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Sail Date: August 2019
Embarking from the port of Clarkston, Washington and disembarking in Portland, Washington aboard the American Queen Steamboat Company Empress. The staff went out of their way to assure that passengers had an enjoyable & smooth ... Read More
Embarking from the port of Clarkston, Washington and disembarking in Portland, Washington aboard the American Queen Steamboat Company Empress. The staff went out of their way to assure that passengers had an enjoyable & smooth experience. The food was spectacular, tasty and service in high fashion! The lunch buffet was equally delicious....daily ethnic options were a pleasant experience and the sandwich options from the grill were made to order. Excursions were often greater than expected. Our cruise was void of ANY CHILDREN, certainly a real plus and another pleasant experience is that there were NO photographers on board other than passengers. This cruise line does not seek to exploit passengers by taking pictures at the most inopportune times and selling them for overinflated prices. The only possible negative comment would be that several ports lacked shopping options. That certainly is not the fault of the cruise line, but certainly a financial mis-opportunity for the local economy. The ship's staff from top to bottom all had perpetual smiles and friendly personalities. This did not appear fake, but a testiment to happ employees. We ditched the nightly entertainment for the spectacular evening views from the top deck of the ship....truly spectacular. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2019
While we knew this ship obviously caters to more elderly travelers, we chose this cruise for the itinerary and a small ship experience. We’d wanted to see this part of the country and this looked like a great way to do it. We’ve ... Read More
While we knew this ship obviously caters to more elderly travelers, we chose this cruise for the itinerary and a small ship experience. We’d wanted to see this part of the country and this looked like a great way to do it. We’ve cruised a lot, but always on large ocean-going ships. We were very pleased with our experience on Pearl Mist. The cabin was spacious with lots of storage and outlets. The staff was friendly and attentive and the menu options varied and the quality of the food was good. We enjoyed being able to literally “pull up to the curb” in our ports. Elderly passengers were well-accommodated and entertainment options definitely skewed to that population. We enjoyed the nightly cocktail hour and the wines provided at lunch and dinner. The included excursions were also very nice. Overall, we enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and itinerary. We would recommend this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2019
The Victory II ship was recently renovated and they did an excellent job. The ship is fresh, clean, and very well appointed. Every staff member we have met is attentive and concerned for our satisfaction. Our cabin is more than adequate ... Read More
The Victory II ship was recently renovated and they did an excellent job. The ship is fresh, clean, and very well appointed. Every staff member we have met is attentive and concerned for our satisfaction. Our cabin is more than adequate with one exception: the shower is extremely small. Meals are quite varied. On more than one occasion we have ordered doubles of items on the menu, or we have ordered multiple items from each category, with no questions asked from the staff. All of the tours has been enjoyable, informative, and worth the time. The cruise director has done a very good job of telling us what to expect for our next day of adventure. Going through the various locks along the way has been one of the most interesting parts of this trip. I would highly recommend this cruise. I have seen criticisms of where the ship docks and my only comment to that is: this is a ship and it has to be dock at a port, and the ports are not necessarily in the best part of town…. Why would you expect a ship port to be in a beautiful part of town? Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2019
On day 1, we arrived at Lambert's Landing in St. Paul to find no boat at the dock. When we called the office to find out why, they said there was a last minute change and the boat had been docked in Red Wing, MN and that we would have ... Read More
On day 1, we arrived at Lambert's Landing in St. Paul to find no boat at the dock. When we called the office to find out why, they said there was a last minute change and the boat had been docked in Red Wing, MN and that we would have to find our own way there. No company rep nor a bus was at the dock to update us and transport us to Red Wing, though they did say they would pay for the taxi ride (I'm still waiting for reimbursement as the ship's staff said they were unable to refund directly to me). Our Uber driver agreed to take us there, and I tipped him generously because he would have to go back to the city empty. But the most irritating aspect of this is that the ship apparently hasn't been able to dock in St. Paul for quite some time, perhaps all season, and it wasn't a "last minute" change. And even if it was, they should have called us. We finally arrived at the ship at lunch time, and no one greeted us or