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Tom Ogg

Age: Various

Occupation:Self Employed

Number of Cruises: Lot

Cruise Line: Delta Queen

Ship: American Queen

Sailing Date: February 11th, 2005

Itinerary: 3 Day Cruise and a 4-Day Cruise

Tom Ogg
CruiseReviews at aol.com


One of the Groups on the American Queen

The Setup:
I was the group leader a seminar facilitator for two back-to-back groups aboard Delta Queen’s American Queen paddle wheel steamboat sailing up the Mississippi River from New Orleans, Louisiana.

Getting to the Boat:
I flew non-stop from San Diego to New Orleans on Southwest Airlines and it was a non-eventful flight. Upon arrival, I grabbed a taxi to deliver me to the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel located right in the heart of the French Quarter: I was whisked through registration and was in my room within 5 minutes. Since I don’t enjoy peanuts, I was hungry and decided to immediately make my way to one of my favorite restaurants in the French Quarter, the Acme Oyster House. Popular with locals and tourists alike, I would highly recommend this restaurant if you are looking for traditional New Orleans seafood. Their oysters are the best in the city, in my opinion. New Orleans never ceases to amaze me. There seems to be one of the most unusual collections of eclectic personalities known to man wandering around the city. There is such a confluence of diversity and culture, that it boggles my mind. After walking for miles, I returned to my hotel and turned in for the evening. I slept long and sound.

Joanie woke me up with a telephone call in the morning and after a long conversation, I showered and set out for breakfast and a brisk walk in the morning’s cool air. I enjoyed walking the riverfront and the various areas of the French Quarter before returning to my hotel, packing and checking out to grab a taxi to the headquarters of the Delta Queen Steamboat Company. Check-in was a breeze. I got out of the taxi, checked my bag with a porter, walk about 50 feet into the reception lounge and addressed the counter. I had pier pick-up for my cruise documents, presented my passport and credit card, got my cruise card and then boarded the ship. It all took about ten minutes on the outside.

Summary in Advance:
I didn’t really know what to expect. I once did a crossing on the QE2 that happened to be a jazz cruise. I thought I would blow my brains out after the second day. Every bar on the ship had Dixieland jazz bands playing, what sounded to me, to be the exact same music. Don’t get me wrong, I like jazz just about as much as any other type pf music; I just don’t care for the New Orleans type of jazz, especially as a steady diet. This is what I thought I was going to see on this cruise.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

While this cruise isn’t for everybody, it does offer a unique and rewarding experience for a much broader market than I envisioned. You will like this cruise if you like antiques, Cajun dining and culture, are interested in America's history or just generally want to experience river life. This is also an excellent cruise for first timers that have not done much traveling outside of the United States or that have potential issues with motion sickness. The 3-day cruise would be an excellent first cruise experience for anyone. Finally, if you are thinking of world wide river cruises, but don't know what to expect, try one on the American Queen to sample the river cruise experience.

I anticipated an elderly crowd, but found that the 3-day cruise was quite a bit younger than I expected. There were a number of multi-generational families on the cruise, including children and they were having a ball. All in all, it was a great experience.


The American Queen Steamboat

The Boat The American Queen is the largest paddle wheel steamship ever built. At 418 feet in length and 90 feet in width, she is a wonderful size for cruising. She was purpose built as a themed floating resort and she accomplishes the task quite well. Launched in 1995, American Queen took her place on the Mississippi River as the largest paddle wheel boat to ply America’s great rivers. American Queen features 222 staterooms and accommodates up to 436 passengers.

Because of her size, the stacks and pilot house retract into the superstructure to lower her height so that she can duck under some of the bridges found on some of the upper rivers


The Ladies' Parlor

Joanie and I love antiques and our house is overflowing with them. The first step I took when I entered the American Queen was into a room named the Ladies Parlor and it almost knocked me over. Antiques were everywhere. Oak wainscoting and crown molding, antique pictures and frames, and the lamps, there were wonderful antique Victorian table and floor lamps everywhere. This ship had already impressed me.


The Entrance to Cabin 405

Cabin 405 (Category C)
I was booked into an outside cabin on deck four. The American Queen has cabins that open to the exterior deck that surrounds the cabins so that when one opens the door to their cabin, they have stepped onto an exterior deck. I was located far forward on the starboard side, just a few doors from the Chartroom. The first thing that I noticed upon entering the cabin was the antiques that adorned the interior. There was an antique dresser with a pull-down desktop on it. An antique lamp sat on top of the desk and across the room were two antique chairs with a small marble covered antique table. The Victorian wallpaper sported antique pictures of various sizes, which really gave the room a felling of being unique.


