helpfulness and pleasant demeanor of all the staff we encountered. The boat and its furnishings are very nice and seemed to be well maintained. The only equipment problem I noted was that one of the two treadmills in the gym was non-operational. That was not a problem for us as we never encountered anyone else in the gym when we were there. Our cabin #332 included a private veranda. Although we have stayed in larger suites before, we found this one to be quite comfortable and to meet all our needs. Unfortunately, we had a problem with cigarette and apparent pipe smoke being very noticeable from our veranda several times when we wanted to use it. On the second day I reported it to the Purser's office and they sent a security staff member to our cabin. He also smelled smoke but said he could not determine from where it was coming. I was later told by a different staff member that it was probably coming from the staff deck below. Sure enough, when I looked down at that deck from my veranda I saw several cigarette butts on the decking below our cabin. When I later mentioned that to the Purser's office I got the distinct impression that they were aware of the issue from prior experience but just chose not to take corrective action. I consider that to be very inconsiderate that they do not at least advise passengers where this problem might be encountered so they can make a good choice of cabin. We found the food to be of very good quality. We ate half of our dinners at the Front Porch Café because we enjoyed the more casual service style here. The staff there was excellent and quick to address any service requests. We did not take any of the premium excursions and found the hop-on hop-off bus system to be well organized and easy to use. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
This was a 4-night "add-on" to the end of the normal cruise season. The price was irrestible, plus the convenience of being a round-trip cruise. We'd previously done the traditional 8-day, one-way trip up the Columbia on ... Read More
This was a 4-night "add-on" to the end of the normal cruise season. The price was irrestible, plus the convenience of being a round-trip cruise. We'd previously done the traditional 8-day, one-way trip up the Columbia on this boat. Earlier this year, we did a lower Mississippi cruise on the American Queen. AQSC is a "class act", and we love the company. I hope they will expand to other rivers. There is hope, as AQSC just acquired another cruise line. It helps that AQSC's parent company is in the maritime business, so this isn't just another piece of a conglomerate empire. I am trying to not sound like a company shill, so am being nit-picky about my complaints. With most cruise lines, they would be "lost in the noise" of other issues. AQSC's cruises are not cheap. Their boats are built and registered in the U.S. That means that they must meet a higher standard of health and safety regulations than foreign-flagged vessels. Also, all crewmembers must be legal to work n the U.S. Their smaller vessels do not offer the economies of scale enjoyed by lines with larger ships (Carnival, NCL, Celebrity, etc.). The smaller size, and nature of operations, preclude ancillary income opportunities, such as spas, casinos, art galleries, tourist photos, and premium restaurants. Some cruise ships have more than 20 times as many passengers as the AE. Over the years, I've spoken to many AQSC employees. Uniformly, they seem to enjoy working for the company, and feel valued and well-treated. The boat's staff, including non-public folks, such as engineering and deck divisions, seem focused on a pleasant experience for the guests. I wish that I'd been as happy during my careers (military pilot, airline pilot, and aerospace engineering analyst). I have some very minor complaints, described in the "Cabin" section. Also, the Wi-Fi is very weak, and often so slow as to be unusable. Mostly, I used my cell's hotspot. However, the desktop computers in the Paddlewheel Lounge were okay. Considering that nearly every other cruise line charges exhorbitant fees for slow Internet access, it's not much of a complaint. I did find it interesting that, when my devices connected to the AE's Internet service, the internal clocks synchronized to Central Time (company's headquarters). Because of the nature of this add-on cruise, Portland was one of the ports. Rather than the usual Hop-On, Hop-Off cruise, the AE's buses were used for a "2-hour city tour". It was interesting and done well. The only odd part was a 1/2-hour visit to Washington Park. We weren't told that we would be leaving the bus. Not everyone was prepared for a walk in the rain. Otherwise, these HOHO bus excursions are an outstanding idea, and a signature perk for AQSC. Generally, we don't take the premium excursions, because the HOHO ones are so good, and I don't want to miss in-port activities on the boat. Since this cruise was very different from others on this boat, some of the guidance was more relevant to other cruises than this