Over the recent Christmas holiday, we had the privilege of cruising on the Grand American Queen Steamboat. We cannot say enough about how much we enjoyed the experience.
The staff and crew went out of their way to provide an absolutely wonderful experience. There was some minor improvements necessary in some areas, but what holiday would be complete if everything was perfect.
Ship – They call them boats on the river. We decided on an authentic paddlewheel boat as compared to some other more “modern looking” riverboats that seem to be copying the design of some European riverboats that we have sailed upon. The boat was of grand stature. The woodwork and the antiques aboard make it a floating museum. All was in good maintenance and the rooms were of good size. Some of the furniture has that Victorian era feel to it. We liked it, although the carpets in the rooms could have been a bit brighter. The wrap around veranda was so much more enjoyable than the individual private balconies we have experienced on ocean liners. We are a bit social and enjoyed finding out where people came from and their backstories.
Food - The food was well done. Probably on the level of ocean liners. Service was not robotic like we get on big cruise ships, but rather very social and kind by an All-American crew. It was nice to support their jobs. They seemed to appreciate our conversation with them. The only problem is that the early seating is too early and the later seating is too late. I can’t believe they could not tighten up their service times.
Entertainment - Comparable or better than most other ships. It blows the European River cruise entertainment out of the water. It was very energetic with excellent live musicians and wonderful singers. They even performed at a Christmas Gala at Nottoway Plantation off the boat one night. It was real treat. More on that later.
Shore Excursions – By far this was the best part of the cruise. We took the cruise because of the area of the river and because they were offering Christmas markets. The Hop On – Hop Off Included Tour is the best system we have seen in our over 40 cruises. The organization that runs these buses and guides need to be acknowledged. They included admissions to just about EVERY attraction in the towns. The buses, (they call them River Coaches) came to each stop every 15 minutes (30 minutes in the afternoon when most guests were enjoying the other tours or taking a nap) and delivered us safely and with great narration by local guides. We were highly impressed. They also offered optional tours (Premium Excursions) that were spot on with descriptions and provided very unique experiences that we could not have booked on our own. We even went inside of a maximum security prison and had a one on one talk with an inmate serving a life sentence. VERY powerful.
Christmas Markets - The cruise line provided local craftspeople at “Plantation Markets”. We had been on a European Christmas markets cruise previously and had an idea of what we might expect. We were wrong. These markets were much more personal, with locally sourced American products, and provided a great experience. It was an Americanized version of a European tradition. It was extremely well done and we met the young lady who arranged it for the cruise line. She was lovely and was working very hard and hands on to make certain we were all pleased with the shopping.
Overall, we would highly recommend this cruise lines. We heard some confusion over the names of the companies providing cruises on the Mississippi. Both have American in their name, but this “Queen” lived up to her royal stature.
We plan on now heading to the Upper Mississippi next with a cruise from Red Wing to St. Louis. We might try one of their other boats. Seems they are newer and have some other amenities. They do offer the Ohio and Tennessee river cruises, but they really don’t excite us. We want to see some fall foliage from the river side next!
Very comfortable Beds. Little dark on the floor. Loved the open Veranda.