Cabin 405 Interior

My cabin had a queen-sized bed with an enclosed oak overhang. A small nightstand resided on the right side of the bed and there was a double-lighted lamp that was attached to the wall above the pillows offering separate light switches for each side of the bed. The bed itself was comfortable, but notably shorter than a standard queen-sized bed. However, I found it restful and slept great on it in spite of my height.


Another View of the Cabin

Down the small hallway was the closet that is open to the room and on the left side is another set of drawers for additional storage, The entrance to the bathroom lies between the closet and the chest of drawers. The bathroom itself is quite large and featured a full sized bathtub/shower combination, a free standing sink, toilet and plenty of room for towels and toiletries. HINT: bring a hanging toiletry bag for each person in the cabin; as it will make it much easier to keep everyone’s toiletry items under control. Full toiletry amenities (shampoo. Conditioner, body lotion, etc. are included in the cabin, as well as an excellent hair dryer.


The Closet

HINT: There is not a television or VCR in the cabin and very limited radio (3 stations) to listen to. I would suggest bringing entertainment with you, just in case. On our first cruise it rained most of the time and since I always travel with my computer and several DVD movies, as well as digital speakers for my computer and an excellent CD selection, I easily kept myself amused when I took a break from working. If you are bringing children on this cruise, I would strongly suggest that you bring a computer, DVDs, CDs and other games and entertainment. Also, note that there is no safe in the cabin, so I would leave anything quite valuable at home for this cruise.


The Bathroom

Also, there is not an Internet Café on the boat, nor is there in-cabin access, however there was a wi-fi connection available for most of the cruise and my cell phone worked about 80% of the time.

A Tour of the Ship:

The best way to explore the American Queen is to climb all the way to the very top of her. Join me as we take the exterior stairwells up to the top.

The Sun Deck (deck 6)


The Sundeck

This area of the ship is not shown on the deck plan, probably because it is a small area and blends right in to other, more strategic areas. The Sun Deck is a small area that can accommodate a good number of people that want to lay out should the sun grace the ship with enough warmth. It is located along both sides of the ship above the pool area.


The Swimming Pool and Sports Area

The Promenade Deck (deck 5)
If we walk down the stairs from the Sun Deck we enter the Swimming pool area. Note that the pool is quite small and there is no Jacuzzi. However, on a warm day, being able to jump into the cool water would be a treat. There are also two tennis tables just aft of the pool that were used heavily during the cruise.


The Fitness Center

Just forward of the pool is the entrance to the fitness center, which is comprised of 2 treadmills, 2 bikes and a small rack of light dumbbells.


The Calliopy Bar

Down the stairs to the aft of the table tennis area is the Calliopy Bar and home of the American Queen’s Calliopy, a large metal, steam driven piano that riverboats are famous for.


The Calliopy Whistles

The Calliopy Bar is the scene for much of the boat’s daytime social events. It starts in the morning with a “Build Your Own Bloody Mary Bar”. From 11 am until 5 pm hot dogs are served and starting at 1:30 you can enjoy “Margaritas on the Mississippi”. Margaritas are on $3.00 each, or you can purchase a 60 once pitcher for only $12.00.


The Calliopy Keyboard

There are several special events in this bar. Kite flying, calliopy salutes, learn to play the calliopy and crawfish boils are just some of the things you can enjoy.

The Observation Deck (deck 4)
With two exceptions, passenger cabins make up deck 4.


The Self-Service Laundry Room

If we leave the Calliopy Bar and head forward to the mid-ship stairwell and go down one deck, we will find the laundry room (located mid ship, just aft of the stairwell). It offers 2 washers and dryers that are free to use. There is also a large bucket of laundry detergent that is available for free. If you need any other laundry materials, I would suggest that you bring a small supply with you.


The Chartroom

All the way forward on deck 4, the Chartroom serves as the ship’s library and inside vantage point. It is open all the time, but the library portion is only open an hour, or so every day. The Chartroom is a very nice place to relax in peace and quiet.


