Number of Cruises: 30
Cruise Line: Great American Steamboat Company
Ship: Grand American Queen
Sailing Date: 2013-03-16
Itinerary: New Orleans to memphis
The food was fantastic. Regina Charboneau design the menu and the chefs' prepared the food fantastically. The combination of table service and buffet style was quite interesting. Most of the food was in the nature of country cooking. I would strongly recommend the food onboard the ship.
The service, on the other hand was very amateurish. It was like going to a 5 star restaurant and having a beginner waitstaff. Most of the servers seemed to be hassled by our very presence. I found the experience to be a bit off-putting, but also quite amusing. I doubt that we actually received a correct order at any meal. The waitstaff uses iPhone-looking devices to transmit orders. This created the appearance of a bunch of waiters playing with their phones rather than tending to your order. Most of the time the staff was just confused by the whole process. The service was truly bizarre.
Our stateroom was one of the luxury suites. It looked fantastic. The bed was comfortable. There was plenty of storage space and amenities. The flat screen television was very convenient and accessible. We can only say good things about the suite. It was actually jaw-droopingly beautiful.
On the other hand, the housekeeper somewhat ruined the ambiance of the suite. We returned from dinner to find the room flooded. The housekeeper had plugged the sink, let the water run, and left for a half hour. The carpet was drenched. My wife's iPad was ruined during the flood and several articles of clothing (left on the floor) were damaged. The head of housekeeping brought in a wet vac to pull out some of the water. For the remainder of the trip, my wife and I found ourselves sloshing through the soiled carpeting. I am probably the only person from a luxury suite to be concerned about the possibility of trench foot.
Of more concern was the lack of interest on the part of the staff to this problem. No apologies from the housekeeping staff or the purser's office. The purser's office ignored our requests for dry carpeting. Although the purser's office did replace the destroyed iPad, they did so by sending a cheaper replacement model. I would have expected them to simply credit our account for the damage. Since we did spend a huge amount of money for the suite, I would have expected that they would have, at least, offered something to make up for this issue, such as a discount on a future cruise, a free cocktail, or even a cookie. Once again, the purser's office seemed like we were just inconveniencing them by our complaint. By the time the next guests arrive in the suite, I would expect that the carpeting would smell of mildew.
The onboard activities were much better than I would have expected. The riverlorian was outstanding. I truly looked forward to each lecture. The performers were great. In particular, Will and Jay in the Engine Room was both great performers and excellent people. We found ourselves in the Engine Room til closing every night.
Laura, the singer, and Bill, her husband and the magician, were also incredible. They went our of their way to make our trip pleasurable.
The stage show was directed to Mississippi River style entertainment. All of the performers were well above our expectations.
The excursions were convenient and unique. I was happy that one excursion toured one of the largest prisons, Angola, in the country. We also toured a haunted plantation. The hop-on hop-off bus system was wonderful. We found all of the guides to be very knowledgeable. Although we only took a couple of shore excursions, we would certainly take more when on a future trip on this ship.
DISTASTER: At 6am on the first morning of the cruise, the evacuation siren sounded. The Captain said that "This is not a drill...evacuate your rooms!" This was a significant adrenaline pump at this time of the morning. Smoke was billowing through some of the forward cabins. All of the passengers were directed to their muster stations. Power was shutoff on the ship (expect for the emergency generators). It was quite the frightening experience.
Eventually, the Captain announced that we could return to our rooms, except for several rooms in the forward of the ship. The Captain did a great job in keeping the passengers informed as to the issues involved. He also did his best to prevent panic. Ultimately, the problem was that the flue was sealed closed. This caused a superheating of the smokestack such that the insulation caught on fire and caused smoke to flow the wrong way. Once the engines were turned off, the temperature lowered. Several of the smoked-out cabins were closed and the passengers moved to other locations.
Once again, the ship did little to apologize for this inconvenience. I suspect that this was a major trauma for the elderly passengers. The ship should learn that a little appreciation and courtesy could go a long way in avoiding permanent bad feelings by the passengers.
The parent company, HSM Marine, was holding a conference on the ship during the early party of the week. As such, the management of the ship was onboard. They truly avoided any attempt to socialize with the passengers. In the Engine Room, a group of them displayed very loutish behavior...i.e. loud f-bombs, stumbling, and excessively loud conversation. I would have expected the representatives of the parent company to be better behaved while on board.
Strangely, when asked "Would you take this cruise again?", my answer would be an unequivocal "YES!". It was fun, adventurous, stimulating and beautiful. The company deserves praised for restoring a bit of American history. We were able to explore the Mississippi River in extreme comfort. The good parts of the trip clearly outweighed the negatives...although there were LOTS OF NEGATIVES.