Our trip was the first to celebrate the American Queen’s 25th anniversary. We took this wonderful 9-day round trip that started and ended in New Orleans. The trip was in exchange for covering this for amazing journey for Senior News & Times of Illinois. The American Queen is the largest steamboat ever built. She was constructed in 1995 in Morgan City, Louisiana.
Like days of old
The American Queen offers the tradition of the elegant 19th century steamboat travel! Back before planes, trains and automobiles, the rivers and waterways were the paths and byways and how we traveled this great nation. Riding on the American Queen is a way to enjoy that history again. A floating hotel with fine dining, nightly entertainment and the best staff ever, the American Queen is just that, a Queen of a river boat. With ornate details of a historic hotel, she is paddle wheeler like those in days of old.
The engine of the American Queen steamboat actually is from 1932 from the US Army Corps of Engineer’s dredge ship. The engines are from the Kennedy which was decommissioned after the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans. Restoration of the engines took place in Newcastle, Indiana after the 1992 decision to use them in the Queen.
You can visit the engine room and get a visual tour and speak with an engineer. We talked with Mark Veum, Third Assistant Engineer who shared that the four-cylinder, horizontally-inclined, tandem-piston, steeple compounded; double-acting reciprocating steam engine still is working well today moving fans like us up and down the rivers!
One Stop Shop
The best thing about this trip is that after boarding, we unpacked and we were done for the entire trip. The restaurant was there, the entertainment was there, everything we could need or want was right there onboard!
Our cabinroom was on the fourth deck with a veranda view. While small, it had everything we needed. Our cabin was one of 222 state rooms for a capacity of 436 guests and a crew of 160. She is 418 feet (127 m) long and 89 feet (27 m) wide.
The American Queen is the lap of luxury! We had two dining options. The Front Porch, which offered casual dining, or the J.M. White Dining Room where there were two times for assigned dining. We had the 8:00 spot. At our table were a great couple Darryl and Linda from Canada and a mother and daughter both named Anne from the state of California. It was great being teamed with the same people each evening.
We got to know some folks and share our tales each day. Keith always has a favorite thing on a trip. He asks, “What was your favorite thing today?”
It is a conversation starter and something that made us all think about where we had been and what we did during our stops. The J.M. White Dining room is quite ornate and dining included an appetizer, salad or soup, main course, then dessert. Aziz was our waiter each evening. He usually had spot on suggestions as to what choice was the best! Wine was included with each meal. LaToya was our bread and wine server we all kept her hopping. Being thirsty or hungry was not a problem!
Breakfast was either a buffet or menu choice and again could be selected at either dining location. Seating at breakfast wasn’t assigned. We met such interesting people. Our first morning, we met Ralph and Rita. Ralph had been in the Navy, he was a retired firefighter and she was a nurse.
Staff are great!
Entertainment in the Grand Saloon, Captains Bar, or the Engine Room Bar took place every evening. We usually always went to the 6:15 show and enjoyed the top notch entertainment before dining. Although we were some of the youngest on the trip, we found ourselves ready for bed usually after dinner. Many older than us, stayed up late into the evening! Keith and I liked to get up early and be ready to roll.
The staff on the boat were amazing and so attentive to the guests. Our first morning onboard was just river cruising and the cruise director Ryan Faino took us all on a mile walk, six times around deck four was a mile. Ryan loves being a cruise director and shared. “People should laugh and enjoy life because life is short”
One of his favorite stories was a woman that had come on board ship. She wouldn’t take part in the Sock Hop one night when he asked her to dance. She had lost her husband and said, that was something they did together. “A few days later I asked her to dance and she said okay. Later when she joined in the exercise group I told her she had made my cruise.”
She was shocked. Ryan told her being able to enjoy herself made him happy.
The entire crew seems to have this same attitude and take great care of each and every guest on board. All the staff go through extensive training and the ship has been voted Best Shore Excursions from 2012-2018.
Jerry Hay the Riverlorian was also quite fascinating. He shared information in the Chart Room and gave presentations every day. “I’m a river rat. I started as a kid on the Wabash,” Jerry said. “I built a boat when I was 13 and it sank, it was a beginning point. “
He has served as a licensed pilot, written guide books, and delivered boats. He can talk about the Mississippi without a book in hand and knows every aspect of the river like the back of his hand!”
A family of guests
Several couples have been riding the river several times. Gene and Peggy Anderson were on their 17th cruise. They have been on ocean liners, but they prefer the river. “This is so much friendlier, you have personal interaction,” Peggy said.
“When we board they say welcome home, not welcome back,” Gene added.
The American Queen serves perfectly for those with disabilities helping them on and off the boat. Plus, what is really nice too is if you don’t want to get off the boat at a stop, you can stay on board and there are activities like Bingo, a presentation and a movie to stay busy as well. When we cruised we enjoyed just watching the world go by sitting in our chair outside our cabin. The time goes so fast on the trip even though you are just floating down the river!