The Front Porch of America Deck

The Texas Deck (deck 3)
By exiting the Chartroom and going down the forward stairs we find the Front Porch of America, This is a great area made up of chairs, rocking chairs and swinging chairs. It is a great place to relax and take in the sights and vistas while steambatin’ on the open river.


The Front Porch of America Interior

Just aft and through the doors, we enter the interior of the Front Porch of America. This is the location of a continental breakfast buffet, soft serve ice cream during the day, fresh coffee just about anytime and is used for private parties, as well. There is always something to snack on here and is a wonderful place to meet over a cup of coffee for conversations.


The Cinema / Theater

The American Queen’s theater/cinema is located mid ship and offers first run movies daily with several showings. We used the theater for meetings on a couple of occasions and it served that purpose quite well. Passenger cabins make up the balance of deck 3.

The Cabin Deck (deck 2)
I am unsure why they call this the cabin deck, as with the exception of the cabins located aft of the mid-stairwell, yet forward of the aft part of the boat, deck 2 is all public rooms.


The Engine Room Bar

Moving all the way aft on deck 2, we arrive at the Engine Room Bar. This is a great bar that offers entertainment in the afternoons and evenings. Appetizers are available most of the time the bar is open and there is seating for a good number of people.

The piano and stage faces forward from the aft wall and is framed by portholes where you can see the never-ending rotation of the paddle wheel, as it pushes the American Queen along her way. There is always a drink special being offered in the Engine Room Bar making it a very popular spot on the boat.


The Engine Room Bar's Porches

There are two small patios outside of the Engine Room Bar that are great for taking in the paddlewheel and sunshine. Doors from either side of the bar lead to the patios. There is also a door that allows you to descend one deck into the engine room itself. There is a public viewing area where you can enjoy the goings-on with the engineers and the large steam turbine that drives the two pistons that rotate the huge paddlewheel. It is very interesting to see.


The Grand Saloon

Moving forward from the Engine Room Bar we pass the doors that open to the second level of the Grand Saloon and the boxes that reside there for passenger’s pleasure in viewing the production shows and other events. These are the same boxes that one would expect to find in an old opera house from the 1800s and are quite charming, as well as functional.


Purser's Office and Tour Desk

Moving forward, we come to the grand staircase leading down to deck 1. If we skirt the staircase on the port side, we find the tour desk and the Purser’s office. This is the main business center of the boat.


Purser's Lobby

There is a wonderful area by the purser's office for simply relaxing well worth a visit.


The A Q Emporium, the American Queen's Shop

On the starboard side is the AQ Emporium, or the boat’s main shop.


The A Q Emporium Interior

The AQ Emporium carries just about everything you can imagine you might need on the boat, as well as an unbelievable array of logo products, tee shirts, coffee mugs, shot glasses, place settings and on and on. I noticed that folks were buying these products in large quantities. There are daily sales of various products, which the shoppers really enjoyed.


The Mark Twain Gallery

Moving forward still, we enter the Mark Twain Gallery. This is really a unique room indeed. Its hardwood floor, Victorian furnishings and displays of collectible antiques make this room a very rewarding experience.


Another View of the Mark Twain Gallery

There is always a coffee and tea station open for your enjoyment and several intimate areas to simply sit and read or otherwise enjoy the room.


The Reception Room and Entrance to the Mark Twin Gallery

As we exit the Mark Twin Gallery, we enter a reception room in the center of the boat. This is the main entrance/exit for folks boarding or debarking the American Queen and is a breathtaking first visual.


The Gentleman's Card Room

On the starboard side of the boat is the Gentleman’s Card Room. This room is like something out of a movie set.


The Gentleman's Card Room Snook

There is a huge mounted snook hanging on the wall, tons of Victorian furniture in an oak wainscoted and crown molded room.


The Gentleman's Card Room Antiques

A stuffed black bear and an old manual Underwood typewriter really remind you of times past. The Gentleman’s Card Room also has the American Queen’s only television set and there were always several gentlemen in the room taking in CNN or other televised events.


The Ladies' Parlor

On the port side of the boat across from the Gentleman’s Card Room is the Ladies’ Parlor. This is another breathtaking room done completely in Victorian furnishings.


The Ladies' Parlor Fireplace

There is a fireplace with a wonderful seating area and several other places to sit and enjoy the ambiance of the room. The afternoon tea was served in this room and all the ladies on the boat wouldn’t miss it. They felt is was one of the high points of the cruise. I felt that the atmosphere created by the Mark Twin Gallery, the Gentleman’s Car Room and the Ladies’ Parlor forged the entire experience for many in our group. These rooms were ever as magnificent as any you would expect to find in the most luxurious Victorian mansion anywhere on Earth.


