ON THE OHIO RIVER_After spending the night in Louisville at The Brown Hotel, we were on our own until 3 pm, when we would board a bus for the short drive to the port. Some in our group opted to take American Queen’s premium tour of Churchill Downs. It gave me a chance to write and Pam an opportunity to shop.
American Queen runs their own fleet of modern buses, which also provide “hop on-hop off” tours at every port stop.
Boat card in hand, we were instructed to go straight to our rooms and make sure all our luggage arrived. Ours was a junior suite on deck five, almost at the top of the boat (it is a boat, by the way, and not a ship).
While the room was nicely appointed, there was one problem we noticed straightaway: The AC unit was making a loud banging sound. We reported it to our room attendant and decided we better not unpack just yet until that was resolved.
So we headed for deck three and the Front Porch, where there was a champagne welcome reception. Located at the front of the boat, a Dixieland-style band was in full swing. This we learned is a favorite landing place, where you can get a drink from the bar, enjoy self-serve ice cream and eat open-air for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or just enjoy the view from a rocking chair.
While they worked on our stateroom problem, we started exploring the boat. Launched in 1995 and refurbished through several ownership changes, American Queen is elegantly-appointed with dark woods, vintage lighting and antiques. The staff we’ve encountered have all been uniformly friendly and welcoming.
We make our way from the Front Porch to the River Grill and Bar, located aft on deck five right above the giant red paddlewheels that drive the boat. The bartender, who hails from Quebec, gave us the lay of the land and we were soon joined by fellow guests, many of whom are repeat cruisers. In fact, a good percentage of the 250 passengers have cruised multiple times on American Queen vessels.
By the way, drinks — except for ones designated premium — are included in the fares, as well as Wi-Fi and the hop on, hop off tours at the ports.
From the bar we made a stop at the Engine Room Viewing Area. You can descend a flight of stairs and stand by the giant steam pistons that turn the paddlewheels. It’s impressive to watch, but steamy, so we beat a retreat to check on our room.
We learn that the AC blower unit must be replaced. They think maybe an hour. So with a quick look back at our unpacked luggage, we head for the Grand Saloon to learn about the shore excursions coming up.
Our first stop is Madison, Indiana, where we’re scheduled to visit historic homes, museums and the world’s only surviving saddletree factory. They make it easy to reserve your preferred time: Using the self-serve kiosk by the Purser’s office, you select one of eight departure times, the number of guests going and voila! Your tickets are printed out.
By now, the day is running into evening, and we are desperate to change clothes and shower. One more check and it’s evident repairs aren’t going quickly. So we appeal to the manager and no problem, they move us around the corner to a room that’s actually a tad bigger.
By the time we get everything unpacked and refresh ourselves, it’s time to head for a late dinner in the J.M. White Dining Room. Once there, we get another surprise: We have assigned seating, and they had to release our table for someone else. Who knew?
At any rate, the food was very good, as was the service. And now we know we have to arrive at 8 pm to claim our table. One aside: The vast majority of guests on this cruise prefer early dining, so getting a table at the late seating is really not a problem.
Since it had been a long day, we headed back to our new stateroom — The Lindy Boggs Suite (honoring the first woman elected to Congress from Louisiana) and stood by the railing as we silently passed a large Kentucky power plant on our way to Indiana. It was nighttime on the Ohio, and so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
Time to turn in and get some much-needed rest.
PHOTOS by Gerry Barker
- A band welcomes guests at the champagne reception (cover photo)
- The deck outside our stateroom
- Guests board the American Queen
- Our packs waiting to be unpacked
See sailings here American Queen Voyages Cruises (cruisecompete.com)