Cruising the Ohio River~on the American Queen ~Louisville

LOUISVILLE, KY._Today brings good news and not so good news.

The good news is, our travel from Palm Beach to Louisville was uneventful. Going through security at PBI was a snap (our first time to use TSA Precheck — worth every penny). Our Delta flights took off on time and arrived early, both in Atlanta and Louisville.

From the Louisville airport, we were able to catch a shuttle to our next stop, the Brown Hotel, where American Queen has housed all the passengers who’ll board the ship Monday for the start of our eight-day excursion on the Ohio River.

The Brown is an historic, 16-story hotel in downtown Louisville. Entering the expansive, ornate lobby is like taking a step back in time, when founder J. Graham Brown opened the doors in 1923. As you might expect in the city that hosts the Kentucky Derby, portraits of horses adorn the walls throughout, as do equine sculptures and lamps.

But more than famous visitors and fancy decor, the hotel’s real claim to fame is the Hot Brown, an open-faced sandwich introduced by hotel chef Fred K. Schmidt in the 1920s, featuring sliced turkey and bacon in a Mornay sauce. Not only was it wildly popular with the locals, but also became famous world-wide through TV food programs and documentaries.

Of course we had to order one. The verdict? The raves are all well-deserved. It was absolutely delicious.

But the main business of the day was the pre-boarding preliminaries, and that brings me to the not-so-good news. If you recall in the previous post, I made mention American Queen has recently canceled pre-cruise COVID testing for their river cruises. It turned out our cruise was an exception.

After checking with American Queen management, they told me sorry for the confusion, but our cruise would be the last one requiring testing. And I, in fact, would hold the honor of being the last journalist tested. Having already had almost a dozen tests on different cruises, it wasn’t a big deal, except for the conflicting messages. One final note — this was first test we had that was self-administered.

After getting our negative result, we completed the pre-boarding process by getting a ticket for our bus transfer from the hotel to the boat, had our picture taken and given our “sea pass” card.

The next morning, American Queen is hosting all the guests for breakfast in the hotel’s Crystal Ballroom. For this cruise, there are about 250 of us (the boat has a capacity of just over 400, plus crew). We will be on the 3 pm bus that will take us to the start of our adventure on the Ohio River.

Almost time to see for ourselves what Mark Twain made so famous in his literary works.

PHOTOS by Gerry Barker

  • The famous Hot Brown sandwich (Cover Photo)
  • The Brown Hotel lobby
  • A statue of Brown Hotel founder J. Graham Brown
  • Greeted by the Colonel himself at the Louisville Airport

See sailings here American Queen Voyages Cruises (



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