The Debarkation Stairway

As we exit the double doors from the reception room between the Gentleman’s Card Room and the Ladies’ Parlor, we find the exterior stairway that leads to the gangways that are used to embark or debark the boat when anchored in port.


The Exterior Stairway and Ship's Exit

The gangways are lowered onto the shore for a simple and convenient way to disembark the ship.


The Main Deck Lounge

The Main Deck (deck 1)
Heading back through the Mark Twain Gallery, past the Purser’s Office and the AQ Emporium, we arrive at the main stairway that leads down to deck 1. By going down the flaring grand staircase, we arrive at the Main Deck Lounge. This large lounge is served by the rather small Captain’s Bar, but there was never an instance where it was difficult to obtain a cocktail if one wanted. There is a piano bar in front of the Captain’s Bar and this was the location of much fun and music. Many folks used the Main Deck Lounge as a general meeting place.


The J. M. White Restaurant

Forward of the Main Deck Lounge is the American Queen’s formal dining venue, the J.M. While Dining Room. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were all served in the dining room. Dinner was my favorite meal, as the service, presentation and preparation of the meal was excellent.


The Game Room

Moving aft from the dining room, we pass the Game Room on the port side. We used the game room, as our private meeting room on several occasions and it was excellent for that purpose. There were numerous games available, should someone want to use them either in the game room, or anywhere else.


The Photo Gallery

The photo gallery was right outside the Main Deck Lounge and the boat’s photographers were active during the cruise. The photos were posted and if you wanted to purchases one, you simply filled out the form and dropped it into the “order photo” box. The charge was posted to your account and the photo was then delivered to your cabin. The process made lots of sense to me.


The Grand Saloon

The main entrance to the Grand Saloon resided on either side of the mid-ship elevator bank and stairwell. This is where the production shows and other events took place. A hot breakfast and lunch buffet also were served in this wonderful room making the Grand Saloon one of the most used venues on the ship. The Grand Saloon is designed just like an old opera house with two levels. On the bottom level is general seating (all with excellent sightlines and offering an intimate relationship with the performers) and on the upper level, individual boxes that could be occupied by a small number of people in each box. The theater is very intimate and the performances were tremendous (see the separate “Entertainment” section).

Entertainment:
Those of you that have read my reviews know that entertainment is one of the least important things to me on a cruise. In fact, I rarely make the production shows on most ships and rarely enjoy them when I do attend. While there have been some entertainers that have captured my attention and imagination, for the most part, I generally take a pass on production shows in favor of conversations with fellow passengers

The entertainment on the American Queen was simply outstanding! I actually looked forward to seeing the same shows a second time on the second cruise and didn’t miss a one of them. The intimacy of the Grand Saloon, the obvious talents of the entertainers themselves, the costumes and the choreography, was tremendously excellent. The production group received two un-solicited standing ovations during the cruise and deserved more, in my opinion. The production shows were reason enough to take the cruise. I would pay to see them perform in San Diego, if they ever performed there. I give them a 10.

It seemed to be one of those situations where the intimacy of the venue, the talents of the performers, the choreography and the music were all in sync to create an overwhelming performance. Here are the folks that made up the production shows. If they are on your cruise, go early get the best seats and hold on to you hats. I am sure that these four performers have a bright future both collectively and individually.

Paula Betlem, Brian Smith, Aryn Lawrence and Glenn Springs

So here is the rundown on the rest of the entertainment.

Phil Westbrook
Phil Westbrook played the piano in the Main Deck Lounge and was absolutely FANTASTIC. He reminded me of Phileas Poon, the guy that plays the piano bar in the Red Dog Saloon, only better. His songs and stories captivated everyone and Mr. Westbrook is a “don’t miss” attraction on the American Queen. I give Mr. Westbrook a solid 10. He helped characterize and secure the uniqueness of “steamboatin”.

Jackie Bankston
I hate to sound like a broken record, but here’s another 10! She not only plays the piano and sings like a seasoned professional, her jokes, stories and own renditions of songs everyone knows, will keep you howling with laughter. She offers the finishing touch on an entertainment experience that defined the American Queen river cruise experience.

