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AQSC April 4 2021 American Countess Southern Sampler cruise review


Woofbite
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I tried to submit a review but couldn't get Cruise Critic's date area to work so I'll post it here.  Others

have different interests and opinions and these are simply mine and worth exactly what you paid for them!🙂

 

 

Friends and I did the April 4, nine-day Southern Sampler round trip New Orleans Mississippi river cruise on the American Queen Countess' second trip.  She had sailed down from Memphis the week before.

The extra night at Hilton New Orleans Riverside was very convenient and nice but service was very limited and the hotel is becoming dated and needs refurbished. No turndown or daily maid service.  Drago's restaurant had been open a week and offered a very limited menu for dinner.  Breakfast offered by American Queen in a private room the next morning was a typical American scrambled egg affair.

Covid testing the night before sailing went smoothly and results were posted by email promptly the next morning.  Bus boarding to the boat was organized and went smoothly with alternate seat rows kept open  as they were on all buses used throughout our trip.  Although there were some people not wearing masks as the week progressed and spacing varied, especially in the bar area, in general, masking and spacing rules were fairly well followed.  In any event, there was almost no possible contact with people outside our group aside from drivers, guides and site hosts provided by American Queen at places we visited. Presumably those were all tested prior to assisting us. We were never concerned about safety and never saw anyone else who seemed to be either.

Ship is brand new and magnificant.  I had an inside single which was tiny - 10 by 15 I think.  Worked fine for me but a couple with typical luggage better really be in love!  At least the bathroom and shower were huge and had excellent fixtures, bright lighting and quality ammenities.  I was really impressed with lighting throughout the cabin.  AQ really did it right in providing plenty of light to see by and to read by. An area where even high-end hotels frequently fall short.

Food was generally excellent and with plenty of variety, (although steaks seemed hit or miss quality), and it was nice to always have lobster available as an alternate choice.  Unfortunately, service was a mess the first few days but slowly improved as the trip progressed.  We were fortunate that our assistant waiter had worked for a large cruise line and knew his stuff.  Many of the others sort of wandered around in a daze not seeming to know what do do or offer.  Special requests such as catsup for french fries seemed to take forever to be delivered, maybe because of Covid, everything had to be requested from the cooks in sequence with regular food orders.

The quick food spot, River Grill was sort of a hidden gem and  became a favorite as did the snack area Perks.  Both those offered a coffee machine capable of creating a variety of drinks and Perks always had popcorn, ice cream and cookies.  Promised for 24 hours but like several things didn't happen with the Covid situation.  

When AQ said they were offering an open bar, they meant it.  It was open at 11:00 until closing and brands were all top notch.  25-year old Macallan scotch and Louis XIII cognac and such were the only things they charged extra for and bartenders were friendly, funny and efficient.

Entertainment was okay and consisted of small band and three singer/dancers every night except one when there was a fair magician.  We missed the wide variety available on earlier river trips and were really disappointed in the Riverlorian. In the past, they had a man who portrayed vivid images of life along the river life and people of the time.  This was augmented by visiting speakers and performers.  (The last trip had Robert E. Lee's great-great grandson as a speaker - something the woke crowd of today probably wouldn't tolerate but his stories of the family history were fascinating).  For this trip, they evidently took one of the entertainers and told her whe was also the Riverlorian and to do some research about the river.  Presentations were okay but about what you would expect in a school history course.  Attendance dropped to less than a dozen people which was embarrassing and unfair to her because that was not her forte.

Tours were visits to three plantation homes and drives through small towns.  The Vicksburg National Park tour was conducted with the park ranger in the car ahead of us giving his presenation by Bluetooth.  Very well done and we stopped at the USS Cairo civil war gunboat and could view it through the fence but not visit the museum or tour the boat since all the park facilities are closed.  The visit to Baton Rouge was a short tour through town and a visit to the Louisiana state museum but no visits to the capital, old capital or SS Kidd destroyer ship parked next to us due to Covid.  Those limits also severly hampered ladies who wanted to shop in the little towns we visited.

I did add one extra cost tour of a swamp.  Nicely done with an old Cajun who seemed authentic.  Plenty of alligators, raccoons, squirrels, birds and real swamp territory.  It would be easy to become disoriented and lost in that place without a guide.

Overall a good trip and remarkably well done considering the restrictions imposed on AQ. As someone else noted, river trips are expensive but all inclusive helps and considering the serious cost disadvantage they have by operating small boats and having to abide by U.S. wage rates, benefits, taxes, regulations, etc. compared to huge cruise lines they are well worth the price in my book.

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Thanks for your review, Woofbite!  I'm boarding the Countess on May 23.  One question:  if you were traveling Solo, were you seated alone in the dining room?  As a Solo on ocean cruises I was always seated with others in the dining room, but in this age of COVID, I'm wondering if I will be dining alone on the Countess.
 

Thanks,

Beth

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