Cruising the Mississippi River - Cruise #102
29.07.2014 - 02.08.2014
The trip started out with a very early and hectic day flying from Nashville, TN to St Louis, MO. I arrived in St Louis in time to catch the 12:50PM Metro train from the airport ($4 for a two hour one way ticket) to the College Park stop where my friend Laura would pick me up. It was close to an hour and ten minute ride with all the stops at the different stations. Laura picked me up at 2PM and we went to her house to relax before going out to dinner at Bella Milano Italian restaurant. I had "Three pasta with red sauce" and Laura had "Seafood Ravioli". Delicious salad and french bread to dip in olive oil came with the meal.
Day 2 - Laura and I caught the 10:47AM Metro train at College Park to the "Stadium" stop in downtown St Louis. We arrived approximately at 11:24AM right at the St Louis Cardinal's Busch Stadium. It cost $2.50 for the one way ticket. I noted a Westin hotel right across the street and several bars and restaurants. We walked the 2-3 blocks to the Hilton hotel where we met a representative for American Queen Steamboat Company to check-in for our cruise. Due to high water levels we needed to be bussed to Paducah, KY to catch the cruise instead of the original Alton, IL departure point. While waiting for the bus I explored the area around the Hilton hotel. Across from the Hilton on Market St was a nice little park and fountain. The St Louis Arch provided a beautiful background in the distance. On the street across the other side of the park was a Hardees, TGIF, Hooters, and a Mexican restaurant. The Hyatt hotel and Drury's hotel are also in the area. I picked up some ham sandwiches from Hardees for our bus ride to Paducah. It was a little over three hours ride from St Louis to the port in Paducah. We boarded the American Queen and were directed to the main show lounge for check-in, ID picture, and keys to our stateroom #441 the "Indian Short Creek" on deck four, the "Observation" deck. All staterooms and suites on the ship are named after a creek, river, state, president, or famous person of notoriety during the heyday times of the great steamboat era.
A mandatory lifeboat drill was at 6:15PM. We had to put on our life jacket and stand outside our stateroom for about 10 minutes and then were led to the bow of the ship where we waited for an announcement and then the drill was over. We were hungry so went up to the "Front Porch Cafe" on "Texas" deck 3, for buffet dinner. There was a great selection of Ceasar salad, tossed salad, Seafood Bisque, steamed vegetables, baked potatoes, rolls, Lemon Chicken, Salmon, and carved Prime Rib. I chose the Prime Rib and it was very tender. Wine, beer, and soda are complimentary at dinner. The desserts included cheese cake, cobblers, chocolate decadence, and the ice cream bar with a choice of toppings. In the "Front Porch Cafe" you can also find 24-hour coffee (including a cappuccino machine), teas, juices, cookies, and popcorn.
The entertainment started at 8:15PM in the "Grand Saloon" show lounge on "Main" deck one. The "3 Redneck Tenors" entertained us with a combination of "Larry the Cable Guy" comedy and Broadway style Opera. The talent was amazing to hear the voice of a Southern accent joke turn into a goose-bump, baritone rendition of "Ava Maria" or "Phantom of the Opera". After the show we retired to our stateroom where we enjoyed sitting outside on deck in front of our stateroom in the big fluffy robes and slippers provided. We were too tired to go down and enjoy the "Fabulous Fifties and Sexy Sixties" party taking place at 9:30PM in the Engine Room Bar on deck two.
Day 3 - Up early and sitting outside the stateroom on deck with a coffee and mini-scone. When Laura woke up we went down to the main dining room named after J M White, the famous riverboat Captain. A bountiful breakfast buffet of hot items was being served with a complement of pastries and fruit. Made to order omelettes and a special of the day "Banana Foster French Toast" was also offered. I couldn't pass up the Banana Foster French Toast. A full day of activities was planned and all activities are listed in the "River Times" bulletin placed in your stateroom each day. A Riverlorian gave an informative talk about our historical port of call - Cape Girardeau, MO. Then it was off to explore the town. The American Queen provided us with a hop-on/hop-off bus pass. The ship also has a limited number of bicycles for use, at no charge for those who feel energetic enough to use them. Murals painted on the town floodwall depict the area's heritage of the once important frontier trading post on the river. We chose to ride the hop-on/hop-off the whole route around the town, getting off at each historical site. We saw sites like the "Red House" home of the towns' founder, Louis Lorimier; the "Glenn House" a beautiful 1883 restored Victorian home; the "Old St Vincent's Church"; and the "Cape River Heritage Museum". At the "Crisp Museum" you can watch a 17 minute movie on the history of Cape Girardeau.
