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Thoughts on American Queen voyage


Babcia7
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Last August, my husband and I, along with two wonderful friends, booked a cruise on the American Queen from New Orleans to Memphis. We were on the boat from March 21-28th.

The boat was beautiful and the interior was well appointed and maintained.  There were many places to gather, and probably our favorite place to sit was the River Grill.  Our cabin (455) was large (for a river cruise), and had plenty of space for everything we brought on board.  I especially liked the sink and vanity outside the bathroom.  We loved the location of our cabin at first. Our friends had the cabin next to us, and only one other cabin at the stern was occupied by a staff member.

We realized the first night that the location of our cabin above the paddle wheel was subject to vibration.  The first night, it was similar to those beds at old motels where you inserted quarters to enjoy the vibration!  As the cruise progressed, the vibrating increased, making sleeping difficult.  We found out at the end of our cruise that one of the boat's generators had been acting up, and finally quit altogether.

 

The food on the boat was mostly delicious, and there was always quite a variety.  Breakfasts and lunches offered a buffet as well as items to order off the menu.

Most of the wait staff seemed like they were new and in training.  They tried hard, and there were exceptions, but service was definitely strained and the boat was only 3/4 full.  

 

We really enjoyed our tour of Nottoway, and our time exploring Natchez on the Hop on Hop off bus.  Our premium tour of Vicksburg, which was almost entirely a bus tour might have been better if our guide spoke more clearly.  As it was, he slurred many of his sentences so much that it was difficult to understand what he was saying. It was interesting to get off the bus and view the ironclad ship.  I was glad that in the morning we had visited the Old Depot museum, which had a huge diorama displaying the battlefield at Vicksburg along with some amazing artifacts.

 

There were two stops on our cruise where we rode the Hop on Hop off bus without hopping off.  The first was Pointe Coupe, and the second was Greenville.

Neither place offered anything of interest to us.  Greenville was one of the most depressed areas I've seen, with many businesses boarded up and closed.  Apparently the town's claim to fame is that Jim Henson was born there.  The main draw of the place seemed to be the casino, where most on our bus got off.

 

We did enjoy the presentations by the Riverlorian, and the evening shows were very entertaining.  We especially enjoyed the evening the staff sang songs from Broadway musicals.  All four vocalists were very talented.  The band was wonderful as well.  On two nights we were entertained by Michaelyn Oby, both of which were excellent.  The piano player at the captain's bar had quite a following, but after the first night we sought out a quieter place to enjoy our cocktails.

 

What was really quite a disappointment was the customer service (or almost complete lack of).  When we booked last August, the AQ website stated that covid tests would be provided at the hotel before embarkation.  This changed in late January, and we were directed to get a PCR test within 48 hours of departure. Again this changed to allow a test to be given within 72 hours of embarkation.  On March first, AQ again changed protocols to revert back to providing the tests at their cost at the hotel.  The week before our departure, I called AQ directly to inform them that our flight wouldn't arrive until after the hospitality desk at the hotel was closed for the evening.  I was told by the rep that we would be able to get the test the morning of embarkation between 7-9 a.m.  I had my travel advisor verify this information.  So on Monday morning, the day of embarkation, we arrived at the hospitality desk shortly after 7 a.m. No one was manning the desk, and as people gathered for testing and check-in, we just waited.  Finally about 8 a.m. an AQ rep came and asked how many of us were waiting for a covid test.  Most of us raised our hands.  She told us AQ was no longer offering the test at the hotel, and we would have to go into town to find a place to get the test at our expense! Needless to say, there were many disgruntled customers.  I told the rep about my contact with the AQ rep verifying that the test would in fact be done at the hotel.  Her response to me was: "Do you have that in writing"?  Luckily, I did, but I was insulted that she would even ask that.  We had to wait until the reps from the boat came to get things resolved.  They all seemed very frazzled and unorganized.  We were finally told to arrive at the boat at 2:45 and the medical staff onboard would test us at the dock before we boarded the boat.  All of this confusion should have been avoided.  There were other instances on the boat that also resulted in avoidable confusion.

 

I suggested to one staff member that they should experience a river trip on board Uniworld, to see what a seamless product they offer.  AQ could learn much from Uniworld's customer service.

 

That said, we enjoyed most of our time once on the boat, and while on board we booked an Alaskan cruise on the Ocean Victory in August.  We hope that by the time we take our cruise later in the season any kinks will be worked out.

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I've always thought about taking a Mississippi River cruise, but as a native of Mississippi, I've already seen a lot of these places on my own. FWIW, Greenville does have a history as a hotspot of blues music (it's one of the bigger towns in the farming region known as the Mississippi Delta). There's also a visitor's center in a converted riverboat and a Bald Cypress swamp.

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Yes, the premium excursion was to the B.B. King Museum.  We did not do that.  The Bald Cypress swamp sounds interesting, but not offered at this stop on the AQ.  Since this was our first Mississippi cruise, we didn't do any additional research about the areas we would visit.  In hindsight, I wish I had.

 

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It’s too bad you missed the Flood Museum in Greenville. It was an excellent source of info and after watching the video, you have a better understanding of the levees and why they are so necessary. 

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Have just left the 04/18 sailing from New Orleans to Memphis - or to be precise -to Greenville. The river was very high and the current strong and so we were told that the stay in Vicksburg would only be in the morning, so as to get up to Greenville, which was also to be a curtailed stop. However we never left Greenville! The boat broke down and engineers had to be sent for, leaving no time for the last day and a half of cruising to Memphis. So we spent 2 full days in Greenville - where there is nothing - a run-down small town.  The Bb King tour went ahead but was fully booked. However on Saturday they managed to arrange a tour to the Grammy Museum in Cleveland MS, which was very good.

the boat was only half full. The River Grill was never open. Short of staff we had buffet meals in the evenings for the first 3 days. Food was of variable quality. 
the music on board was excellent- the duo in the Engine Room Bar were great, and the other musical offerings were good too.

we did not stop at St Francisville but at Pointe Coupee on the other side of the river. We were not informed of this until we were there. No explanation. We took the bikes out there and cycled on the top of the levee - that was fun.

All in all we were a bit disappointed with AQ, v disorganised, especially as we had to be bussed to Memphis leaving at 05.45!

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We head off shortly to join AQ in a months time at the end of a US trip.  We will be coming downstream from Memphis - does this make any difference in terms of demands on the "engine"

Disappointed to hear of the "miss firing" in some areas of the holiday.  What is the position if you do not get the full experience, do they refund anything or is it like on the ocean that the contract is such that they have no obligation to do anything?  Just asking, not starting a "compensation culture" debate.

 

Just wondering what made you say meals were of variable quality - what was good so we can look out for these items.

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We didn’t get any refund offer - they clearly say that the itinerary is subject to the state of the river/weather, so the fact of spending 2 days in Greenville, and missing out other bits  is not their fault. 
The food quality was average overall. Portion sizes in the main dining room were small! Especially the soups which were good, but the portion was just a couple of spoonfuls. The buffet in the Front Porch was ok but nothing spectacular. 
I think you will be fine going from Memphis as the current will be with you and the boat is fixed now. Hopefully they will have more staff on board now - that will mean the river grill can open. Enjoy the trip!

Vicksburg battlefield trip was very good btw 

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Thanks we had already booked that excursion.  I suspected there would be a weather and river conditions get out just wondered when you had a mechanical issue if that gave a different result.  Fingers crossed we stay covid free and can experience the trip whatever happens.

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