American Cruise Lines: Wonderful ‘non-typical’ days on American Symphony

A reader asked me to write about a typical day on our American Symphony cruise. Very difficult. Because no days are “typical” on this beautiful riverboat.

That is one of the great joys of cruising. Seeing something new every day. Stopping in new destinations. Dining on delicious new cuisine. And meeting friendly new people.

But I can tell you what a day has offered on the wonderful cruise that my brother Joe and I are enjoying from Memphis to New Orleans. Each day, we have a two-sided Ship to Shore newsletter that details what is going on, when and where.

The newsletter also alerts us to the weather forecast on this particular day – high 61 degrees, low 41 degrees – along with telephone numbers for American Symphony cruise officials. Very important information is what time our riverboat will arrive at our destination today – 8 a.m. – and what time we will depart – 5 p.m.

Monday on our cruise

I’ve picked a Monday on our cruise when we visited Darrow, Louisiana. First, Joe and I headed to breakfast in the dining room available from 7 to 9 a.m. A more casual breakfast also is served from 6-10 a.m. on the Back Porch Café. Then there is always something to eat available 24 hours a day in the Sky Lounge.

I’ve never seen a vessel have a similar setup but it is very handy. A choice of boxes of cereal, packages of assorted nuts, candy and snack bars are always in the Sky Lounge. Fruit and pastries are often set out on the bar counter. In the self-serve fridge, passengers can always get cartons of milk, soft drinks, fruit drinks and water.

The dining room breakfast on this day featured omelets, any style eggs, quiche, buttermilk biscuits and gravy, waffles, oatmeal, housemade granola, bacon, sausage, breakfast potatoes and grits.

Lyric Lounge is a great place to relax.

After breakfast, cruisers could choose to join Cruise Director Justin to paint colorful pictures of the mighty Mississippi River. Some passengers went on the Cajun Country Exploration shore excursion to discover the swamps and bayous of southeast Louisiana. Other choices included playing bingo or listening to guest speaker Jim Schwieckart present “What the heck” – a humorous chat that covers some of the stranger aspects of river life.

Visiting Houmas House

Joe and I walked over to Houmas House and Gardens. American Symphony was docked right across the road from Houmas House and it was easy to stroll over to see the famous 16-room “Sugar Palace” showcasing the immense wealth this sugarcane farm boasted during the 1800s. We didn’t even have to worry about crossing the road. An overpass offers a pleasant place to walk from the riverbank to Houmas House.

Houmas House

The plantation was just as I remembered from the old 1964 Bette Davis/Joan Crawford movie, “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” which was filmed here.

Make that the Bette Davis movie. “Joan and Bette got into a fight,” guide Danielle said. “Joan packed her bags and went back to Hollywood. They got Olivia de Havilland to replace Joan and had to reshoot all Joan’s scenes.”

A Houmas House bedroom is where Bette Davis stayed. Her hat and purse are placed on the bed as though she has just stepped out for a cocktail and plans to return.

Bette Davis bedroom at Houmas House.

Lunch in Symphony restaurant

At noon, it was time for lunch in the Symphony restaurant. Entrees all sounded good. Hard to make a choice.  Creole shrimp served with cheese grits, cherry tomatoes, creole sauce and herb crostini. Or barbecue ribs with broccoli salad, corn and cheddar muffins and baked beans. Or country fried steak with sautéed green beans, mashed potatoes, caramelized onions and sweet corn muffins. My choice.

Dessert was a salted caramel brownie and assorted ice cream. Wine, beer and soft drinks are served complimentary with lunch and dinner. Joe and I favored Abita amber lager beer because it is not always easy to find the Louisiana specialty where we live.

Stateroom balcony is handy for relaxing. 

After lunch, some folks stayed aboard the American Symphony for a sports trivia game. Others walked over to Houmas House with Cruise Director Justin who acknowledges that Houmas is his favorite planation.

Oak Alley Plantation

Joe and I climbed aboard the American Cruise Lines cruise coach to ride to Oak Alley Plantation. Known as “The Grand Dame of the Great River Road,” Oak Alley got its name, of course, from its stunning one-fourth mile of 300-year-old live oaks lining the entrance to the Greek Revival antebellum home. As an added treat, we were greeted at Oak Alley with a complimentary mint julep.

Oak Alley Plantation

Back on the American Symphony, it was time for cocktail hour at 5:30. Tasty appetizers were accompanied by complimentary wine, beer or cocktails. Added pleasure was piano music from the magic fingers of resident entertainer Jon England.

Dinner in the restaurant also started for open seating from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Terrific menu starting with lobster bisque or organic greens with dried cranberries, mandarin oranges, toasted pine nuts and raspberry vinaigrette.

For entrées, it was Dijon crusted leg of lamb with leek risotto, sautéed peas, carrots, cranberry mint marmalade and red wine demi. Or braised short ribs with mashed potatoes, sautéed cauliflower and broccoli florets and creamy cognac demi sauce. Or Louisiana court bouillon with  crab, shrimp, clams, mussels and fish served in a tomato saffron broth.

Louisiana court bouillon is a tasty combo of fresh seafood.

Dessert choices were turtle cheesecake, bourbon pecan pie or assorted ice cream.

At 8:20, the quick Chart Your Course is offered each evening in the River Lounge. That’s where Cruise Director Justin and Excursions Director Mikalla give a rundown of all of tomorrow’s activities.

So a “typical” day on the American Symphony could keep passengers busy or could allow time to just sit back, enjoy the beautiful riverboat and watch the river flow.

 American Symphony waits for us at end of day.

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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