Friday morning, I stepped off the American Queen, ending a back-to-back voyage that took us between Missouri and Minnesota and back. In short, it was a great cruise on a legendary river, and in the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing videos with you that capture and characterize the American Queen experience.
For now, however, here are nine parting thoughts:
1. Paddlewheelin’ the mighty Mississippi is an experience that should go on every avid cruiser’s bucket list. Why?
- The Mississippi is an amazing river. I was struck by its beauty and its dimensions. Back home yesterday, I talked with someone who said that he had visited the headwaters of the Mississippi River (in Minnesota), and that he could practically stretch his arms from one bank to the other. That is incredible to think about. The river we traveled along was expansive, cutting a wide swath through the heartland of America. The Mississippi is big and beautiful, and it is humbling to see it and experience it.
- The American Queen gives us an opportunity to cruise a piece of our past, dating back to the days when these unique vessels populated the rivers and were popularized by Mark Twain. I felt a sense of nostalgia and an appreciation of Americana.
2. Even if you’re an avid cruiser like me, you’ll find there’s little to compare to the American Queen.
It can’t be compared to a river cruise vessel in Europe. The largest paddlewheeler ever built, the six-deck American Queen is nearly 2.5 times wider than those river cruisers. Spanning 90 feet across, she offers two restaurants, including a gorgeous two-story main restaurant, lots of public rooms, a variety of staterooms and suites, a small pool and gym. Nor can she be compared to an ocean cruiser. For starters, she uses a giant paddlewheel to propel her.
3. The American Queen paddles through the heartland of America on a variety of itineraries.
If the thought of international travel fails to excite you, then you’ll feel good about coming home to the American Queen. There are few among us who enjoy flying these days. Some of my fellow guests on American Queen traveled by train to our departure ports, and others had easy flights. From Asheville, North Carolina, to St. Louis, Missouri, I had only a single change of airports, and only a little more than two hours up in the air. Also, the included pre-cruise hotel nightalleviates worries about making it to the vessel on time.
4. The crew is all-American, and all-friendly.
I enjoy cruising on foreign-flagged vessels with foreign crew, but on the American Queen I appreciated the genuine Southern hospitality. The crew members, a lot of them from Memphis, Tennessee, are just downright friendly. Likewise, it was fun to be greeted by our fellow Americans in the small towns along the river.
5. For many travelers, a journey along the great inland waterways of America is a rite of passage.
And the American Queen offers a way to complete that rite of passage comfortably, stylishly and affordably. Unlike a lot of river cruise vessels, staterooms on the American Queen range from cozy interiors to spacious suites, giving you a lot of options to find not only a space where you will enjoy living but a price point that meets your budget.
6. American Queen’s cuisine was better than anything I’ve experienced on a river.
My fellow passengers were quick to praise the cuisine. Hats off to Regina Charboneau, the talented chef who designs the menus. Beer and wine (some that I consider premium wines) were included with dinner, and there were many other inclusives: internet, soft drinks, speciality coffees (using Starbucks beans), popcorn and ice cream.
7. There’s fun entertainment and edutainment.
We enjoyed presentations by PBS celebrities, such as Gwen Ifill (moderator of Washington Week and a senior correspondent for the PBS NewsHour) and a host of others. Plus, there are production shows, presentations (including a few fun ones by the Riverlorian), a movie theater and a good selection of bars and lounges, including the popular Engine Room Bar.
8. Free guided tours are part of the package.
For no additional charge, the hop-on, hop-off steam coaches allowed me and the others to get guided overviews of the port towns and gave us the freedom to hop off and explore on our own.
9. The American Queen defies comparison.
It overlays some of the best aspects of an ocean liner on a river cruise vessel cruising through the heartland of America.