The other entertainers (the Cajun group Mouton Noir, comedian Ed Taylor and singer Chris Baum) were fine, but the folks mentioned above were stellar. It would be difficult to imagine a river cruise without them (or someone of their talent).

Dining
I enjoyed the dining on the American Queen. There was enough selections for breakfast, lunch and dinner to keep you interested in exploring the cuisine. I had some interesting Cajun dishes that I really enjoyed, however there was always a vegetarian entree and staples such as steak and salmon for those not wanting to experiment. The soups at lunch were to die for and reason enough to try and make it back to the ship for lunch. The salad bar had all of my favorite selections. On one occasion, I have the pasta chef make me linguini with large whole shrimp, tomatoes and artichoke hearts with an olive oil sauce. It was delicious.

Dinners were always a social event with appetizers (some of the shrimp were outstanding and I could have made a meal just of them) soups, salads several entree choices (always a fresh fish selection) and plenty of gourmet desserts. The service was excellent. The Maitre d' was the best I have ever seen on any ship (including premium and luxury brands).


The Calliopy Bar Hot Dog Stand

A favorite with everyone in our groups were the complimentary hot dogs served all day in the Calliopy Bar and the soft serve ice cream served in the Front Porch of America. Coffee and tea were served all the time in the Mark Twain Gallery and in the Front Porch of America, as well.

Dress Code
Everyone in our groups had a difficult time finding out what the dress code was on the cruise. Here it is. On the Captain's evening, men wore sport coats and ties mostly. There were a few suits worn and also quite a few men with open collars and no coat. Ladies were dressed similarly. The balance of the time, men wore from slacks with an open collar shirt to jeans and flannel shirts. All in all, it was a very casual cruise.

The Cruise
Friday, February 11th, 2005, New Orleans, Louisiana

While passengers were allowed to board the American Queen upon arrival at the Delta Queen terminal, the cabins were not available for occupancy until 3 pm. There was a light lunch buffet available in the Grand Saloon that consisted of lunchmeats, potato salad and garnishes to make a sandwich using the assorted breads and other treats. The ship’s shop (A Q Emporium) was open, as was the Captain’s Bar for those that desired a cocktail of any kind. People explored the first two decks (deck 1 and 2) of the American Queen until it came time to advance to their cabins. I made my way to mine, unpacked and prepared flyers for the group. After delivering the flyers, it was time for the dreaded lifeboat drill. However, the American Queen’s lifeboat drill consisted of dawning your life jacket and hanging around on the deck in front of your cabin until one of the crew checked to make sure you had put your life jacket on properly. The whole process took about five minutes.

I had brought a good amount of work with me, just completing a new book, building two new web sites and working on this review, so I spent the balance of the time in my cabin getting set up to plow into the various tasks at hand. We had scheduled a “Welcome Aboard” cocktail party at 6 pm, so I was off to the Engine Room Bar to meet the rest of the group. I had cruised with some of the folks before, so it was more like a reunion for most of us. There was also a representative from the Delta Queen Steamboat Company traveling with us and it was a pleasure to meet him as well. After a 45-minute social hour, everyone was keen on attending the evening’s entertainment. The American Queen had two dinner sittings, one at 5:30 pm and the other at 8 pm. We had the main seating at 8 pm, so the American Queen offered a pre-dinner show for main seating and an after-dinner show for those dining at 5:30. This evening’s entertainment was “Take Me to the River” an excellent production of singing and dancing. The show won a standing ovation from the passengers and it was one of the few shows that I have ever thoroughly enjoyed. From the show a number of us went to the Captain's Bar where Mr. Phil Westbrook was playing the piano and singing. I found Mr. Westbrook especially entertaining, as he reminded me of Phileas Poon of Red Dog Saloon fame in Juneau, Alaska. He sounded the same, sang many of the same songs and even had the same type of humor.

Our group shared two adjoining tables for dinner and we entered the restaurant right on time. This evening’s dinner offered appetizers, soup, salad, entrée and dessert. I had coconut shrimp, a seafood gumbo, spinach salad and lobster. The meal was excellent and indicative of dinners to follow. I found the food on the American Queen very much to my liking. Servings were generous without being too much. The preparation and presentation was wonderful and the service excellent. After lingering dinner conversation, I turned in for the evening.

