If you’ve been reading my blog for a while (thanks!) you know that my grandma is working on her I’m Not Going to Kick the Bucket List. Last summer we crossed every province in Canada off of her list (by train!). Our latest accomplishment was crossing a steamboat cruise down the Mississippi off her list.
We decided on taking the American Queen Steamboat from Memphis to New Orleans, leaving on grandma’s 87th birthday! (Don’t worry grandma, you’re probably the only one that reads this. No one will know how old you are.) Part of the itinerary was staying at the Sheraton Downtown Memphis the night we got in and leaving the next evening on the boat.
After a lot planning, I managed to get my mother from Buffalo to Memphis, my brother and sister in law from Baltimore to Memphis, and my grandma, the Husband, and myself from Tampa to Memphis. Shockingly, no one missed their flight or got lost. We all checked in to the hotel and made a plan of what to do with our 24 hours in Memphis. We actually managed to see pretty much everything we wanted to in Memphis (read about that here).
The hotel was pretty nice, your average downtown hotel. However, there was quite the party going on. First we thought it was prom, but it turned out to be an annual frat party. They were incredibly drunk and incredibly loud, and quite irritating. They did provide us with some entertainment when the cops showed up.
The frat boys don’t look so cool now huh?
The following morning we had to check in on the second floor for the cruise. They set up your on board charge and took your photos for your boarding card. They also assign your tables for dinner. I signed us all up for the late seating, since we aren’t 100 years old and don’t eat dinner at 5 PM. When we arrived at the dinner assignment table, we learned we had been moved to the first seating. At 5:15. This was the beginning of our hatred for tandem bikers.
It turned out that the American Queen booked a giant tour group of tandem bikers. They couldn’t decide what meal time they wanted and kept changing it, allowing us to reserve the late seating. Not only did we end up with the early seating, we didn’t get our table for six. We had to sit separately the entire trip, with a table in between us. We weren’t even next to each other. They also made special 6 AM stops to drop them off places, which ruined my sleep completely, since we had the room next to the paddle wheel. And oh boy, what a rude group of people. Very inconsiderate and even a bit aggressive. I saw one getting in a fight over food!
The tandem bikers nearly ruined our trip, as well as many other people’s trips. But I’m done complaining about it. Happy post from here on.
So, we got our cards.
Move over Kim Kardashian, there’s a new American Queen in town!
They also pick up your luggage in your room and take it to the boat. The paperwork said to be ready by 8 am and have your luggage ready to be picked up. So we rushed around, then waited. And waited. They failed to mention that our rooms were known to the American Queen company and that we didn’t have to wait for them to pick up our bags.
Once I finally realized we could leave our luggage we headed out in to Memphis until our assigned time to get on the boat. We returned to the hotel to find adorable buses that look like the American Queen.
Our ride to our boat.
We arrived at the boat and had yet another very rude experience. It was quite a walk to the boat and they had golf carts there to take people. One man told us all to get on (we were the only ones to ride the bus over at that time) so we all did. Another man came over and yelled at us younger travelers, telling us we were capable of walking and to get off the golf cart. We were quite embarrassed and extremely offended. But hey, what can you do? We sent grandma with mom and the four of us “young travelers” walked in the rain to the boat.
Luckily, the boat was beautiful and gave us a nice view as we hauled it in the rain.
The boat’s paddle wheel.
We found grandma and mother and walked on to the boat. We were greeted by some super nice staff members and they made us completely forget about the rude old man.
The super nice welcome committee!
We found our way to our rooms. The Husband and I had a balcony room next to mother and grandma. My brother and his wife were in an inside cabin, since those were the only options when we booked the trip. Our rooms were so spacious and absolutely gorgeous. They looked just like you would expect a steamboat room to look.
Our gorgeous room.
The beds were super comfy and the bathroom was actually quite large. The extra sink and vanity outside of the bathroom made getting ready pretty quick. It’s always nice not to have to share the bathroom mirror.
Everyday they made up your room and gave you the schedule for the next day, so you could plan your day out.
After everyone found their way to their room there was a safety drill. We had to put on life jackets and pretend we were on the Titanic.
Just kidding. We were still docked.
After the safety drill was over we headed out to explore the ship (and find all the bars!).
