Cruising the Ohio River~on the American Queen ~Cincinnati

ON THE OHIO RIVER_On day three of our eight-day cruise from Louisville to Pittsburgh, aboard the American Queen steamboat, we have gone from small and charming (Madison, IN.) to big and sprawling — Cincinnati, Ohio.

We have also left the mild weather behind as well. Today the forecast is bright, sunny and hot, about what you might expect on a summer day in August.

The tours start a little later than usual, which gives us a chance to enjoy a leisurely breakfast in the main dining room. Overall, with one or two exceptions, the food has been excellent, and our breakfast was no different. I had the French toast while Pam went with her favorite, Eggs Benedict. The service is topnotch as well.

For our hop on, hop off excursion, there are five stops, including two that require an admission charge — The Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum (we learned the Reds, or as they were called at the time, the Red Stockings, were baseball’s first professional team) and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

We opt to hop off at the Krohn Conservatory, a nationally-recognized botanical garden built in 1933. Like many of the stops, American Queen has negotiated free entry, which is a nice perk the tours provide.

The gardens are stunning, and include special areas for bonsai trees, orchids and a rain forest complete with a waterfall. The oldest bonsai tree in their collection is a 350-year-old Ponderosa pine, which one of their experts told me took three years to relocate to the conservatory.

The tour also included stops at the Eden park overlook and the Newport waterfront district, which features a world-class aquarium. As one-time residents of Ohio, we were well-acquainted with this area and chose to return to the boat for lunch.

Afterwards, I took my PC to the Front Porch outdoor deck to send my latest dispatch to readers at All Things Cruise. Why? I failed to mention when they switched our rooms, we are now in a part of the boat that has little or no WiFi service. So when we need WiFi, we have to go to the Mark Twain Gallery or another public space, which is an annoyance. Having the strongest possible WiFi connection should be at the top of every cruise line’s to-do list.

In the afternoon, the boat’s “riverlorian” delivers another informative lecture about the history of river travel, from dug-out canoes to steamships. We heard from the crew that the river is at a high stage, no doubt related to the flooding in eastern Kentucky.

We get an afternoon cocktail at our favorite bar — the River Grill and Bar. We aren’t sure why “Grill” is in the name since they only serve drinks, and service there is limited to only a few hours daily. That’s a shame because it has a great location at the aft area of the boat, and adding food to the options seems to make sense.

I should note our room, like the majority of staterooms, doesn’t have a private balcony. Instead, there are chairs placed outside where we can sit and watch the river or converse with fellow guests. And regardless of where, passengers on this cruise love to chat and interact. It’s a friendly bunch.

In the Grand saloon there’s a disembarkation talk, which seems early since the cruise is only half-over. But we can see they need to plan on airport transportation, hotels, etc. Afterwards, it’s time for the early show, “Burnin’ Strings,” with guitarist and vocalist Logan Reeves. Reeves can make a guitar do amazing things, and he takes us through a little musical history, accompanied by the Steamboat Syncopators. His concluding rock anthems, “Voodoo Child” by Jimi Hendrix and the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me,” really had the audience rocking out.

Dinner featured a Southern favorite, fried chicken, and for dessert, one of my favorites, Bananas Foster. The chicken was the best I’ve had on a cruise ship. Most cruise ship chefs just can’t seem to get it right.

After dinner, we took a stroll on the top deck and saw bright spotlights scanning the shoreline on either side of the boat. Curious, we headed forward for a closer look. A small crowd had gathered at the front of the boat and we could see the reason for both: We were approaching another lock on the river.

We pulled up a chair and watched as we slowly entered the lock. As the waters slowly rise, lifting the boat up, you can’t help but be awed by the engineering prowess behind it all.

Leaving the lock behind, American Queen sailed onward toward our next stop, Mayesville, Kentucky. And that’s where we end this.

PHOTOS by Gerry Barker

  • The Krohn Conservatory in Cincinnati (cover photo)
  • Guitarist extraordinaire Logan Reeves performs “Burnin’ Strings”
  • The J.M. White main dining room
  • American Queen prepares to leave a lock

See sailings here American Queen Voyages Cruises (


Leave a Comment

Trusted by over 1.5 million cruisers since 2003.
Get FREE access to members-only pricing.
There is a highly acclaimed way to receive multiple quotes from a site called CruiseCompete, where cruise specialists compete to offer you the best deal. The media sums it up for CruiseCompete:
Score Luxury Cruises at Bargain Prices” (The Street)
Best site for cruise deals” (The Wall Street Journal)
28 Best Travel Sites” (Kiplinger's) Multiple annual mentions
36 Web Addresses You Should Know” (The Washington Post)