Saturday, February 12th, 2005; Steamboatin’ on the Mississippi
The river was quite high (within a foot of the top of the levee in some places) making the first port impossible to stop at, so we spent the day making our way to Baton Rouge, our second port. I took breakfast in the “Front Porch of America” as it offered a continental breakfast in a casual surrounding. There were actually three dining venues for breakfast; a continental breakfast in the Front Porch of America, a buffet breakfast with hot choices in the Grand Saloon and a full formal sit-down breakfast in the restaurant. I spent the morning working in my cabin and then chose to take lunch in the Grand Saloon where I was treated to a wonderful salad bar complete with specialty soup choices and various mixed salads, as well. Each day found a different specialty selection here. One day a pasta station (I had them make linguini with artichoke hearts, shrimp and tomatoes) another day was a sandwich bar where you could create your own sandwiches and so on. The soups were creative and wonderful. My favorite for the cruise was a lobster and corn chowder, We had scheduled a meeting for 2 pm in the Theater and we arrived right on time for an excellent presentation by the Delta Queen Steamboat Company. When we broke from the presentation, a good number of us met and continued to discuss business for a few more hours in the Main Deck Lounge.

With barely enough time to get ready for the evening’s events, I changed into my sport coat and barely made it to the “Captain’s Welcome Aboard Champagne Reception”. I had checked with the Delta Queen office before I left to find out the appropriate dress for the cruise and was told that all was needed was a sport coat for the Captain’s party. I will confirm that to you. I wore slacks and a short sleeve shirt every evening except for the Captain’s evening where I wore slacks, a white dress shirt, tie and a sport coat. I was probably overdressed for the evening, as many men did not wear a tie and some did not even wear a sport coat. The dress code for the cruise is very casual, so leave that tux at home. After the Captain introduced his team, Eric, the cruise director introduced the evening’s entertainment. The show was entitled “Yesterday” and was a tribute to the Beatles. I guess it was during the show when I realized that my expectation of hearing Dixieland jazz, barbershop quartets and other stereotyped entertainment that was evolved for an older generation was way off base. I realized that baby-boomers are now considered the maturing generation and that many of the venues catering to a mature market were realizing that, as the baby boomers mature, they have tastes that are different than their parents. The American Queen was succeeding at entertaining a younger crowd with performances geared for them. Dinner rewarded us with another fine dining experience. We arrived in Baton Rouge at about 10:30 pm and many in our group went ashore to visit the casino. I went to bed.

Sunday, February 13th, 2005; Baton Rouge, Louisiana
It was a rainy day in Baton Rouge and after a late breakfast, I decided to take a walk into town to see what I could see. It was drizzling, as I left the ship and crossed over the railway tracks into the main convention center for Baton Rouge. I walked quite a ways before realizing that every thing was going to be closed with the exception of a small news stand where I purchased a Sunday paper and a couple of magazines. It started pouring rain, so I decided to return to the ship for the day and work. It proved to be a good decision as the rain continued and then fog rolled in for a few hours making visibility difficult, at best. I worked all day and got quite a bit accomplished before making my way to the Captain’s Bar for a pre-dinner glass of wine. This evening’s show was entitled “An Evening in Acadiana” and was a tribute to Cajun culture. The highlight was a comedy skit by one Mr. Ed Taylor, an elderly Cajun character that told many Cajun jokes. His delivery was outstanding. As this was the final dinner for the first group, we had become friends and enjoyed one another’s company and personalities. It is funny how even just a short time on a cruise can bond folks. I hit the sack.

Monday, February 14th, 2005; New Orleans, Louisiana
We arrived in the early morning and I took my time getting ready to spend the day exploring New Orleans. The fact was, I felt lethargic missing my normal workouts and after being in my cabin so much of the cruise. I decided to walk into the French Quarter from the Delta Queen terminal. It is really an easy walk actually. Just turn to the right when you leave the terminal until you hit the first opening on the left. You will parallel the side of the convention center until you round the corner to the front of it. From there, just walk along the front of the center, under the bridge until you finally hit the other end of it. You can then take the walkway and escalator up to the Riverwalk Shopping Center and walk its length, which will deposit you at the foot of Canal Street. From here, you can head in any direction you wish. I walked for miles enjoying the sites, people and uniqueness of New Orleans. After some oysters at Aft Deck on Royal Street, I decided to walk back to the Delta Queen terminal by retracing my steps. I don’t mind saying that I was exhausted from the hike. Back on board, I reconfirmed everything for the new group, made and delivered flyers and then began to get ready for the evening’s cocktail party. I met the group in the Engine Room Bar for a “Welcome Aboard” cocktail party, attended the evening’s show and then moved into the restaurant for dinner. All in all, it was a great beginning for the group. I immediately went to bed after dinner and a long hot bath and slept like a newborn baby.

