Just came back from the American Queen Steamboat – Bluegrass and Bourbon themed River Cruise from Cincinnati to St. Louis.
The Ohio and Mississippi Rivers are so smooth and quiet – I really loved just drifting along in harmony with nature with the gentle sounds of the water spilling from the paddlewheel. There is a huge open verandah area they call the ‘front porch’ with hanging swings and big comfy rocking chairs and it’s a perfect spot to really relax and let the scenery float by while enjoying endless complimentary fancy Southern style ‘sweet tea’, gourmet coffees, fresh baked cookies, popcorn and ice cream.
This river voyage passes through so many amazing locks and under bridges so low they have to ‘lower the smoke stacks’ and drop down the wheelhouse to fit under them. The vantage points to enjoy this from give a much closer look than when passing through the Panama Canal. The Riverlorian offered me a book from his library that was a true story about a couple who built and lived on their own shantyboat in the early 1900’s and it was perfect – as the areas I was enjoying reading about coincided exactly with the birds, trees, and scenes passing before my eyes. I enjoyed it so much I have since taken to reading the further books by the same author and can’t wait to return to do another section of the river someday.
The dining on this ship offered a nice variety of options with some local flair but service in the main dining was disappointing but we discovered that the ‘front porch buffet’ was actually great food too and the staff there took personal interest in helping us. While the selection may have been more limited there and it was buffet style – we really ended up preferring it over the main dining room and wouldn’t hesitate to make it our main venue on future trips. Wine and beer were included during dinner in both areas and while the buffet area is smaller it never seemed crowded because the porch area provided extra out door seating.
The entertainment on this boat was far above what we had expected. The young people on their staff were some of the best talent I’d seen on any cruise line and the on board special events were very well done. The ‘themed’ events with bourbon tastings and the bluegrass musicians were excellent.
I also really enjoyed the old fashioned ‘museum quality’ ambiance and furnishings. It was like being in Mark Twain’s era and I spent several hours curled up in a comfy window seat in the ‘ladies’ parlor’ with a book and hot cocoa as we drifted quietly down the river while a few others worked on jig saw puzzles. I can’t recall feeling so relaxed on a cruise before. It always seems like there is just so much going on and I’m reluctant to miss out – but in spite of having a lot going on – this smaller boat just makes it easier to find time and space to kick back; especially on the day without a port.
The WiFi was problematic. They provide a computer in the Mark Twain Gallery but it was so slow to work that you could read 3-4 pages of a book in between each keystroke! Those who had brought their own devices with service through their own providers seemed to be having much better luck.
The included ‘hop on and hop off’ tours which they provided at each landing were really very well done. The local docents and guides always meet the boat and cheerfully guide you to anything of interest and the bus makes it easy to get around to each point of interest. I didn’t expect to enjoy so much along these little towns on the river but ended up running out of time for all the neat things to see and do that I feel compelled to return sometime by car and take much longer to enjoy them. Each town has its own unique points of interest like historic homes and train museums, Civil War sites, Quilting museum, Bluegrass Music museums, and of course we visited Bourbon Distilleries and did tastings too.
I could really see grandparents wanting to take a grandchild on this trip – because they have window cabins which ‘connect’ to inside cabins so it would be so easy to have family with you and yet each have your own space. Also – while they are not providing kids programs or activities – if a child were of the right age to enjoy hearing about nature and animals and seeing them up close – and liked to read or do games and puzzles – I don’t think they’d be bored. They have bikes to borrow when you go ashore and a small pool and endless ice cream – so this could be a great trip for old and young to share together.
I’m looking forward to experiencing their other ship the Empress in the Northwest and also hope to get back on the Mississippi again and see New Orleans on one of their themed Civil War trips!
Cathy Hale-Pillsbury | VACATION SPECIALIST
Carefree Vacations, Eastlake Branch
619.591.7210 |878 Eastlake Pkwy., Ste. 1011 | Chula Vista, CA 91914
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