American Cruise Lines: Low river means bus ride to board American Symphony

Because of the low Mississippi River, the American Symphony could not maneuver in Memphis. Instead, after breakfast at The Guest House at Graceland, we climbed aboard a cruise coach for a four-hour ride to Vicksburg. The comfortable coach provided snacks and water plus a halfway stop at a rest area to stretch our legs.

I didn’t mind the ride because it was interesting to watch the scenery along the drive. My brother Joe enjoyed seeing the difference between the passing landscape and his Colorado home. I also commend American Cruise Lines for arranging the coach ride instead of cancelling our cruise.

Having a personalized private cruise coach is a big plus for American Cruise Lines passengers. It certainly is easy to recognize the special bus when it pulls up with its red, white and blue stars and stripes and the words “Cruise Close to Home.”

American Cruise Lines’ cruise coach waits for us at The Guest House at Graceland.

Cruise line motorcoach a big plus

The cruise coach follows the Symphony and provides private hop-on hop-off transportation to shore excursions as well as providing rides to and from airports for our cruise. By having its own private coaches, American Cruise Lines ensures that transportation will be there when we need it. It is also nice to see the friendly faces of our coach drivers when we board one of the buses.

Several years ago, I was on a Mississippi River cruise with another cruise line where passengers climbed a steep hill in the July heat to catch a scheduled bus for a tour. An hour went by and the rented bus hadn’t arrived. When the cruise director called the bus company, she learned that they had forgotten about the reservation and would be happy to send a bus on the way. Too late.

Not a good thing. That tour was cancelled, of course. Passengers were unhappy because they had looked forward to the tour and, instead, had to stand waiting in the hot sun for more than an hour.

Cruise line representatives were unhappy because their passengers were not pleased and because the cruise line had to refund tour fees to passengers.

And that bus company sure got a serious bad mark against its reputation. American Cruise Lines prevents such bad happenings by providing its own comfortable cruise coaches.

Greeted by delicious lunch                                   

When we arrived in Vicksburg and boarded the American Symphony, we were welcomed with lunch. The restaurant on the Main Deck has table-to-ceiling views and open seating at every meal. I’ll write more about the cuisine later.

Our stateroom is large and comfy with a lovely balcony.

Hotel General Manager Mason Hollandbeck said the American Symphony can carry 175 passengers. On our cruise, we have 160 passengers and 55 crew members. Quite a pampering passenger/crew ratio. No wonder I feel as though the crew is always spiffing up the boat or asking if we needed anything.

Heading to our stateroom, Joe and I were quite happy to see where we will be staying for a week. Our stateroom No. 417 is larger than many hotel rooms. It has a phone, big screen TV, Keurig coffee maker and one of the largest mini fridges I have seen on any cruise vessel. And the fridge is actually cold. Some cruise vessel fridges are not even cool, let alone cold.

The bathroom has a roomy shower with good water pressure and plenty of hot water. The beds are super comfy with premium white linens, duvet and pillows.

A large mini-fridge is cold and roomy. 

Large floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors lead to a private balcony with two chairs and a table. All American Symphony cabins have balconies. The cabin décor features soothing colors of light blues and earth tones. A desk with a chair and a round table with two upholstered chairs offers good seating. A dresser with six drawers and a closet are great storage spaces. The boat has free Wi-Fi and our cabin has adequate plugs for electronic devices.

Outside our cabin door is a handy device. Instead of having to hang a “Do Not Disturb” or “Please Make Up My Cabin” sign, a little device on the wall allows us to flip to a green message for the steward to “Make Up Room.” When the steward is done, he changes the message to “Welcome.”

A handy device outside our stateroom lets the room steward know to make up our room. 

Lovely windows galore

Exploring the ship, I’m happy to discover all the wide-open spaces with expansive glass windows galore. The American Symphony has a complimentary self-serve laundry facility, a fitness center with free weights and low-impact aerobics machines, a walking track on the top deck, a small library with books and games, sun deck with lounges, and two speedy elevators.

The Sky Lounge offers drinks and snacks around the clock. 

With a goal of “bringing the outside in,” American Symphony offers three times as much glass as other riverboats as well as panoramic views from the boat’s lounges. An open-air SkyWalk circling the top deck is bound to be one of Joe’s favorite Symphony spots. The top deck also features a dramatic cutout that cantilevers over the lounge and café on Deck 4.

The dining room features many table-to-ceiling windows for lovely river views.

Of course, the Symphony’s retractable gangway on the bow is a very eye-catching feature. The unusual gangway allows passengers to disembark in non-traditional locations even in ports without a dock present.

Lounges offer places for games, reading or relaxing.

American Symphony offers soothing colors of blue and earth tones plus musical art works.  

So now Joe and I are off on our first Symphony shore excursion. We will be boarding that wonderful cruise coach again for a brief comfy ride.

Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch

Ed. Notes: CruiseCompete and its member travel advisors provide many curated cruise and land deals, offers and amenities on over 50 cruise lines with over 500 cruise ships sailing all around the world. Browse Cruise Ships and Cruise Lines

7 Night – Lower Mississippi River Cruise from.. American Symphony (


Day 1 Memphis TN
Day 2 Day of River Cruising
Day 3 Vicksburg, MS
Day 4 Natchez, MS
Day 5 St. Francisville, LA
Day 6 Baton Rouge, LA
Day 7 Houmas House, LA
Day 8 New Orleans, LA



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