Tuesday, February 15th, 2005; Steamboatin’ on the Mississippi
I woke up early and noticed that the river was especially smooth this morning. It was only after I had grabbed a cup of coffee in the Front Porch of America that I realized that the boat was dead in the water against the levee on the river’s edge. Apparently, the fog had reached a point where the Captain made the decision to wait it out and simply pulled over to the side of the river to park. This was at about 4 am in the morning. We finally were able to continue our journey at about noon when the fog lifted and visibility was good enough to navigate the river. We spent the day cruising up the Mississippi. Our group met at 2 pm for a seminar hosted by Delta Queen Steamboats and then broke for a private meeting for an hour or so. We agreed to continue meeting every day and the exchange of ideas was excellent. The Captain’s champagne reception was this evening and everyone was ready for it in plenty of time. This started the déjà vu experience for me, as I had just experienced this part of the cruise on the very last sailing. Following the Captain’s champagne reception was the production show “Take me to the River” by the American Queen Ensemble. Once again, they received a standing ovation from the audience (and they deserved it). Even though I had just seen this very production 3 nights prior, I still was captivated by the performance. Don’t miss it, whatever you do! We had a great dinner and then I was off to bed.

Wednesday, February 16th, 2005; St. Francisville, Louisiana
In spite of warnings from some of the crew about the distance and complexity of getting to St. Francisville by walking, another couple and I decided to walk it for the exercise. It ended up being an easy and moderately short walk into town and we were rewarded with some superb views of the historic district, which was right on the way. This is a quaint and charming village made up of restored Victorian homes and businesses and is well worth a visit. Since I had scheduled a seminar at 2 pm, I decided to power walk back to the ferry landing and made it from the center of town (to the ferry) in just under 40 minutes. I felt very refreshed from the exercise. Back on board, I had a small salad and then showered for the seminar. What a great exchange we had!

The late afternoon found our group in the Calliopy bar enjoying a libation before dinner. The afternoon sunshine was delightful. This evening’s show entitled “Yesterday” was the same production as I had seen on the prior cruise, however this evening’s performance was tremendous. The group had obviously made many changes for the better from their first performance, as I had witnessed it on the last cruise. Dinner was especially enjoyable.

Thursday, February 17th, 2005; Baton Rouge, Louisiana
I was up early and spent the morning working in my cabin before taking a long walk to explore Baton Rouge. While it was drizzling on and off, it was enjoyable to get out and about. I found a huge Cajun cook book that I purchased for Joanie and since it weighed about ten pounds, I decided to drop it back at the ship. One of the couples from the last group had dined at Shucks on the Levee in Baton Rouge and highly recommended it. I decided to take lunch at Shucks to sample it. After a short Internet session at the Marriott Hotel, I entered Shucks. While it was good, I didn't have the same opinion of it as the couple did. Give it a try and see what you think.

I spent the afternoon in a seminar session with the group in the Game Room. It is funny how this group had bonded, as the other had. Everyone had a wonderful cruise and was sad to see the end of the short journey. The evening's show was the exact same as the last evening's of the last cruise, so I decided to skip it in favor of staying in my cabin to pack for my departure in the morning. Dinner was bitter sweet. It was an excellent meal, but also the final one for the cruise. I had made a whole group of new friends on this cruise (just like the last) and we all promised to do a reunion cruise in the future. After dinner, I went to the Engine Room Bar for a nightcap before turning in.

Friday, February 18th, 2005; New Orleans, Louisiana
The American Queen arrived at the Delta Queen headquarters early in the morning and I was off the boat by 9am, took a taxi to the airport ($35 including tip) and then waited for my 2:45 pm flight on Southwest to San Diego. With stops in Houston and El Paso, it seemed like a lifetime before we started our final approach into San Diego's Lindberg Field. I don't know if San Diego is special, or if everyone feels the same way when returning home, but I so treasure the views of the Coronado Bridge, the downtown lights and the San Diego Harbor when landing, that it makes me proud to live in San Diego and feels so good to be home.

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