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AQSC Countess April 25th, 2021 - Memphis to New Orleans


TravelinGert
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I am absolutely gleeful to announce i am currently aboard the American Countess. Two weeks ago I swear I was still holding my breath wondering would it happen. Cell service is spotty so I may not get everything posted until I get home, but I wanted to give everyone a chance to as questions. I will check back and try to get them answered.

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I will add photos but right now we are moving south down the Mississippi River. Since we are traveling with the current we are moving fast and I will probably loose cell signal soon.

 

Important impressions first. The ship is gorgeous, all the crew are lovely, the food is very good, and the puzzles in the card room still have all their pieces. 😀 

 

Thinking on questions some might have.Getting on the ship in Memphis was tricky due to the steep slope of the boat ramp and cables for the ship, but they had golf carts for the slope and plenty of crew on hand to assist.

 

Terrene Landing close to Rosedale was our port Day 2 and it was much better. No cable across the deck and a slightly less steep ramp.

 

Cabin walls are metal if any of you bring extra magnetic hooks or a magnetic light.

 

Hope everyone is having a wonderful day and has loads of questions to make writing this review easier.

 

 

 

 

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We were originally supposed to do this cruise last March, but sadly ours was the first week cruises were canceled. We were originally supposed to stay at the Peabody Hotel but everyone from our ship on this cruise ended up at the Sheraton Downtown which was a huge downgrade. I talked to a staff member doing checkins who said it was due to pandemic limitations on guest numbers.

 

I don't wish to speak ill of the Sheraton really as our room was clean and comfortable, and we had a nice breakfast. If no Peabody had ever been offered we would have been reasonably happy.

 

However it had none of the ambiance of the Peabody and some of the staff were just not thrilled to see us. The overall situation at the Sheraton is best described as drab, generic convention hotel in need of maintenance with some public areas in need of a deep cleaning. I'd guess pandemic hit them hard.

 

I really hope they are able to move guests back to the Peabody soon as we found it hard not to make comparisons. This is still very much what my husband calls first world whining as or stay was comfortable. 

 

Other than our disappointment over the hotel situation check in for the cruise was great. Well organized and fast with a minimum of discomfort including our covid test. The staff obviously knew their jobs well and had everything very well organized. My Mother-in-law who was traveling with us was thrilled to discover her single was upgraded to a regular Open Veranda suite.

 

After checking in we were free to go out. I booked us dinner at Itta Beana which a friend recommended as a second story restaurant with views of Beale Street which is worth the splurge.

 

We took a taxi and got dropped at an entrance reminiscent to a speakeasy. Just an awning over the base of what looked like back stairs. 😬 we were hesitant but eventually determined to give it a go. We were terrifically glad we did.

 

The restaurant was in what looked to be a former storage area with two walls of windows overlooking Beale Street. Service was immediate, very understated,  and in every way demonstrated professionalism. The food was nothing short of excellent. Can't recommend highly enough but make certain you make reservations as early as possible. They had clearly spread out tables for social distance so the place stays completely booked right now, especially on weekends. I will attempt posting some photos soon.

 

Our results came in quickly Saturday. Everyone was negative. Not just in our group, which thrilled us of course, but also everyone else who came for our cruise. You could feel everyone's relief at breakfast Sunday morning. 

 

Breakfast was very efficient and tasty. Eggs, bacon, sausage, fried potatoes, biscuits, gravy, oatmeal with toppings, lovely fresh fruit, coffee, tea, juices, and probably another item or two I've forgotten were offered. Everything was fresh and well prepared when we arrived towards the end of service. Staff was very proactive. Highly recommend the breakfast. 

 

 

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SUNDAY

 

Breakfast at Sheraton was quite good as previously mentioned. We all showed our negative results at the door in order to receive our boarding card for the transfer bus and key cards which are required to board the boat. We drew the 3:30 pm bus leaving us plenty of time to explore. Luggage was requested ready inside our rooms at 8 am and we returned to our room to brush teeth after breakfast just in time to hand off our luggage.

 

My Mother-in-law wanted to see the duck march so we rode the trolley over to the Peabody Hotel and found seats in the lobby.

 

 

After a very entertaining show we walked over to Walgreens because my husband's brand new can of spray deodorant he'd packed for some reason didn't want to dispense actual deodorant properly.

