American Duchess Cruise: Roller skating Elvis, paddlewheel guitar, much more on new boat

ABOARD THE AMERICAN DUCHESS – A singing Elvis on roller skates. Romantic “popera” (popular opera) made famous by Luciano Pavarotti and Sarah Brightman. A 1960s-sock hop. And country music ranging from Loretta Lynn to Garth Brooks.

The three entertainers on my cruise perform an ABBA song.

Entertainment on the American Duchess is never boring.

The multi-talented singers and musicians seem to be able to cover all genres of music – along with dancing, joking and audience interaction.

Before and after dinner, cocktail music is played by the four-piece American Duchess Show Band in the Grand Lobby. The big show offered each night in the Show Lounge starts at 8:30 and runs about 45 minutes.

Jeff Hutson does his best Elvis.

Lead entertainers on my cruise are husband and wife Courtney and Dustin Cunningham from Kentucky and Jeff Hutson from Indianapolis. Courtney and Dustin are very versatile singers and entertain with a wide range of music.

Jeff lends a touch of humor, especially when he dons a black leather outfit, Elvis wig with sideburns and roller skates while he sings “Greased Lightning.” Don’t know how he does it all, plus he really is a good skater.

Leaving the stage, Jeff skates loops around the dance floor, then calls several passengers from the audience to skate dance with him. Later in the cruise, Jeff dresses up in a chicken outfit – at least I think it’s a yellow chicken suit – and hands out bottles to blow soap bubbles. Never a dull moment when Jeff is around.

Outcaster’ guitar

Dustin Cunningham plays the ‘Outcaster’ guitar.

In one of his songs, Dustin played a guitar that was mighty interesting. Called an “Outcaster,” the unusual guitar was made from a plank from the old Mississippi Queen’s paddlewheel, Dustin said.

Launched in 1976, the Mississippi Queen was the largest steamboat ever built at the time with a capacity of 412 guests and 157 crew members. The magnificent paddle wheeler was sold for scrap and torn apart in 2011. I’m glad to see a part of her was saved and given new life for this musical instrument.

A couple of times, guest musicians are brought aboard the American Duchess for afternoon shows. On my cruise, we had acoustic blues artist Ben Payton one day and blues singers Kern Pratt and Denise Owen another afternoon.

Jeff Hutson roams the boat as a chicken.

After the evening show, the American Duchess Show Band takes a quick break, then offers more evening entertainment in the Show Lounge or the Lincoln Library, often continuing the theme from the evening’s big show.

The Show Lounge on Deck 1 is the main entertainment hub with comfortable stadium seating and great views of the stage from anywhere in the room. Cocktail tables are by the front seats. The seats closer to the back have folding trays that can be pulled up for snacks and drinks.

The Show Lounge is comfortable with great visibility.

The stage is small with an upper level and a staircase leading to it. There are no spectacular sets on the stage but they aren’t necessary. Courtney, Dustin, Jeff and the talented band provide great entertainment every night.

Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch

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