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AMERICAN QUEEN Shakedown Report

 
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Old 04-14-2012, 06:43 PM
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Mile 639 is where I grew up
Posts: 609
Default AMERICAN QUEEN Shakedown Report

What can I say.... STEAMBOATIN' is back!!!!

It was a whirlwind trip as I had to work on Sunday before leaving and be back at the office at 8:00 a.m. on Friday. But we crammed a whole lot of fun in between.

I was one of the lucky ones to get invited on the AQ Shakedown Cruise April 10-12th. But before we get into that I want to thank Judy Patsch for the welcome to her second home, New Orleans. My sister and I left Southern Indiana a little earlier Sunday afternoon than expected as I didn't know how to work the new program at the office. (Any excuse will do). We made it as far as Tuscaloosa for the evening. Monday morning we made it into Slidell, where we dropped off bags at the home of our hostess and grabbed a great lunch at Speckled T's. Thanks Lisa. Your place really worked well. We headed right into New Orleans and straight down to the French Quarter. We had been given instructions on where to park, thanks again Judy. The NATCHEZ was just leaving on her 2:00 cruise. We got to hear whistles and calliope music. YEAH! We made a quick hike up to 1113 Chartres to visit the Beauregard-Keyes House. My next favorite thing after steamboats is old houses. Wonderful tour. I even got to see Judy's prior home in the "lower level" and witness the courtyard where so many steamboat parties have taken place.

Went straight from there to the NATCHEZ tent to meet up with Judy and find a "real" New Orleans place for dinner. It was decided Maspero's would be the place. WOW!!!! Best jambalaya I've ever had. My sister enjoyed the oysters and Judy said the shrimp was really good too. Then over to the NATCHEZ for the evening cruise. DOUBLE WOW!!!! Thanks Captain Delaney for a wonderful cruise. I can now mark off my bucket list blowing the NATCHEZ whistle. So good to be in the pilot house and talk real steamboatin' while cruising down the river. Even heard some old friends on the radio. Hi Captain Finley.

Short night and off to a swamp tour off the Pearl River. It must have been before breakfast for the alligators. We saw only one small one. That was plenty for me. Our guide asked why we were visiting the area and everyone laughed when I said to ride boats and counted down the three we would be riding including the little swamp tour boat. The very distinct eco systems we saw were fascinating. Quick lunch at The Diner in Slidell. Then off to get on the AQ - finally!

The paddlewheel was turning. WHAT A SIGHT! The band set up on the balcony off the Engine Room Bar included none other than Walter Kross to entertain while we waited in a short line for check-in. A very warm welcome from the CEO Mr. Krida on down the line to the check in personnel, who did a great job. Our passes with our names were there and waiting. Luggage was whisked off to our stateroom, which we found without any problem, as there was crew posted at every turn to help out. "River Times" was already on our beds to give us a minute by minute look at what was going on everywhere on the boat. And believe you me there was plenty! This included an insert "The Telegraph" From Your Riverlorian. We then started on a quick tour of the boat. Who should we run into first but Travis and Mary. Hugs for everyone! In no particular order, as I can't remember when I saw who, but you'll recognize many of the names, Steve Spracklin, Phil Westbrook, Bob Schad, Bill Weimuth, Laura Sable, Jackie Bankston, etc. There are deck crew we remember, there are folks in the engine room we remember, but one of my very favorites is in the gift shop. None other than Pat Taylor. BIG hugs! It was so good to see her and she is so glad to be back on brown water.

Dinner in the J.M. White Dining Room is an experience in itself. Missed our favorite staff, but the new folks are friendly and want to please. The complimentary wine was not just the first glass. There were choices of three appetizers, two salads and four or five entree, which includes steak, lobster, etc. No bread pudding the first night, but it was on the menu the second night. Breakfast and lunch are the usual. I prefer the buffet, as I can get in and out quickly, so I didn't look at the menu. One of my favorite things on the menu was always the soup. It's just as good this time! We never made it up to the River Grill, but did enjoy the ice cream, pop corn and soft drinks on the Front Porch. There were hot dogs and different kinds of coffee, teas and hot chocolate as well. I hope Maxx stays on in the dining room. He's a keeper. He enjoyed finding out what FRN means and is to ask Bruno if he is one.

I was sorry we didn't make it to the departure calliope concert, as we did early dinner. Luckily we were done in time to see us depart. There were some real steamboaters on the wharf to see us off, Richard and Suzanne Martinez and Richard and Patty Reiff, who are now cruising up the river on the very first public cruise. There just wasn't time to take in all that was going on onboard. We never made it to any talks by Travis or Mary (Jerry Hay will be getting on the end of April). There was two different shows in the Grand Saloon each evening. We only made it to "Showboat Jubliee". It was really good as it was a timeline of river music from early right down to "Proud Mary". The second afternoon there was a Cooking Demonstration. Overnight we arrived at Oak Alley. This is included as part of the package, but there are Premium Tours you can pay for. At Oak Alley you can also go to Laura or take a swamp tour. I went to Laura in the morning and it was well worth it. The owner of the house was our tour guide. After lunch on the boat I then went on the tour of Oak Alley. It was very enjoyable as well. And I enjoyed each gift shop.

All too soon it was time to depart. As there was a storm brewing The Sail Away Party had to be moved frm the Sun Deck to the Engine Room Bar. So no calliope again. We did head up river a ways before turning around and heading back down river. We were back in New Orleans around midnight. Disembarkation the next morning was as usual for me. I didn't want to get off! Luckily I have a cruise booked for July. It won't get here soon enough.

The AMERICAN QUEEN is not the DELTA QUEEN. She is her big sister. And she is big compared to. The Great American Steamboat Company is trying VERY hard to get it "right". They deserve our attention and our business. And I for one want to congratulate them and wish them the very best for a long and profitable future. When will next year's schedule be out?!?!?!

If any one has any questions please feel free to email through this website. I would love to discuss this experience.
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