 

We walked back to the Peabody since my Mother-in-law had mentioned she wished she'd noticed the duck store before we were walking out when we left the Peabody. We ended up having lunch at Chez Philippe there because my Mother-in-law said she felt a bit tired of walking just for the rest. Our salads were very nice and actually fairly reasonably priced.

 

After our lunch we purposely got on the trolley heading the other way so we could see more of downtown Memphis. 

 

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BOARDING 

 

The buses taking us to the Countess arrived a tad early so we pulled up at the boat just about 3:35 pm. Every minor complaint about the hotel the night before was soon forgotten when we saw how gorgeous the Countess is.

 

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Someone was asking about how accessible boarding and leaving the ship was for those in wheelchairs or with mobility issues. Memphis boarding was a little tough for anyone with mobility issues but the crew was handy with solutions. 

 

I am on mobile which seems to add photos at the bottom so I will explain then add those.

 

1. Our bus to the boat did not have a lift. There are three buses and I haven't been on the third yet so perhaps it has one. We don't have anyone completely dependent on a wheelchair or scooter this cruise to ask, so I will try to remember to ask at the Shore Excursion Desk if I don't get on bus 3 before the end of our cruise. 

 

2. The ship docks at a pretty steep boat ramp. A golf cart ferried any with concern down to the ramp.

 

3. The gang plank had difficulty matching to this ramp just right due to the angle of the ramp but crew added an extra piece and used heavy floor mats to smooth the way. Crew was available at each end to assist. 

 

4. A large cable of some sort crossed the deck just after boarding. Crew also used mats in an attempt to smooth the way, but it was a bit less successful than the gang plank fix. Crew was stationed here to assist as well. Sadly my photo of this obstacle didn't turn out and in the excitement I did not catch it. Picture a 5 or so inch pipe with a large, thick commercial floor mat such as a business might have at an entrance dropped over it.

 

5. Once past the cable there is a very small step up into the entry hall where champagne was being handed out. It was small enough a wheelchair or scooter shouldn't have a problem but those with canes and walkers need to take care. Two crew members assisted any who needed it.

 

So far this has been the worst as far as mobility and crew made certain everyone who needed it was assisted. 

 

 

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On 4/30/2021 at 9:11 AM, Beth Y said:

Thanks for all of this good info, Gert.  I can't wait to board the Countess on May 23!

 

Beth

You will love it! 💘

Can't wait to hear what you think of it. Be sure to say hello to head waiter VJ and waitstaff Brian, Brianna, and Hannah. You will be in good hands if your room steward is Jennelyn. She works on the third floor and is just an awesome human being. Can't say enough good things. Ingrid at the pursers desk is delightful as well.

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Finishing up the information regarding how well boarding and disembarking might work for people using scooters or wheelchairs:

 

About half the ports there was really no barrier. They didn't have anything to hook the hose shown in the last photo up to, so no hose, and the ground was more level. One of them there were a lot of lose stones and they rolled out carpet to the point where there was a more solid surface.

 

They always had people available if anyone needed any assistance. They were able to place any sort of wheelchair or scooter in the underneath storage area of the bus securely and then would help the guest into one of the front seats on the bus. They had the process down and no one had to miss any activities due to inability to get to and from the venue.

 

However, several of the activities involved visiting old houses with stairs. One did have an elevator but I don't believe all of them did. From what I understand normally there are more activities that are friendly to wheelchairs but due to the current agreement with the CDC shore excursions are more limited. This is not expected to be permanent so it is quite possible by fall they'll be back to a more complete schedule of shore excursions. Fingers crossed on that!

 

I will be adding a few photos showing the other ports later.

 

 

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Thanks for posting this info so far.

We are booked on the American Queen in September and are eager to see anything about AQSC cruising and the adjustments because of Covid.  Things like how the buffets are, how crowded different areas are, what's open and what isn't.  Obviously it will be different on the Countess and the Queen but will still enjoy seeing your posts.

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Boarding Day:

 

Sunday started early with breakfast in the ballroom. In order to get into the ballroom everyone had to show their negative covid test result. The way that worked was they sent an email saying your results were ready to the email address you gave when setting up your account to make the appointment for your covid test. You clicked a link and signed in with the user name and password you set up for your account and your results popped up on the screen.

