LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI, WITH THE AMERICAN QUEEN
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.
CHOOSING YOUR TRIP
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.