We spent a few days touring around Memphis and boarded the Mississippi Queen on April 6. The boat was beautiful and seemed to have been freshly painted. Boarding was easy and swift. A buffet lunch was provided and there was musical entertainment while we waited for our room to be ready at 3 p.m. We had booked a mini-suite with veranda and expected something quite compact considering the size of the boat. Not so! Our room was on the top deck, very spacious, with a large closet, and the furnishings were lovely. Everything was done in antiques including the wallpaper, drapes, etc. The only complaint we could muster was that the room furnace was very noisy; however, the room itself was virtually soundproof.
We thoroughly enjoyed the laid-back feeling of cruising down the river, with stops in Helena, Ark. (not much there to see,); Vicksburg and Natchez, Miss.; Baton Rouge, Oak Alley, and finally the end point of our cruise, New Orleans. We took the optional tours at each stop and even tried our luck at one of the riverboat casinos along the way.
The entertainment on board was fantastic: wonderful music and charming, talented entertainers. (It was better than most of the big cruise lines' extravaganzas.) There were always simple, fun things to do aboard if you chose to participate -- games, contests, musical entertainment in the afternoons, snacks in the Paddlewheel Lounge and tea in the main lobby. There were TV sets going in the lobby and at the Calliope Bar in the stern.
The food in the dining room was good, although some of the portions were quite small. This was not a problem since you could always order extra items if you desired. The buffet breakfasts and lunches were very ordinary and a little boring to us. Appetizers and desserts were the best part of the dinners -- they were excellent.
Overall, it was a lovely, relaxing way to go. Children or teenagers would not enjoy this trip -- there's not enough action for them. Most passengers were retired people...quiet, polite and pleasant as traveling companions.
Disembarkation went smoothly. We were bused to the airport in plenty of time to catch our flight home to Sacramento. I might add that the security in the New Orleans airport was practically nonexistent compared with all the other airport checks we've encountered these past few years.
We would certainly recommend steamboat cruising for a laid-back vacation. The weather in April was quite cool with some showers, so next time we'll wait until a little later in the spring to make the trip.