Number of Cruises: 10
Cruise Line: Great American Steamboat Company
Ship: Grand American Queen
Sailing Date: 2012-11-12
Itinerary: Mississippi river from Saint Louis to New Orleans
The boat is beautiful.
Cruising down the Mississippi from Saint Louis to New Orleans was a wonderful experience.
The entertainment throughout the boat, performers and musicians, was excellent. The land tours were very good, the hop on, hop off tour concept is a great idea allowing you to tour a town at your own pace. The small towns we visited were delightful, the people very welcoming and friendly.
The Riverlorian was excellent; he really knew the river and did a great job of answering questions and explaining navigation and maneuvering on the river.
Our stateroom attendant was excellent, always smiling and ready to help with any requests.
The cruise director did a very good job.
Nadia, the hostess, bartender and waitress in the Front Porch was great.
The service in the main dining room was very uneven. Some of the wait staff were very professional and enthusiastic in doing their job; others seemed like trainees just going through the paces with no enthusiasm.
The food preparation was very uneven too. Often the food was either undercooked or over cooked. The first dinner on board one of my wife's quail was almost raw inside and my braised short rib was dry and not very tender. Another time one of my wife's lamb chops was way too rare. I tried a crab cake egg Benedict one morning and the poached egg on top was hard boiled.
Even the Captain's Dinner, which is supposed to be the best meal of the cruise, was not up to par. One of the two oysters in my appetizer of Oysters Rockefeller was the size of a shriveled grape. For the main course we both had the lobster, mine was fine, with a nice crab sauce on top but my wife's was dry and tough with no sauce. The main dining room was just not the 5 star operation it should be.
The complimentary wine program was really a puzzle too. While they are featuring regional food on the cruise most of the wines were from foreign countries, Italy, Chile and Germany with a few California wines thrown in. Missouri alone has 111 wineries, why not feature regional wines to go with the meals? I'm sure there are any number of wineries along the Mississippi that would love to have their wines served on board.
Disembarkation was a total disaster. Because we were going to be staying in New Orleans for a few days we were on our own as far as transportation goes. I asked one of the tour directors that morning if it was necessary to call a taxi. She replied that there would be plenty of taxis waiting at the cruise terminal. Those, like us who were traveling independently were the last ones to be allowed off the boat. When we got to the bottom of the ramp our luggage was waiting there but there were no taxis. Another passenger who was traveling independently was coming from the bus loading area and told us that not only were no taxis but the taxis were not allowed in the terminal so we would have to take our luggage outside the terminal to get a taxi. This meant going completely around the outside of the terminal to the street. The only person from the ship, in sight, was one of the porters. I asked him if he could help us with our luggage but he said because we were traveling independently he was not allowed to help us. There were none of the cruise staff anywhere in sight. We had 2 large bags and 4 small ones and no choice but to haul them ourselves. My wife is 79 years old and weighs about 100 pounds, this was outrageous.
My wife took one of the small bags and pulled a large one; I took the other three small bags and pulled the other large one. We had to stop every couple of hundred feet so my wife could rest. This went on for a while until it just became too much for my wife. My wife stayed with the luggage while I went ahead to see how much further we had to go. We had made it about half way to the street, a young man offered to help so I paid him to haul my wife's luggage. We finally made it to the street, almost a quarter mile from where we started, and to the Hilton hotel across the street where the doorman was kind enough to get us a taxi. This is just not acceptable from what is supposed to be a five star operation. We were literally just dumped at the end of the cruise.
I have been going on cruises, both ocean and river, for 50 years and this is the most expensive on a cost per day basis that I have taken and it is nowhere near the best. The cost per day for the 2 of us was more than $1,100.00 and I have taken cruises for less than a third of that that were as good or better.
To put it in perspective, at the end of the cruise we spent 5 days and 4 nights in New Orleans. The total cost for that stay, including a good hotel, all meals including an excellent dinner at Commander's Palace, tours and transportation, cost less than 1 day on the American Queen. The dining room staff on the American Queen should take lessons from the staff at Commander's Palace, which is truly a first class operation from beginning to end.
Their customer service is a joke, I called the customer service number on their website 4 times and was never able to speak to a customer service representative. The first time I called was 3 days before my cruise with a question and I got voice mail. The call wasn't returned before my cruise, they left a message on my home phone some time while I was gone.
The second time I called the day after disembarkation because of the major problem I had the day before. The call was answered by the head of cruise reservations. I told him about the problem I had and he said he would have the head of customer relations contact me. Because I was staying in New Orleans for a few days after the cruise I left my email address so she could contact me on my laptop.
A week later on Monday I had still not heard from her so I called again, this time the operator said she would email the customer relations manager and have her contact me. Another week went by and no one contacted me. I called the following Tuesday and this time I was told that their system had crashed and my phone number was lost. They had my email address, why not email me? I was given an email address for the customer relations manager. I finally spoke with her on Friday, two and a half weeks after my first call about the disembarkation problem. She said she would check and see what the problem was and get back to me, that was over 3 weeks ago and I haven't heard back from her yet.
As it turns out, although they have a customer service phone number on their website, there is no customer service department per se, just the head of guest relations. I was told that pre cruise and cruise problems are handled by the reservations department and post cruise and other problems are handled by the guest relations. So in my case both parties thought the other party was taking care of it and nothing was done to get to the bottom of the problem.
I also wrote letters to the CEO of American Queen Steamboat Company and the CEO of HMS Global Maritime the parent company of American Queen Steamboat Company. A month later I haven't had a response from either of them. Evidently the lack of concern about customer service extends from the top down in this company. They just don't care! The one star is because of dumping us at the end of the cruise and complete lack of customer service and response to my letters.