While we explored the town there was entertainment onboard for those that didn't wish to get off the ship. The classic game show "Match Game" and a matinee movie "A League of Their Own" was offered. If that wasn't enough, then one could play games or read in the separate Men's Card Room and Ladies's Parlor, tour the open Engine Room (the chief Engineer was happy for the interruption), explore all the historical and antique artifacts and furniture around the ship and in the huge Mark Twain Gallery, work out in the gym, get a spa treatment, swim in the pool, or simply sip a "drink of the day" while sitting in a white rocking chair on deck outside of the Front Porch Cafe.
It was all aboard at 5:30PM to enjoy Captain Brett Williet's Champagne reception and enjoy listening to Travis play the Calliope as we sailed from Cape Girardeau. Dinner in the main dining room is an open dining from 5:30PM-7:30PM. I enjoyed a fish dished called "Copia" a delicate White fish with Blue crabmeat and served over mashed potato and asparagus. Other choices were a stuffed Vegetable Green Pepper, Beef, and Pork Chop. Breads, salad and soup accompanied the meal. It was straight from the dining room to the main show lounge for the nights entertainment "Bourbon to Beale Street". The ships young energetic singers sang a nice mix of Elvis, Blues, and Jazz. More entertainment followed in the Captain's Bar on deck one, with a "St Pat's Deja Vu" an Irish sing-a-long with Phil. It was a full day and once again we were too tired for the late night Beach Party entertainment in the Engine Room Bar.
Day 4 - We woke up to heavy fog on the Mississippi. The ship was tied to the banks of the river until the fog lifted. When the fog lifted we were under sail again. It was a perfect day for relaxing or participating in the plethora of activities on the ship like kite making, Bingo, and Family Feud. We enjoyed a Texas BBQ lunch on the Texas forward deck. Laura took her turn playing the Calliope and received a certificate to show her accomplishment. I toured the ship taking notes to advise any clients that might be interested in booking an American Steamboat River Cruise. The day flew by and it was soon time for dinner again. I had a delicious Shrimp Avocado Tower appetizer, Parmesan Chicken with Lemon sauce over linguini entree, and for dessert a Molten Lava cake with Sea Salt Caramel. The food has been outstanding. The main show tonight in the Grand Saloon was "Through the Years". Once again, the American Queen Ensemble entertainers gave a stellar performance of classic hits from the 50's, 60's, and 70's. Then it was time to retire to the stateroom and pack the bags for disembarkation the next day.
Day 5 - Disembarkation Day - It was up early at 6:30AM for breakfast, then waiting in the Grand Saloon for the debarkation process at 8:45AM. The bus ride from our debarkation port of Alton, IL was approximately 20-25 minutes to the Hilton hotel in St Louis. We walked from the Hilton over to the "Stadium" Metro station where I caught the Redline back to the airport and Laura the Blueline back to College Park. It was a fabulous cruise. We traveled 249 River Miles traversing the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, through four locks and three states.
About the ship: The American Queen is the largest steamboat ever built. The American Queen and fleet mate American Empress, are the only vessel members of Historic Hotels of America. Today the American Queen is a blend of modern day amenities and reminiscence of the Victorian era. The ship has six decks; four decks with staterooms and suites that accommodate up to 400 passengers. Two elevators provide access to all decks with the exception of the top Sun Deck. There are nine handicap accessible staterooms on the American Queen. Suites have an open verandah. Outside staterooms consist of Superior outside with private verandah, Deluxe outside with open verandah, outside with open verandah, and Deluxe outside with Bay window. There are a limited number of inside staterooms and single staterooms. Each stateroom is furnished with elegant period furnishings, fine linens and plush bedding, flat-screen TV, and ample shelving and storage. Beds are Queen or two twins. All suites and staterooms have tub and shower with the exception of inside and single staterooms which have a shower only.
Itineraries: The American Queen has a variety of voyages that sail the Upper and Lower Mississippi River, and the Ohio, Tennessee, and Cumberland Rivers. Most of the voyages are nine days in length and sailings are offered from St Paul, MN; St Louis, MO; Memphis, TN; New Orleans; Nashville, TN; Chattanooga, TN; and Cincinnati, OH. Some voyages are roundtrip and some are one way. There is a wide variety of themed cruises to satisfy everyones taste. Musical themes range from Big Band music to 50's and 60's, Delta Blues, Country, and Elvis. Military buffs will enjoy Civil War themed cruises. Old-Fashioned Holidays, Oktoberfest, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Fall Colors, and New Year's Celebration are other themes offered on the American Queen. There's something for everyone.