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.
I share this room with another lady. We had twin beds. Our bathroom was large and modern. Our TV with large and HD with a sufficient offering of channels. Our veranda was a must have in my opinion. We were on the third deck which was quiet.