Number of Cruises: 18
Cruise Line: Delta Queen
Ship: American Queen
Sailing Date: March 25th, 2003
Itinerary: Cincinnati to Memphis 6 nights
“The steamboats were
finer than anything on shore — like palaces.”
Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi.
Prologue: Like no other industry conceivable, the travel industry around the world has been affected by multiple events since September 11, 2001. Affected are; our community travel agents, cruise lines, airlines and all facets of travel and tourism. There is no denying this effect — there is no reason to dance around these issues that gnaw at the public. We should begin to face our world and find ways to explore, for exploration is an essential component embedded in the very essence of mankind.
Discovery: I have discovered for ‘would-be vacationers’ a spring, summer or fall taste of Americana — like Yankee Doodle Dandy, Apple Pie, and Southern Belles! I present the Delta Queen Steamboat Company and her splendid steamer; The American Queen.
We boarded the American Queen in Cincinnati near the riverfront stadiums, and the city was aglow. The American Queen was stunning with her multiple American flags and her calliope belting out American standard tunes. Before I had even glanced into the Steamboat’s interior I immediately felt — “This voyage of discovery seems right.”
The Steamboat: Before the Civil War over 11,000 steam paddle wheelers plied America’s rivers, and today a scant handful of this style boat remain in service. American Queen is the largest steam paddle wheeler known in the world at 418 feet. She has 222 staterooms with a passenger capacity of 436. A few staterooms will accommodate singles, and some a third person. They range in size from economical to spacious, but all are elegantly appointed in turn of the century ambience.
Though much newer than her sister ship and matriarch of the river, The Delta Queen (cir. 1927), the craftsmen kept the traditions of elegant river boats in mind when designing the American Queen, and improved upon time honored traditions. Nothing has been given up, but amenities like a workout room, a small swimming pool and a movie theater with popcorn make vacationing up to the standards of today’s clientele.
It was all so wonderfully special — where to start becomes a problem. When you first enter the American Queen you are in awe of the dark rich woodwork, and 1800’s and Victorian decor. The Mark Twain gallery is a comfortable relaxation area, library, and museum quality showplace.
There is a gentleman’s and also a ladies parlor — each in a mode of rich elegant turn of the century luxury. Though television is not a top priority on Steaming Days, there is a television behind a boar’s head in the gentleman’s parlor, one at the calliope bar, and one in the workout room.
Your days aboard the American Queen are not about television soaps and game shows, but of discovery and appreciation of this fine vessel, your homeland of America and its beauty as seen by her various rivers, cities and small towns!
“The thrill and challenge
after 12 years as a captain is that the rivers are always changing. Each trip I
am privileged to show new and repeat passengers our beautiful country with the
elegance of the American Queen.”
John Davitt, Master and Captain
To do aboard: Days upon the American Queen can be much to do ... or much ado about nothing at all, except taking in the scenery and ports of call. It is — simply put — your relaxing visit to America’s heartlands traveling in style and comfort.
The on-board band and entertainment staff are among the best on any cruising vessel, and we felt the mix of Dixieland jazz, with all the loved standards gave music lovers and dancers a wide diversity.
The featured nightly shows ran the gambit from “Dixieland Night” to “The Fifties” and the patriotic “God Bless America” show themes. The shows are in the Grand Saloon, the two story opera house modeled after the Ford Theater in Washington, D.C.
Daily from the deck you always saw the American flags in the breeze, and often heard the calliope belting out Americana ... This was where we wanted to be this spring on vacation — in America’s heartland — on the elegant American Queen steamboat.
A useful and informative addition on the American Queen were discussions with and by Riverlorian (river historian) Clara Christensen. A long time employee of the Delta Queen Company, Clara is a dedicated river steamboatin buff who seems to know almost anything you can think to ask her, or she has the on-board resources to find out. Clara has the where, why, and how information to develop your river exploration into a special memory.
Dining: Options abound! Breakfast can be easy and quick near the fantastic American Queen mammoth front porch, or a buffet arrangement in the Grand Saloon, or you can order in the elegant J.M. White dining room, where evening meals are served.
Lunch can be decked-out-dogs near the calliope bar with chips and drinks, or again you can visit the Grand Saloon buffet or the more elegant main dining room. There is a menu to match your every mood.
It only took three nights to come to the conclusion that the Delta Queen company excels in dining. Executive chef Keith Bryant served up what we feel is one of the very best cruising menus afloat — and this includes luxury ocean liners. The selection was varied and thoughtfully included vegetarian menus nightly. Overall — superior 5 star dining! Mardi Gras night in the dining room was a festive, beaded, musically filled dining party — Bravo American Queen!
Itineraries: This is where repeat clients come in so strong for the Delta Queen Steamboat Company. Just as Mark Twain got hooked on the elegant floating hotels, many clients do no other kind of cruising. The American Queen offers many ways to see new things. Your itinerary may lead you to Minneapolis, or Mobile — Pittsburgh, Nashville or the city everyone loves and the home port for the company — Nawlins!
Cruises can range from three nights to any combination of lengths. Most people cruise six or seven nights on average. Many itineraries have special themes and known entertainers such as — The Russ Morgan Orchestra, or the sophisticated soul of the Ink Spots may fill entertainment billings.
Our itinerary took us through the engineering marvel of the McAlpine locks in Louisville, under the Sherman Minton bridge and then past the magnificent 1837 Cedar Farm Estate near Laconia, Indiana. By cellular phone Barry Westerman, cnhi and local professional photographer, and I coordinated photos of the American Queen as she passed by New Albany’s riverfront.
The American Queen ported in Henderson Kentucky where we toured the region known for James Audubon, then on to Paducah, Kentucky. Paducah was a delightful surprise of restored historic buildings. Paducah’s river flood wall serves as a historic story artwork forum, and the MAQS — Museum of American Quilter’s Society, draws national attention to this popular small river city.
Some people reading this might say “ho hum” to quilts. This magnificent collection is more than painstaking work, it is pure creative art of America. Some quilts were obvious works of genius mixed with time and patience. The museum brings in thousands of quilt enthusiasts per year, and it is a showpiece for the area. It is really quite wonderful!
Now on to New Madrid, Missouri where in 1816 America’s most violent earthquake caused the Mississippi to flow backwards and created Reelfoot lake in Tennessee. The small sleepy river town offered an interesting costumed historic tour of the Hunter Dawson home cir. 1850. The Hunter’s were local merchants, and the home is elegantly interesting and is being fully restored.
Our six night visit on the American Queen ended in Memphis, the home of the Beale Street jazz quarter, the National Civil Rights Museum (an emotionally stirring experience), and of course Elvis’s Graceland where you too can buy your own swivel-hip Elvis Clock!
Critique: When a product or service gets it right there is not much to recommend or criticize. I would suggest one addition to the American Queen — that is to put one more television in the ladies parlor, so that there are little qualms about whether to watch CNN, sports, or soaps for those who cannot break away from television. Overall, the American Queen is easily a steamboatin Americana five star adventure — one you could easily get hooked on!
Epilogue: I can close my eyes, and hear the calliope playing show tunes — I can visualize passengers flying kites from the aft deck and the numerous American flags proudly waving in the river breezes. The sun and blue skies brought one new vista after another as we explored the best place I know on earth — America!
“The face of the river, in
time, becomes a wonderful book ... not one to be read once and thrown aside, for
it has a new story to tell every day.”