Review: American Queen Steamboat Company
Review: Sailing the Mississippi River with the American Queen Steamboat Company
When Carol and I decided to sail aboard and review the American Queen Steamboat Company, I was a bit nervous.
You see, my preconceived notion was that this experience might be akin to dining at the Cracker Barrel versus dining with an award-winning chef. And as we are more towards the luxury end of the travel spectrum, I was afraid that I might have to write a negative article.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Craker Barrel. After all, who doesn’t like a little biscuits and gravy every now and then? But when we travel, we’re looking first for a memorable experience and we certainly don’t mind a little luxury and pampering.
Well, thankfully, I won’t need to write any negativity. We found the American Queen to be quite lovely, in a Historic Hotel of America kind of way, and our total experience was fabulous. In fact, we both want to sail with the American Queen Steamboat Company again. Maybe next time on the Columbia and Snake Rivers.
Plus, another great benefit, I didn’t have to fly halfway around the world to get there. We flew from Phoenix to Memphis in two hours. 🙂
Our Ship: The American Queen Steamboat Paddlewheeler
The American Queen is the largest river steamboat ever built.
Here are a few interesting facts:
- The American Queen was launched in 1995 and was fully refurbished in 2013.
- The boat has 222 staterooms with a capacity of 436 guests with a crew of 160.
- The paddlewheeler is powered by a stern steam-powered paddlewheel with secondary propulsion coming from a set of diesel-electric propellers “z-drives” to maneuver in the tight spots.
- She has 6 decks and measures 418 ft long, 89 ft wide, and 109.5 ft high with a draught of 8.5 ft.
- The American Queen Steamboat is also a member of the Historic Hotels of America.
- It was highfalutin. Each day, the American Queen’s Riverlorian would give a talk to impart the history and lore of riverboating on the Mississippi River. During one of his lectures, he told us that the word highfalutin is jargon that originated on the Mississippi riverboats. As you can see in my photograph, the steamboat’s smokestacks are fluted. And evidently, if you were lucky enough to have the wherewithal to afford one of the highest staterooms on the ship, then you were “highfalutin”. Carol and I enjoyed a suite on deck five, so we surely must have been highfalutin. 🙂
- First Impressions. Carol and I were granted access aboard the ship 30-minutes before the rest of the passengers. This allowed us time to quickly view the different classes of staterooms on the ship and to explore some of the ship’s common areas. I must admit, any reservations I had about the quality of the ship immediately melted away. The ship was stunning and gave you the feeling of sailing on the best of the best in an 1800s, historic sort of way. The surroundings were 5-star and we fully expected Mark Twain to be sitting in his namesake lounge. To view photographs from our initial tour of the boat, click here to visit our Facebook Page.
- Our Dining Experiences. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served each day in the opulent J.M. White Dining Room. Breakfast and Lunch are open seating with dinner offering two seatings: early (5:15) and main (7:45). As an alternative, the Front Porch Cafe also offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a more casual setting. Plus, the Front Porch Cafe offers a smoked prime rib every night. That was very popular. All in all, we were beyond pleased with the quality of the cuisine and the attentiveness of the staff was excellent. As you might expect, there was a wonderful selection of southern cooking dishes each night as well as more traditional dishes like steak and chicken. I couldn’t get enough of the lightly breaded fried catfish. YUM!
- Sailing the Mississippi. We recommend sailing downstream. We sailed downstream from Memphis to New Orleans. Our first day was a relaxing and beautiful 24-hour sailing through the Mississippi Delta until we reached our first port: Vicksburg, Mississippi. Once we reached Vicksburg, then the rest of our sailing was primarily at night kicking off with a wonderful brief concert on the authentic steam calliope. Here is a sunset photograph I shot as we were leaving the port at Natchez, Mississippi.
- Our Accommodations. The American Queen Steamboat can accommodate up to 436 passengers in 222 staterooms. The staterooms range from solo traveler inside staterooms to expansive suites with private verandas. We enjoyed a Luxury Suite (category LS #517) which gave us a private entry from inside the ship and an open veranda which you can see pictured above. Our suite entitled us to pre-boarding privileges, preferred dining arrangements, reserved balcony seating in the Grand Saloon Theater and the services of a river butler who handled all of our arrangements in each port, brought us canapes every afternoon, took care of some laundry for us, and just about anything else we might need complete with a big smile. We enjoyed our accommodations and found them to be comfortable with all of the luxury amenities that a luxury traveler would expect. Here are some photographs of our suite and our river butler: Adam.
- Our Shore Excursions. American Queen Steamboat has a fleet of five luxury motor coaches following us down the river. When it was time to visit our destination each morning, the five coaches would provide hop-on hop-off services in each town. The buses were available every 15-minutes and we could get off and on as we pleased. Plus, if one of the stops was a museum or plantation house that might require an entrance fee, those fees were paid by the American Queen. Additionally, in the morning hours, each coach had a local guide aboard that gave us an informative introduction to each stop and the city as we moved from place to place. Further, there was also a fascinating supply of optional excursions that guests could also enjoy. For example, one afternoon, Carol and I enjoyed a guided tour through the Civil War Vicksburg Battle Field. Contrary to Europen river cruises, the ship and motor coaches were also able to accommodate the disabled, complying with U.S. law.
- Our Nightly Entertainment. In two-separate seatings each night, we all enjoyed entertainment in the Grand Saloon theater. Modeled after Ford’s Theater where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, we were regaled each night by a very talented jazz band and singers. As we enjoyed box seating each night, I was just hoping that I wasn’t in the same box as President Lincoln. As our river butler brought us cocktails each night, he assured us both that we were safe and that John Wilkes Booth was quite dead.
Well, this article has gotten to be over 1,100 words. So, it’s time to button up our review of the American Queen Steamboat Company. I suppose at the end of the day, folks might ask, “would you do it again and would you recommend American Queen to your clients”.
The answer: YES and YES. In fact, as I mentioned above, Carol and I would now like to enjoy an American Queen sailing sometime in the future on the Columbia and Snake rivers.
The American Queen Steamboat Company is a part of our Virtuoso Voyages program. This means that when you book an American Queen sailing through Roaming Boomers Travel Services, you will receive exclusive complimentary amenities that you wouldn’t get by booking directly with the company.
Additionally, you will also enjoy our expert hands-on service and care for your booking. And, the price is exactly the same booking with us or booking with the company.
For more information or to book an American Queen Steamboat Company river cruise, please call Roaming Boomers Travel Services at (480) 550-1235 or use our convenient online information request (click here) and we’ll reach out to you.
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