apologized for the situation, or offered any reasons (or compensation) for the foul up. As we met other guests during the cruise, we found that others had been left in the lurch just as we had. Our cabin, no. 209, smelled strongly of mildew, and our towels (which we were encouraged to reuse) never dried out overnight; when I reported it on the mid-cruise questionnaire, a dehumidifier was delivered to our room; however the room steward didn't know how to empty it so I figured it out myself... I also reported how dirty our veranda was, and though they said they would clean it, that never happened. It was covered with spider webs and dead bugs, which made it unpleasant to sit out there. I don't understand why the room steward didn't have time to at least sweep it, because all she had to do in our room each day was make the bed (they don't change the sheets during the week), deliver dry towels, wipe down the shower and sink and empty the waste baskets. Though the Queen of the Mississippi is only in her 6th year of service, she is suffering from some deferred maintenance. There is chipped paint, dirty windows and balconies, scuffed upholstery, stained lamp shades, and stained carpets, all contributing to a general aura of shabbiness. There is simply no excuse for this level of neglect on a cruise for which you've paid nearly $10K for a week. We've been on 4 European river cruises (with Viking and Vantage) and several ocean cruises (with NCL and Cunard), and one thing they all have in common in constant maintenance. They're always pressure washing or painting or cleaning something, without interfering with the guest experience. ACL seems to have decided not to do this type of maintenance during the season. The room was quiet and spacious enough, with the typical tiny bathroom, but storage, both in the room and bathroom was more than adequate. Wifi was slow, and we usually had decent tv reception, though the screen is tiny. There were a few places along the river where we had no cell phone reception, but that was okay. I was pleasantly surprised at how smooth and quiet the boat is while cruising at night. Even when we were going through locks, I was rarely disturbed by noise or motion during the night. There are many lounges and decks on the ship, and you could easily find a place to socialize or sit quietly and read or contemplate the beautiful scenery. Cocktail hour at 5:30 each evening was also lively and fun, with generous pours of beer, wine and liquors. A nice assortment of hors d'ouevres was also offered each evening. After dinner, we enjoyed a variety of entertainers in the lounge; a guitar singer one night, a motown duo for 2 nights, a barbershop quarter another night. The onboard lecturer, Dale, was fun and entertaining and filled us with information about the Mississippi and each of the ports we visited and even conducted a few sing-alongs. At every port, except the first day in Red Wing, we docked very early in the morning and had the whole day to visit the town. We were warmly welcomed by local guides in each town, and they genuinely seemed happy to have us there. Fort Madison has recently been added to the itinerary, and they were especially gracious, though there was a scheduling issue and the visit to the old penitentiary was cancelled while we were actually on the bus on the way there. They have some kinks to work out in their tours. We had a nice dose of warm, mid-western hospitality at each port. Most of the tours were rather heavy on bus time rather than actual on-the-ground touring, but perhaps this is in deference to the rather advanced age of the typical traveler on this cruise. I wish they would use buses that have 2 doors, because waiting for all the people with canes and walkers to exit the bus at each stop was very time consuming. Food service varied from barely acceptable to very nice. We learned to get to the dining room promptly when they opened at 7:30 each morning; any later and you could wait a long time for your entree. They really should offer a buffet for breakfast, because the wait staff becomes quickly overwhelmed and they seem to not have enough short-order cooks in the galley. Lunch seemed a bit less hectic; perhaps because the limited number of entrees offered were pre-cooked and just needed to be plated. Dinner also featured uneven service. If you arrived promptly at 6:00 when they started to serve, you might get served quickly. But people are allowed to wander in any time from 6:00 to 7:30, so one couple at a table might be finishing up dessert just as another couple joined the table. ACL should adopt the strategy utilized by the European cruise lines that we've traveled (Vantage and Viking), who seem to have figured this all out. Sometimes entrees were delivered lukewarm; sometimes the lettuce in the salad was soggy and appears to have been pre-dressed. Both the lunch menu and the dinner menu changed each day, and you had to make your selection in the morning at breakfast so the cooks could plan accordingly. The only item that was consistently good were the desserts, though one in our party complained that the tres leches cake was still frozen. Many on the wait staff are very young and inexperienced, and it was actually the first time serving for some of them. It was painful to watch one young man try to nervously balance a tray of drinks without dumping them