The American Queen can carry 436 guests in 222 staterooms and suites. My cruise, which departed St. Paul on Sept. 21, was nearly full, but the big six-story boat never felt crowded.
My stateroom had a sofa and a wicker chair and ottoman, flat-screen television, large closet, ample bathroom with tub, and a second sink just outside the door, across from a mirrored vanity. I stayed in an outside stateroom.
In January, when the American Queen takes a monthlong break in New Orleans, the boat will get another spiffing up. Wallpaper in the staterooms and artwork and carpet in the public spaces will be replaced.
During my trip, a stealth worker replaced dated, dark wallpaper with a more modern version in public spaces during the wee hours.
Prices for the seven-night trip I took range from $5,795 for a suite with a veranda to $1,995 for the smallest inside cabin (per person, double occupancy); they include one night in a hotel before or after the cruise, all meals, wine or beer with dinner and hop-on, hop-off bus tours in port towns.
Voyages between St. Paul and St. Louis run regularly through early November, with one three-night round trip that begins and ends in St. Paul, departing Oct. 19. I opted for the St. Paul to St. Louis route because the boat stops in a port each day. Trips upriver from St. Louis include a few days exclusively on the boat. "People build a strong relationship with the river on those trips," said the boat's river historian, Travis Vasconcelos.
There are 26 locks between the two cities. Experiencing the 90-foot-wide boat squeeze into the 110-foot-wide locks (and sometimes feeling a gentle bonk as the boat taps a lock wall) is a trip highlight for many on board.
The American Queen plies the Mississippi, Ohio or Tennessee rivers nearly year-round. Many trips have themes, such as "Polka Cruise" and "Walk in Elvis' Steps."
www.american queensteamboat company.com; 1-888-749-5280.