 

When you showed your results at the entry to breakfast they gave you the card that gets you on the boat and opens your cabin. We found out at that point my Mother-in-law was upgraded from a Single Open Veranda to a regular Open Veranda cabin for two persons. She was very pleased and excited to hear that!

 

Breakfast was pretty good but just standard fare. A buffet with eggs, bacon, sausage, fried potatoes, oatmeal, fruit, I think there were some pastries, and plenty of hot coffee and juices of all sorts. Hotel staff kept everything fresh and clean so we were quite satisfied.

 

We found out at breakfast everyone had tested negative which was great news. We were glad we weren't getting left behind and glad no one else was, either. They also let us know they were including the basic drink plan for everyone at no extra charge somewhere during this time in case any hadn't already heard about that, which was well received. We had been instructed to have our luggage by the door inside our hotel rooms early and returned from breakfast just in time to brush our teeth before they took our luggage away.

 

Shuttle Buses and Boarding:

 

The earliest buses to the boat went at either 2 or 2:30 PM. Those with higher status with American Queen Steamboat Company from having cruised with them before got the first shuttles. As new cruisers with AQSC we were assigned the 3:30 PM bus along with about 10 other couples since they're only allowing buses to be half capacity. It was actually kind of nice because there was no crush or long lines at boarding and we were on the boat with time enough to tour the whole thing before Muster Drill.

 

American Countess:

 

I'll add pictures from around the boat in my next post because I know everyone will want to see how gorgeous this boat is way more than they want to read boring stuff I write.

 

As soon as we got on board they handed out champagne or juice for those who didn't want alcohol in the entry area. After that, we all had a grand time wandering around the whole ship taking photos and introducing ourselves to everyone. The area with the bar and the purser's desk was gorgeous with lots of comfortable seating. The dining room was beautiful with soft lighting, white table cloths, and huge windows to enjoy the sunlight views of the river. The theater was large with plenty of comfortable seating and a cute little stage at the front.  

 

Muster Drill:

 

Eventually announcements were made telling us to go to our cabin for Muster Drill so we headed that way. They had each of us get a lift jacket from the top of our closet, put it on, and stand in the hallway for them to check we did it right. Then the captain spoke with us over the announcements while we were getting checked. He asked us to look at our room key cards for where to go in case the emergency sounded and explained we didn't need to go to our cabins for life jackets as they'd have plenty on hand at our Muster Station. Then he demonstrated what it would sound like if we needed to go to the Muster Station and we were done.

 

The Cabins:

 

Photos from Open Veranda cabin 365 at the rear of the ship will follow in another post after the photos from around the ship.

 

The cabins were all immaculate with snowy white bedding and towels, and they were ready with our luggage already laid out on a special cover to protect the comforter on the bed in case our luggage was dirty from our travels. 

 

The first thing I noticed was the bathrooms were enormous compared to any we've experienced on ocean cruises. The shower was at least 3' x 3.5' I would estimate, and there was easily 3'x4' of empty floor space in the middle of the bathroom. You could easily have two fully grown humans in there getting ready at the same time which was really nice.

 

Another thing we noticed right away was all the space around the bed, especially at the foot. For some reason all the newer ocean cruises the cabins have barely enough space at the foot of the bed to squeeze around to the far side of the bed but this boat you could easily walk normally all around the bed.

 

We each got a really nice stainless steel bottle for water which we could obtain from special water bottle filling stations around the ship. The filling stations filtered the water and it tasted really good. 

 

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First Sunset On The River 20210426_052523.thumb.jpg.e78903c46ed83f29dd243c9a2fb79220.jpg

 

This photo was taken from our Veranda.

 

Desk with Coffee Maker and Water Bottle on Wall Shelf:

 

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View of the Veranda from Inside the Cabin:

 

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Some of the papers waiting in our Cabin:

 

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Check out these gorgeous chandeliers in the Dining Room:

 

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Dinner the First Night:

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Fried Green Tomato Appetizer

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Prime Beef Tenderloin

 

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Cornish Hen

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Chocolate Cake

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Bourbon Pecan Pie - Yes, it was very decadent!20210425_210324.thumb.jpg.690c4123d81404ba07a08976537ecb63.jpg

 

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For those who want to bring their own equipment, the TV's don't move. My husband was able to use his phone to take photos and find the HDMI plug to set his equipment up.

 

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In our room this was the bottom left side of the TV.

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