one. That caused a bit of confusion, but nothing major. Again, I'm trying hard to find fault with this cruise. "It ain't easy". For the size of the vessel, entertainment was outstanding. The Cruise Director, Greg, did "double-duty" as a singer. A few of the songs weren't a good match for his very talented voice, but I would assign him an "A" grade as a singer and "A+" as Cruise Director. Jordan Gonzalez is a new addition to the staff, and was spectacular. Besides assisting Greg in both roles, she is a talented singer with a very versatile voice. The house band's main job is to support the singers. They did that very well. It's difficult to describe Laurence Cotton, the "Riverlorian". He was on our first AE cruise. Columbia River and Northwest history aren't a job or a hobby for him -- they're a passion that is infectious. I attended every one of his events, even missing some other interesting ones. I dunno about his counterpart for other cruises, but I would definitely pick a cruise on which he's working. I can't say enough good about him!!! Overall, AQSC's cruises (we've also cruised on the American Queen) are very close to "all-inclusive". Bottled water is widely available. Unlimited Northwest beers and wines are available with dinner. Cocktails are reasonably-priced. There is no pressure to purchase cocktails in the bars. The servers are equally happy to provide you with alcohol or glasses of water. We often had water, after having enough wine with dinner to last the evening. My sense is that AQSC views alcoholic drinks as a service to their guests, rather than as a source of income. Ditto for the premium excursions -- there's no pressure to sign up for them. We (traveled with another couple) signed up for dinner in the River Grille on the first night, assuming that others wouldn't. We guessed correctly, as it was nearly vacant. It is the buffet dining area for breakfast and lunch, but the alternative (reservations required) dining venue for dinner. The menu is very appealing, but constant throughout the cruise. I enjoyed a mouth-watering dinner of lobster tail. Yummy! The rest of our party enjoyed their meals. We ate other dinners in the Astoria dining room. Service there ranged from good to excellent. The cuisine was great, with many menu choices available for each meal. The buffet breakfast was comparable to that in many hotels, but included made-to-order omelets. Lunch had many choices, and was as good as a buffet can be. Soft-serve ice cream is available at any time in the River Grille. Snacks are available in the Paddlewheel Lounge from 3 to 5. Popcorn is available for a few hours more. I felt that the popcorn was too salty, though some might disagree. Even so, I would have preferred that it be available from late morning until the evening entertainment ended. Probably because of the price, the size of the vessel, and the orientation of the amenities, this isn't a cruise for children or for young adults looking for excitement. Passengers who aren't eligible for Medicare will be in a minority, though they're unlikely to feel like misfits. The entertainment is generally done by 10pm, unlike cruise ships that appeal to younger folks. Events happen at the scheduled time, which I appreciate, coming from a military and airline background. I'm frustrated by live performances ashore that seem to start a minimum of 10 minutes late. I tried hard to have more complaints to share with you, but I failed. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2018
AQSC has river cruising figured out. The Duchess is an awesome vessel and continues the tradition of first class river cruising started by her mother, the American Queen. Our cruise from Nashville to Chattanooga on the Cumberland and ... Read More
AQSC has river cruising figured out. The Duchess is an awesome vessel and continues the tradition of first class river cruising started by her mother, the American Queen. Our cruise from Nashville to Chattanooga on the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers was very relaxing and historical and the scenery was beautiful. Even though the Duchess is not nearly as big as the Queen, she is very elegant and well laid out. Large cabins, sufficient public spaces, excellent dining, impeccable service and excellent entertainment are some of the attributes that make this a nearly perfect vessel to explore America's great rivers. Entertainment trio of Dustin, Courtney and Jeff did a fantastic job each night and are some of the hardest working entertainers we have witnessed. We appreciated that they performed music from the 50's and 60's. The riverlorian, Mike, gave daily informative, interesting and entertaining talks about the river history, lore, navigation and other subjects. Teresa did an awesome job with our daily shore excursions and hop on hop off itinerary. We love AQSC and always look forward to our next cruise on America's rivers on either the Queen, the Duchess and hopefully, the Empress. Read Less
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