down the back of a guest... We heard that they pulled quite a few from the staff to populate the new ship that is coming on line next week, leaving our ship with a very inexperienced crew. Similar to the beginning of the cruise, we were advised on the next-to-last day that we wouldn't actually dock in St. Louis (for reasons not divulged), and would instead dock in Alton, Illinois and be bused into St. Louis for our afternoon excursion. We sat in Alton all morning with nothing to do, no shuttle bus and no excursions or suggestions offered. It was a 30-45 minute drive each way, time we would have liked to spend enjoying the city rather than on a freeway. I do realize that the shipping lines can't be held responsible for the ever-changing conditions on the river that cause itineraries to be altered. What was lacking was their communication of such changes and the reasons for the changes. If they said high water or flooding made it too dangerous, everyone would have understood. They haven't been able to dock in St. Paul or St. Louis at all this season, so why are they still advertising this as a St. Paul to St. Louis tour? It's actually a Red Wing to Alton tour. Disembarkation was the smoothest part of the process. We had to put our tagged bags out at midnite, and the bus to the airport was scheduled at 7:30. We walked off the ship, identified our bags out on the tarmac, and got on the bus. The combination of inadequate communication, being stranded in St. Louis and having to make our own way to Red Wing, the smelly room, the dirty windows and balcony, the uneven food service, and the unprofessional service in general, added up to a less-than-exceptional experience for us. We are experienced travelers used to "going with the flow", but the negatives on this cruise somewhat outweighed the positives for us. Seeing the magnificent Mississippi River from the perspective of a grand river boat, and the quaint small towns along the way, was memorable and interesting, but the overall experience with the ship itself was rather disappointing. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2019
I had always wanted to take this cruise of the Columbia River. The scenery and history was so interesting and the ship was lovely. Being a small ship with 184 passengers, everything was close. The staff was young and very hard-working ... Read More
I had always wanted to take this cruise of the Columbia River. The scenery and history was so interesting and the ship was lovely. Being a small ship with 184 passengers, everything was close. The staff was young and very hard-working and did an excellent job. The food was great and plentiful. The history of the area, following the path of Lewis and Clark, was fascinating and the geology and scenery in the area was so interesting. We loved floating down the river and seeing Washington and Oregon from a different perspective. The shore excursions were mostly included in the price of the cruise. We especially enjoyed seeing Mt St Helen. Most of the ports were in rural areas, which was fine. There’s something interesting to see everywhere. Overall we would highly recommend this cruise. Although the cost is on the high end, it is all-inclusive and we would do it again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2019
The Boat was dirty, bug infested, food was fair, service was terrible, speaker was clueless to anything about our destinations. Time in port was very short, if you got on 2nd bus for a tour, you missed out on most of the tour do to lack ... Read More
The Boat was dirty, bug infested, food was fair, service was terrible, speaker was clueless to anything about our destinations. Time in port was very short, if you got on 2nd bus for a tour, you missed out on most of the tour do to lack of time. Entertainment started out pretty good, by the end of trip it is not so good. People were nice, however, they were always apologizing for lack of serve or how dirty everything was. According to some of the crew we talked to, they just did not have enough staff and prior to us boarding, did not have enough time to clean up. The Boat advertised free Wi Fi, which really meant no Wi Fi. It was so poor, most of the time we were unable to send or receive until we got into port. Best part of this cruise was we met some very nice people and in each of the stops, found the town people very nice and friendly. Read Less
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
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2019
We chose this particular cruise for location/itinerary and the fact that it included a new riverboat. It was a very pleasant cruise overall; but there was some room for improvement. The crew/staff was especially friendly and helpful from ... Read More
We chose this particular cruise for location/itinerary and the fact that it included a new riverboat. It was a very pleasant cruise overall; but there was some room for improvement. The crew/staff was especially friendly and helpful from the captain to the officers to the servers and housekeeping staff. The dining room and snack food was tasty, plentiful and frequent, but not at a gourmet level and featured meats over chicken and local seafood. The casual cafe needs improved offerings and food preparation. Rolls, muffins, pastries and other bakery items were especially good. The wine choices--mostly local-- were varied and very drinkable, One entertainer (2 nights) was excellent, one put us to sleep and two entertainer couples were very pleasant. On board daytime activities were not for us and too many involved alcohol. The scenery was quite beautiful. A small onboard gift shop with logo souvenirs and a small toiletries selection, as well as a library would be nice additions. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2019
