Review of American Serenade Cruise: Boarding the Ship

When I told a friend I was taking a weeklong riverboat cruise from Memphis to Nashville, she just laughed. “It only takes a little over three hours to drive the 212 miles from Memphis to Nashville,” she said. “Why is it taking you so long to cruise there?”

Well, for one reason my American Serenade cruise will be traveling on rivers, not on major interstate highways. For another, the journey is what is important. We will be stopping at ports along the way and taking shore excursions, plus spending several days leisurely cruising while watching the river flow.

On the day of boarding the American Serenade riverboat, most of us were up bright and early in the lobby of The Guest House at Graceland. After spending a complimentary pre-cruise night at The Guest House, our luggage had been picked up in our rooms and was being loaded on the waiting American Cruise Lines motorcoach. We were enjoying a complimentary breakfast at Delta’s Kitchen at The Guest House.

Out motorcoach is easy to spot outside The Guest House. It has huge red, white and blue signs noting that the cruise coach belongs to American Cruise Lines. The coach will be following us along the cruise so it will always be there on time when we need a bus. Smart move by American Cruise Lines.

American Cruise Lines motorcoach follows the cruise to take passengers on shore excursions.

Soon we were boarding the coach for a morning tour around Memphis before embarking on the beautiful new American Serenade just in time for lunch.

The motorcoach tour was a thoughtful and relaxing way to have cruisers see a bit of Memphis while the American Serenade crew prepares for our arrival. Previous passengers had disembarked that morning so I know that turn-around day is very busy for riverboat crews.

Memphis Tour

As a solo traveler, I chose a motorcoach window seat on the Memphis tour. First stop was Sun Studio where Elvis made his first recording that launched his spectacular career. We didn’t tour the Studio once owned by Sam Phillips. But we were able to take photos and buy Sun Studio souvenirs.

Sun Studio was part of our Memphis bus tour.

Next was the Peabody Hotel to watch the morning parade of ducks from their penthouse atop the hotel to the lobby fountain. There the ducks splash and entertain visitors until it is time to march to hotel elevators to return to their penthouse for the night.

Parade of Peabody ducks. Photo courtesy of Peabody Hotel

Then came a visit to Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, at age 39. The motel exterior looks like it has been stuck in time. Antique automobiles are parked beneath the second-floor balcony where MLK was standing when he was shot by James Earl Ray from a rooming house across the street. Inside is a museum.

We didn’t tour the museum or the boarding house exhibit across the street. We just saw the exterior but the Lorraine Motel is definitely on my to-do list someday.

The Lorraine Motel was where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

Convicted of killing MLK, James Earl Ray was sentenced to life in prison. He died April 23, 1998, at age 70 in a prison hospital. Cause of death was complications related to kidney disease and liver failure caused by hepatitis C.

Boarding American Serenade

Boarding a new ship is always exciting. And seeing the cabin where I will be spending the next week is doubly exciting, especially this time because I am in a solo cabin. I have never stayed in a solo cabin so I am curious to see how it compares to a regular cabin for two passengers.

My solo cabin is cozy and beautiful. Not as large as regular cabins but it is just me staying there. Located on Deck 2, my cabin has a plush double bed with quality bed linens and duvet, three bed pillows and a cushion, long dresser with plenty of drawers and a desk on part of the dresser, a chair, mirror, Keurig coffee maker, nightstand next to the bed with lamp and clock, large flat screen TV, closet and lots of storage space.

My single cabin is compact and comfortable. 

For such a small room, my cabin has more than enough electric outlets to plug in my cellphone, camera and laptop. The bathroom seems like a full size one with plenty of hot water and great water pressure. That isn’t always the case on cruise ships so I am quite happy.

My single cabin bathroom is large with plenty of hot water.

Located at the bow of the ship, my single cabin has sliding glass doors leading to a lovely balcony with a table and chair plus an oversized window directly opposite the bed. As soon as I walked in, I opened the blinds on the window and door to see the river outside. In fact, my cabin has more great window views than many full-size cabins sometimes have.

Outside my cabin door is a neat gadget that replaces those awkward “Do Not Disturb” signs that seem to fall off door handles or get lost. All I have to do is turn the message in the gadget to “Welcome,” meaning the cabin attendant can enter to clean or turn it to “Do Not Disturb,” meaning exactly that.

A handy gadget take the place of a door hanger.

‘Ship to Shore’ Newsletter

My cabin is cleaned every day with a turndown each night including a chocolate candy and a copy of the daily “Ship to Shore” newsletter. The double-sided newsletter contains a wealth of information – when the dining room and Ellipse Cafe serve meals, hours when ship services are open, when the boat will dock in each river town and what time the boat will depart.

The front page of the newsletter features weather for the day, free WiFi network and password, important phone numbers for crew officials, information about the day’s shore stops, the evening entertainment and more.

Details about the various cities along our cruise route is fascinating. For example, did you know that Graceland, home of Elvis Presley, is the second most visited private home in America, next to the White House in Washington, DC.

The reverse side of the Ship to Shore newsletter is a valuable listing of the day’s activities aboard the ship and what time the various shore excursions will depart. For example, guest speaker Mark Wisner will be presenting a program on the “Louisiana Purchase: Our Nation’s Biggest Gamble” in the River Lounge. The important purchase doubled the size of our country.

The view from my single cabin balcony.

Now I’m off to learn more about American Serenade to share with you. My first impressions are that it is a gorgeous new ship and that my single stateroom is going to be a very comfy home away from home.

Bottom Line: American Serenade single stateroom is larger than expected with lovely balcony and roomy full-size bed and big bathroom, plus it is less expensive than a double cabin. Would recommend it for solo travelers wanting to cruise but hoping to save money.

Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch

7 Night – Music Cities Cruise from Memphis, TN to Nashville, TN

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