The gorgeous main staircase.
The dining room where we couldn’t sit together. But the food was absolutely amazing. So good that there will be a separate post just about the food (read it here).
The Front Porch. The served food here during all breakfast, lunch, and dinner hours. And they had a bar with a fabulous bartender, Hank.
The outside bar that was barely open, because it was too cold and rainy most of the time.
The pool and gym area. The pool was also barely open thanks to Mother Nature.
My brother and his wife never get cold, I swear. They braved the pool.
Of course they had shows. What cruise is complete without a nice show? Sure, they were a little cheesy but for the most part, they were actually really really good.
The boat would stop and pick up musicians during the dinner hour, slowly run up and down an area of the Mississippi while the band performed, then drop them back off. The singer the first night was amazing, and was kind enough to stop and take a selfie with us!
Grandma’s first selfie!
Lots of on board entertainment.
Once the captain learned that it was grandma’s 87th birthday he just had to come over and meet her.
I’m not sure who’s happier…
There was a good amount of down time, but between Monopoly and the drink of the day special, we were never bored. In fact, I didn’t get out my laptop, iPad, or a book the entire trip down the Mississippi, which is a six hour drive or a five day cruise…
Grandma insisted we had to have a mint julep, which I hate and she realized she thought it was something else…
The weirdest part of the trip (aside from the tandem bikers) was all the crap that got stuck in the paddle wheel. The Mighty Mississippi is actually quite disgusting and a paddle boat doesn’t seem like the smartest idea.
The crew fishing out a tree from the paddle wheel.
Even though the river itself is dirty, the view was quite pretty the entire way.
Our view for five days.
We made lots of stops along the way. Some were actual scheduled stops and some were to let the bikers on and off. Word of advice if you ever take the boat: request a room away from the paddle wheel. Not only did it wake us up every morning around 6 AM when it let the bikers off but it also was very wet outside of our room, all the time. We couldn’t spend a much time outside at the little tables next to our room because of the paddle wheel.
Our first main, scheduled stop was in Natchez, Mississippi. We took the included hop-on, hop-off bus around the town, checked out some historical buildings and some antebellum houses, then made friends with the bartenders at the bar by the boat (shocker, I know.)
Surprisingly cute bar inside.
One of our favorite stops was Nottoway Plantation. It was so grand and beautiful, I wanted to squeeze in to a corset and hoop dress and change my name to Scarlett.
Such a gorgeous place. It has restaurants, cottages, and tree swings. What more could you need?
The lovely tree swing.
It also had a great view of the boat.
We finally arrived early in the morning in New Orleans. It was a gloomy, foggy day, but we didn’t mind. We were ready to get off the boat.
Thanks for the warm welcome New Orleans.
I wish that we would have enjoyed the trip a little more. It was not cheap by any means and we all felt like the large group of tandem bikers really took away from our experience. We felt ignored, pushed to the side, inconvenienced, and truly let down. I did contact the company and spoke to a lovely British man who promised to email me back regarding our issues (we weren’t the only ones to complain) but I never heard back from him. I’ve tried to contact the company again but they changed their phone recording and it’s nearly impossible to get in touch with a human.
The only reason we weren’t extremely furious is thanks to the fabulous staff on the boat. We came across some of the best service professionals we have ever met: Dolle, the maitre d, Kenneth, the head waiter, Shantay, our waitress, Elivina, the lovely lady who always made sure my wine glass was full (wine and beer are included with dinner), Teo, the assistant waiter, Galvin, the Front Porch manager, Hank, the Front Porch bartender, and Ronnie, the Engine Bar bartender. They are all truly the epitome of customer service.
I would venture to guess that the trip is really amazing when there isn’t an overbearing group of people on it (there was a couple on board that were taking their 30th trip!). Maybe grandma will have a chance to take the trip again, and see what it’s really like.
Update: The original manager I spoke with no longer works for the company. I finally managed to speak to the the new manager regarding our issues on the trip. She promised that she would do something to make up for our trip and, months later, she still hasn’t. I emailed her, saying I really wanted to publish this post and she asked me to please wait until she got back to me. Well, four months later and nothing. I can’t wait forever. I’m sorry grandma’s bucket list trip ended this way.
Oh well, on to the next adventure!