I chose it because of the decor depicted in the brochure and the itinerary. The decor of the ship was nothing like was depicted in their advertisements. We sailed during an impending tropical storm which they ignored and the cruise up the ... Read More
I chose it because of the decor depicted in the brochure and the itinerary. The decor of the ship was nothing like was depicted in their advertisements. We sailed during an impending tropical storm which they ignored and the cruise up the lower Mississippi river got worse. We repeatedly questioned the cruise direction inquiring about our destination considering the weather. We essentially were ignored. The decor of the rooms is average. The upper floors leaked terribly. two of our three ports were closed. The port at Baton Rouge was at flood stage and the entire city was shut down pending the coming flood. Once again we tried to get answers with no results. When then decided to disembark and catch a flight home. All the crew were first timers and inexperienced. The food was average for a cruise. The entertainment areas were small. There was one ice machine for the 100 or so passengers, The captain was relieved of duty apparently because his lack of communication with the passengers. I contacted the corporate office and their flippant response was we didn't know of any storm or problems with the America. This cruise is falsely advertised and way to expensive for what is offered. The crew is very young and inexperienced. It felt like we were on training vessel. The main office has yet to refund me any money. They offered a 1000 cruise credit which to me was an insult. If you book with this company you will regret it! Never Again! 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
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2019
I chose this cruise because it advertised as a NEW boat with a 900 sq ft. Grand Suite. I thought it would be a good way to see the Pacific North West. It assuredly does not meet "high end" expectations. The dingy suite was my ... Read More
I chose this cruise because it advertised as a NEW boat with a 900 sq ft. Grand Suite. I thought it would be a good way to see the Pacific North West. It assuredly does not meet "high end" expectations. The dingy suite was my biggest disappointment, and initially I thought I must be on the wrong ship. The food was very good. It was American cuisine, unpretentious, and better than most cruise lines. I think the food was their strongest selling point. We had a lecturer that spoke several times about the Lewis and Clark expedition, and he was quite good. They also had a guitarist-singer who portrayed a cowboy one night and a sailor another. He was also quite enjoyable. Aside from that entertainment was lacking. The lounges were nice and attractive. The personnel were all American and very nice. Unfortunately, they lacked training in the service industry. You may find yourself without the proper eating utensils, and the waiter will never notice, or forget to bring them. I was told that I could not have a certain flavor of ice cream for lunch because it was frozen solid. (?) The age of the passengers looked to be mostly over 70, and many had difficulty walking. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2019
My husband is very interested in history. Retracing Lewis and Clark's journey and making it come alive was a dream come true. The guest lecturers were very knowledgeable and interesting. I had never seen Washington or Oregon, so I ... Read More
My husband is very interested in history. Retracing Lewis and Clark's journey and making it come alive was a dream come true. The guest lecturers were very knowledgeable and interesting. I had never seen Washington or Oregon, so I was looking forward to some beautiful countryside views. It was fun to do a lot of the traveling during the day instead of at night so we could see more scenery. We went with friends and the cruise line made sure our balconies were connected (they removed the partition between them) even before we boarded the ship. Lots of personal attention from the staff made the cruise fun and pleasant. The artists on board were FABULOUS and gave art lessons to those of us who weren't as interested in history. The small size of the ship, made it easy to get to meals, cocktails, the decks and lounge, coffee, etc. The pre-cruise hotel, Historic Davenport Hotel in Spokane, Washington was an unexpected delight with its architecture and history and fine dining. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2019
We initially had chosen the cruise from New Orleans to Memphis on the new Harmony. We had already booked our flights as part of a 5 week trip when we were informed that the ship would not be ready in time. We basically had no choice but ... Read More
