This was for American Queen's "D" inside category GUARANTEE, at a cost of approximately $2300 for both of us, still a substantial amount, with a credit card. Received written confirmation and docs.
This cruise was from Memphis to New Orleans, so I booked hotels at each end, booked air, rearranged my schedule, and my husband slotted vacation time at his office.
We were extremely upset when just FIVE days before we were to leave, I got a phone call from a Delta Queen rep. saying that they had overbooked, and since no one had cancelled, we could NOT go on this cruise. I was told that a "Guarantee" to DQ means NOT a guarantee, but a waitlist! Why wasn't I told this when I booked, I asked? Because this is a back office rule, I was told, & the reservationists are NOT involved in it. And because DQ "always" get cancellations, but not this time! They were overbooked by SIX cabins. I didn't envy the rep who was assigned to deliver the bad news! Since most of their passengers are retired seniors (we are not!) and could easily switch dates, why us, I asked? I never got a real answer, just that it happens. I suspect it's because our booking was done so close to the sailing date, (in response to DQ's 2/1 email offer to me) & made w/o a travel agent.
But here come the good guys! Helpful intervention & guidance came from a travel agent & friend in Pa., with the initials of GL, and the support of one of REC.TRAVEL.CRUISES' foremost artist's & designer of logos, with the initials of PB. Neither had anything to gain, but both were very supportive (thanks again, guys!) and very upset! I even called the president of DQ, it was finally worked out to our benefit but the cruise choices we were then offered were somewhat limited, & that's how we came to choose the Upper Mississippi, from St. Paul to St. Louis. Simply because the date was convenient for my husband's work schedule and DQ said it was available. We hadn't even heard of most of the river town ports, but DQ made it very worthwhile to learn about them.
Arrival & Embarkation: We flew into St. Paul on 8-20, Friday, and were met by DQ reps, & a baggage handler. The transfer to the boat went smoothly. There was no security on, when we boarded at 11am. No greeters, & no photographers :) either. Later in the day, we observed both. Once inside we went to the Purser's Desk, and checking was friendly & efficient. We were told cabins would be ready at 3pm, & ours was. A nice sandwich "snack" buffet was available at noon. A small number of passengers were onboard, all ages, mostly seniors as we'd expected. For the first time in 8 cruises, we asked for dining arrangements at a table for 2, and it worked out well.
A life jacket drill was held later in the day, with passengers standing in the hallways, outside of the cabin. Stewards/stewardesses then inspected everyone. That was it. Of course, anything's possible, but highly unlikely that a steamboat would sink in the shallow Mississippi River waters.
Cabin: Ready at 3pm, as promised, & luggage arrived close to then. We were in "D" inside, very small, but as expected for a minimum cabin. Shower was one of those that if you turned around in it, the curtain followed! The room, including the shower, 30" each "twin" beds, and "closet" behind a stained (mildew?) at the bottom curtain, was about 7'W x 10'L. One nightstand size chest of 4 drawers separated the beds. There was a 2-channel radio, one with constant music, the other with CNN at certain times of the day. But everything worked, and we hardly saw our stewardess, and the room was made up & supplies restocked regularly. We adapt well to either inside or outside cabins, so the room wasn't a problem. We did notice some areas of wear-- wallpaper, baseboards. We did get to peek into the very expensive "suite" categories, with balconies, and they were large & lovely. However, we were content to be on the outside decks most of the time.
Food: Was good to very good. Red meat on every dinner menu, and down-home offerings. Some seafood (NO lobster), some Cajun, some catfish, some ribs. There always was a heart healthy item. Our efficient waiter, Charles, knew the menu, & we usually took his advice.
Breakfast and lunch were in the dining room or at a buffet, set up in the main lounge area. Tried both, and found them to be fine, with good choices. The cheesecakes and key lime pies are outstanding!
Large cookies, 1400 a day, are baked and put out all day long. They're a big hit, the chef told us, during the tour of the very small galley. The chef told us it was tiny, & it was, but the total passengers count is only around 414, served in two seatings. Recommended dress is casual except for Captain's Reception, & obligatory photo, at which champagne flowed, and hors d'oeuvres were served. Captain's Dinner was ok, nothing grandiose. Most passengers did dress up, but very few tuxes. The 11:15pm themed buffets were fair, but filling. Perhaps a good way to use leftovers?
Outside Decks: Lots of room and lots of rocking chairs made this the place to be. One small pool, near the bar with the only for-the-public TV set onboard. A really lazy ride down the river! Great to see the Norman Rockwell Americana, the waving of the people on shore, the little towns. However, we kept noticing the peeling of the dulled white paint on most of the chairs, and the railings needed to be repainted in many places. We also noticed cobwebs continually, in overhead light fixtures, & on railings. The crew was seen painting and dusting outside, so maybe they are doing something about this.
Entertainment: Overall, pretty decent. Two male & two female singers. Good band, we especially liked the jazz. Most were friendly offstage, too. Kite flying, trivia, liars game, Bingo, make-a-hat contest, He said/She said game, scavenger hunt, etc., were ably conducted by staff. Riverlorian - a river historian very knowledgeable. He gave interesting chats daily. All main staff people were introduced at Captain's Reception including the two gray haired male dance hosts. They both seemed to very gracious, always on the dance floor.
Ports: Small, quaint river towns offering us large welcomes:
- Winona, MN
- Prairie du Chen, WI
- Dubuque, IA - a casino at the port
- Burlington, IA
- Hannibal, MO--our favorite, a 4 hour stop
Tipping: DQ's recommended guidelines are somewhat higher than on a cruise ship, but the service we received was very good. They recommended $89 per passenger, total, for the 7 night cruises, but there is absolutely no pressure at any time. In fact, we never even saw our stewardess on the last morning, and just left her envelope on the nightstand.
Disembarkation: With all 27 locks the boat goes through on this trip, we were a little late getting into St. Louis. We were entertained by passengers volunteers, jokes, playing piano, etc. for about one hour & we were concerned about the early flight that DQ had booked. When time came to disembark, it went very smoothly. We were led to waiting buses, baggage tagged accordingly, and met at airport by airline porters. We made our 10:45am flight with time to spare.
Overall Impressions: A steamboat river cruise is VERY different than a cruise ship. They each have their features, and a lot is subjective, depending on the reviewer. On this cruise, my husband easily relaxed, and let the lazy river entertain him. He was happy to be away from the stresses of his job, but still disappointed about not being on that Civil War themed cruise.
I caught up on some reading, but sometimes found myself getting bored with the slow moving boat, & sameness of the river views. That's just me, though, & not a complaint. But I relaxed, too, and enjoyed it. We'd would go again - but ONLY if it were a themed cruise of interest to us.
Many passengers are repeaters. There's no fear of seasickness on these steamboat cruises, at 6-10 mph. and centrally located in the U.S. so relatively easy to get to those port cities, driving, or flying. There was actually quite a variety of ages, from a 9 year old boy with grandma, to passengers probably in their nineties.
This is very long, I know. Thanks for bearing with me, if you've gotten this far. If any questions, feel free to send me an email, and I'll try to answer.