Stepping off the American Serenade and walking up the Nashville riverfront hill to the waiting American Cruise Lines motorcoach, a woman asked me if I would recommend cruising.
An older single lady, she saw me walking alone and wondered if I had taken the cruise by myself. Sure did.
Her first name was Carolyn and she lived in Nashville. She had seen the ship docked there for two days and had even checked out American Cruise Lines on its website. But she wanted to ask a person taking the cruise for an opinion.
Yes, I definitely would recommend the exact same cruise I had just completed. Carolyn could book the cruise to leave from Nashville, cruise for a week to Memphis with stops and shore excursions in between.
When the cruise ended in Memphis, she could rent a car and drive home. I’ve done that. No problem. Or she could start her cruise in Memphis and end up in her hometown of Nashville.
Inaugurated on April 23 in Vidalia, Louisiana, American Serenade offers 91 cabins with a guest capacity of 180 passengers. For my fully booked cruise, I stayed in a comfy single cabin – the ship has four – which included a big bathroom, a full-size balcony and a picture window overlooking the bow of the ship.
Although my solo stateroom was smaller than regular cabins, it was roomy enough for me. And it was not as expensive as regular staterooms.
Included in Cruise Costs
American Cruise Lines doesn’t nickel and dime a passenger as some other ships do. I’ve already mentioned that I paid almost $5 (with shore tax and gratuity) for a can of Coke on an ocean cruise. Ridiculous.
On American Serenade, these are the costs included in the fare:
– All onboard alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
– All meals (no specialty restaurants or added costs)
– All ship gratuities. Off the ship, gratuities are suggested for local guides and motorcoach drivers.
– Pre-cruise hotel stay
– Most shore excursions. On my cruise, there were 12 comped tours and six that cost extra with prices between $20 to $45.
Hop-on Hop-off Motorcoaches for Shore Excursions
The shore excursion list has handy notes about when each tour will depart from the ship and how long the tour will last.
American Cruise Lines has motorcoaches with red, white and blue American Cruise Lines logos that follow along on the cruise to make sure that transportation is always there when and where it is needed. The coaches are very large and comfortable.
I like to take the hop-on hop-off motorcoach ride to all the stops in a new destination. A local guide aboard the bus points out sights and shares history of the town. Then I start the ride over again and get off for the places I want to visit. The motorcoach usually comes around again in about a half hour.
Charming Paducah is UNESCO Creative City
In Paducah, Kentucky, for example, tour guide Fowler Black pointed out that “the river is the original highway. It is the best way to visit Paducah.”
With a population of only 28,000, Paducah is one of only nine UNESCO Creative Cities in the U.S. and 246 worldwide. A designation it has held since 2013, Paducah stands alongside other artsy cities like Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Austin, Texas, as well as international destinations like Sydney, Australia, and Rome, Italy.
Nicknamed “Quilt City,” Paducah is home to The National Quilt Museum, the world’s largest of its kind. In addition, Paducah has a thriving arts community with live theater, an orchestra and wall-to—wall murals throughout the city highlighting important moments in Paducah’s history.
Paducah is a favorite with crewmembers on our American Serenade cruise. They look forward to visiting little shops, bars and restaurants when we dock within easy walking distance to Paducah’s downtown. I don’t know the name or reason for the festival but a live band was playing on the dock area when we stayed overnight.
Champion Fiddler Laura White
Entertainment onboard American Serenade was great. We had an Elvis-singing guy, a Jerry Lee Lewis boogie-woogie piano man, comedian and more. One of my favorites was champion fiddler Laura Weber White and her two musicians Jeff White (her husband) on guitar and vocals and Todd Phillips on bass.
A multi-instrumentalist, Laura has performed and recorded with country greats – Roy Acuff, Patty Loveless, Ray Price, Johnny Cash, Sheryl Crow, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Marty Stuart, Earl Scruggs, Kris Kristofferson, June Carter Cash and many others. Laura was married from 2000 to 2013 to John Carter Cash, the son of Johnny and June.
In between songs, Laura shared the fascinating story of how she became a musician. Growing up in Corvallis, Oregon, loved music and would play “The Sound of Music” over and over. When she was about nine years old, Laura found an old accordion under her parent’s bed and taught herself to play all the old movie songs.
“Dad came home and I was playing those songs on the old accordion,” she says. “He told my mom, ‘She’s got talent.’ We had an old fiddle in the attic and dad brought it down for me to play.”
To pay for the fiddle restoration, her father offered to build a two-story deck on the back of the luthier’s house. “Dad would work his regular job, then drive 90 miles to Portland to build that deck. Slept in his truck and then drive back home to go back to work,” Laura says.
By age 12, Laura was winning fiddling contests. By 17, she won the National Junior Fiddle Champion title. Later she won the adult division of National Fiddle Contest. In 1989, Laura enrolled in Oregon State University but in 1990, she departed college to take a job playing with Patty Loveless. Laura was 18 years old.
Hearing Laura play was just one of the wonderful memories of our Music Cities Cruise aboard American Serenade. Quite a journey.
Bottom Line: Many passengers I talked with on our American Serenade cruise are world travelers. One of the reasons they like American Cruise Lines is because they no longer want to take long expensive flights to Europe to board a riverboat or to travel that far from American shores.
Yes, the Danube, Rhine, Douro and other European rivers are beautiful. But so are America’s rivers. Passengers also are pleased that American Cruise Lines is American built and American crewed.
Although some of the docking sites and shore excursions may be at small, out-of-the-way places, each spot seems to have its own charm.
I recommend American Cruise Lines to anyone who wants to learn more about American history while being pampered on a luxury riverboat or cruise ship.
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch
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