We initially had chosen the cruise from New Orleans to Memphis on the new Harmony. We had already booked our flights as part of a 5 week trip when we were informed that the ship would not be ready in time. We basically had no choice but take this shorter cruise. I was disappointed with the quality of the cabin, no fridge, no bathrobe for when you want to sit on the balcony and the bed was too soft! Due to the high water level of the Mississipi we only stopped in Baton Rouge and were bussed to the various plantation houses. Some of the local guides were not up to scratch. Some of the wait staff were very inexperienced and were struggling, definitely more training is needed. Most of the entertainment was good but not being American we felt the last show, Andrew Sisters impersonation, was a bit too patriotic. This cruise line is geared for the American market. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2019
My first river cruise. Choose Columbia River for the scenery. Clarkston, WA ..to Portland, OR. Travel from Houston to the cruise was a challenge. Easy to get to Portland. Getting to Clarkston,WA. Or Spokane by plane from portland ... Read More
My first river cruise. Choose Columbia River for the scenery. Clarkston, WA ..to Portland, OR. Travel from Houston to the cruise was a challenge. Easy to get to Portland. Getting to Clarkston,WA. Or Spokane by plane from portland was unrealistic so we rented a car and drove 6 hours. Once we were inClarkston it was well organized. (Car was returned to Lewiston airport hotel provided shuttle back to hotel.) Embarkation went smoothly. Just a short walk to ship ...hotel staff took our luggage to ship. My cabin was as expected. Neat clean lots of room and drawer space. HINT. When you leave it is requested you leave your key card on the desk ....no card on my desk.. plenty of staff available to get me a new card. *****Key cards are magnetized so I had problems with it demagnetizing when it was near my IPAD. Cruise was great I researched ahead of time so I knew the guests would be a mature group. The tours were adequate for the remote areas we cruised. The crew went out of their way to make sure slower guests disembarked for tours safely and with dignity.. This was my first River Cruise and there will. Be many to follow. I am not a fan of the huge cruises with thousands of guests. Yes ACL cruises are expensive. I read lots of reviews and knew what to expect Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2019
We are experienced cruisers and world travelers - this was our first time with our 11- & 9-year-old grandkids, and first time on American Cruise Lines. We embarked from Clarkston, WA and sailed west along the Snake & Columbia ... Read More
We are experienced cruisers and world travelers - this was our first time with our 11- & 9-year-old grandkids, and first time on American Cruise Lines. We embarked from Clarkston, WA and sailed west along the Snake & Columbia Rivers to Astoria, then back to Portland, OR. It was a themed cruise focusing on the journeys of Lewis & Clark. We had the kids read about L&C before departing - the old Landmark and "We Were There..." books. They were the only two kids on board; otherwise I'd estimate the median age of the 150 passengers to be ~70. The on-board speaker did a good job bringing L&C's journeys to life, and tying them in to each of the attractions we visited. We had two adjoining cabins, with a door in between (405 & 407). This felt very spacious. Crew was 100% American (not that I care, as we've never experienced this before). Service was very good (equiv. to Holland America or RCCL, but not quite Regent). Bottom line - we booked a follow-on cruise on the Mississippi based upon this experience. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2019
Great comfortable cabin on nearly new ship, but open closet hanging space is limited. Lectures were good and musical entertainment was generally adequate, we came prepared with own DVD's. Shore excursion to Mt St Helens required 90 ... Read More
Great comfortable cabin on nearly new ship, but open closet hanging space is limited. Lectures were good and musical entertainment was generally adequate, we came prepared with own DVD's. Shore excursion to Mt St Helens required 90 minute bus ride for 60 minute visit, but DVD on bus about eruption helped. Pendleton excursion definitely not worth it, would have preferred to remain on board. We enjoyed the locks and the lecturer gave commentary in the lounge. Really no other commentary or map described the areas we were passing by. We kept changing tables in the dining room until we found a server we liked - they usually cover the same 3 or so tables. Usually only a couple choices of appetizer/salad, main course and dessert. They try really hard to accommodate dietary issues, we had none. Snacks and all kinds of sodas/juices always available in several lounges. Jet boat ride on Hells Canyon did not include the sheer canyon walls I expected, but did see an eagle and big horn sheep. Three free washers/dryers with soap pods and dryer sheets provided. Embarkation is walk on from Red Lion Hotel and disembarkation was well organized. 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
Sail Date: June 2019
Doing the Lewis and Clark riverboat Cruise has always been on our bucket list. This seemed to be a good time of the year. Queen of the West is an older boat and is very intimate. Bedroom very small but haven’t spent much time in it ... Read More
Doing the Lewis and Clark riverboat Cruise has always been on our bucket list. This seemed to be a good time of the year. Queen of the West is an older boat and is very intimate. Bedroom very small but haven’t spent much time in it but to sleep. Several places where you can sit, watch the scenery, read or visit with the new friends you meet daily. Crew very attentive and Edgar to please. First morning we boarded at 10:30 AM snakes and open bar has we were oriented to our boat. Meals have been delicious! Who doesn’t like a root beer float or ice cream sundae at 8 PM?? As we travel we learn more about the history of the area we are in. Loved Astoria’s quaint look. Houses on hills like San Francisco but then you seen a doe with her fawn meandering down the street or tucked under a 300 foot fir. 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
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2019
We choose this cruise along with another couple because we wanted to sail the Mississippi River. The cost was about $11,000 per couple for the AAM Room Category and for the price, we expected a first class experience. The boat, food and ... Read More
We choose this cruise along with another couple because we wanted to sail the Mississippi River. The cost was about $11,000 per couple for the AAM Room Category and for the price, we expected a first class experience. The boat, food and most tours were a big disappointment. To start, according to the ACL brochure, the AAM category room is advertised as 326 sq. ft.. Having 20 lifetime cruises under my belt, I immediately knew this was incorrect.So I measured the room, #519, including the balcony and came up with 260 sq. ft. The other couples room, #513, advertised as the same AAM category was 240 sq.ft. This may seem like a minor complaint to some, but when you pay a premium price for a larger room you should not be deceived. There was mold behind the bathroom faucet and outside the shower area. The paint on the balcony floor was peeling and we looked at the same spider webs for 7 days on the table, outside chairs and railing. One day the maid knocked 3 quick times and just barged in for the evening turn down service. Well I just got out of the shower, so that encounter didn't go well. The boat holds 185 guests which is nice. The four travelers in our group are in the mid 60's. When we first boarded the boat, we experienced a culture shock. The average age of the other travelers had to be 75 - 80 years old. A lot of canes and few wheelchairs. So my advise to future travelers is be aware of the age group that cruise ACL. Food choices were few and not top shelf. The college age servers in the dining room are excellent. They were one of the few positives on this trip. No bar to purchase drinks. You have to wait for meals, cocktail hour and entertainment to get a drink, or bring your own!!!! I think for $11,000 a couple, there be a bar set up all day. The day of just cruising the river was boring as hell. Thank God it didn't rain. The entertainment was mediocre at best. We could not wait to disembark. 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
I've read many reviews about many cruise lines. I believe that people that are dissatisfied are way more likely to post a review than those who are completely happy with their experience. I'm going to be as objective as I know ... Read More
I've read many reviews about many cruise lines. I believe that people that are dissatisfied are way more likely to post a review than those who are completely happy with their experience. I'm going to be as objective as I know how. The only area in which I'd give a low mark is the internet connection ability. It was slow to non-existent as well as unpredictable. If you're a person who needs high speed internet service all the time, you'll be unhappy. If you have an old flip-phone and use it only occasionally, this deficiency won't matter to you. Our room, 421, largest choice for a cabin, was excellent. Spacious and comfy. Full sized bath, fantastic shower, king sized bed. The food offerings were very tasty and satisfying. If there was a weak area, I'd say it was the bread and pastries. There was no problem making up any assortment of choices three meals a day. Snacks, colas, great assortment of soft drinks were free gratis all day as well as a hot beverage machine that had every kind of hot drink imaginable. (Looked up its price and it's in the $10,000 neighborhood and they had 2). Wine, beer, heavier snacks were available between 5:30-6:30 before dinner. Bottled water and soft drinks were put in the room refrigerator daily as well as the presence of a Keurig coffee pot with a variety of pods. Rooms were cleaned twice daily. Service people were competent and friendly in all areas, dining as well as cleaning. Laundry service was complimentary. Excursions at each port on the Canadian Maritime and St. Lawrence Seaway were also complimentary. Bus tours were well planned for people with disabilities. Help was always available at a moment's notice. On the Great Lakes and Georgian Bay cruise a few had a charge, but many were complimentary. Some may complain that the price is higher than many cruise lines, but I believe when you weigh the amenities the price is well worth it. We think it's the best cruise we've been on. Read Less

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