Review of American Serenade Cruise: Pre-Cruise Stay at The Guest House at Graceland

Elvis wore a size 11D boot. How do I know that bit of trivia? I chose the two-day Memphis pre-cruise option before I boarded the American Serenade for my weeklong cruise.

And I saw those customized boots with the “E” monogram on them during a special behind-the-scenes tour at Graceland. The tour is just part of what makes the pre-cruise feature so worth doing.

All American Serenade passengers receive a complimentary one-night hotel stay in Memphis before the cruise. Great idea because it gives travelers an extra day to make it to the cruise if flights are delayed or cancelled which seems to happen ever more frequently.

Lobby at The Guest House at Graceland

However, the two-day pre-cruise option at The Guest House at Graceland was my choice so I could visit Graceland before boarding the American Serenade for my solo cruise. One of the wonderful benefits of an American Cruise Lines journey is often being able to choose a pre- or post-tour in the cities of embarkation or disembarkation.

My flight from Indianapolis to Memphis arrived on time and The Guest House at Graceland shuttle picked me up at the Memphis airport. Easy to recognize the free shuttle. It has large photos of Elvis on it.

Guest House Offers Elvis Touches

The Graceland entrance facility is just across the street from The Guest House and Graceland itself is just steps away on the same side of the street as The Guest House. And that is the whole purpose for the resort hotel that opened Oct. 27, 2016. As visitors from around the world flocked to the Graceland home where Elvis lived, died and is buried, the idea for a luxury nearby hotel became even more important.

My room at The Guest House at Graceland

The AAA Four Diamond Hotel offers 430 spacious guest rooms and 20 luxury suites, an expansive outdoor swimming pool and fitness facilities, two restaurants, lobby bar, coffee shop, 464-seat theater, gift shop, meeting and banquet facilities, Chapel in the Woods and much more.

At the main entrance, the lobby has symbols of Elvis such as the large comfortable lobby chairs with high backs and chair arms that mimic the way Elvis wore his upturned shirt and jacket collars. Inspired by the jewels in Elvis’ jumpsuit capes, the lobby ceiling is spectacular.

The huge theater at The Guest House at Graceland

After checking into my Guest House room, I headed to the pre-cruise cocktail party where we enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and drinks. Then we were escorted to a shuttle for a very short ride to a special building at Graceland.

Behind-the-Scenes Visit to Graceland

There tour guide Dee Dee showed us Elvis memorabilia that is not usually on public display at Graceland. The boots with sparkly E monograms were once worn by Elvis. Wearing white cotton gloves, we were invited to have our photos taken holding the Elvis boots.

“Elvis always wanted to be dressed up,” Dee Dee says. “When he came down the stairs at Graceland, he always wanted to look good.”

Elvis Presley’s monogramed boots

Another item that Dee Dee showed us was a locket that Elvis had bought for his mother Gladys the first time he went to New York.

“Gladys only lived at Graceland for a year before she passed away,” Dee Dee says. “She was only 46 years old.”

After the shuttle ride back to The Guest House, I lined upith other hotel guests like little kids for the customary late night snack at The Guest House. Free peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along with chocolate milk or coffee is served as a nod to one of Elvis’ favorite snacks – fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

The next morning, after complimentary breakfast in Delta’s Kitchen at The Guest House, I walked over to Graceland. A shuttle is available for the short drive but it is just across the street so I preferred to walk.

Lisa Marie Presley

When she was 3 years old, her daddy caught her singing in front of a mirror using a hairbrush for a make-believe microphone.

A Lisa Marie exhibit at Graceland

“I never not wanted to be a singer,” she said. “I fantasized and thought about it all the time.”

Elvis and Lisa Marie

Now Lisa Marie Presley is buried near her father, Elvis Presley, and her son, Benjamin Keough, at Graceland. Seeing the new graves at Graceland is sad. Flowers and little gifts are left on the graves. The huge stone wall in front of Graceland has new messages and names that visitors have written in love and respect.

The wall in front of Graceland is filled with signatures and messages.

Lisa Marie Presley died of small bowel obstruction on Jan. 12 at age 54. Elvis Presley died of heart attack Aug. 16, 1977, at age 42. Benjamin Keough committed suicide July 12, 2020, at age 27.

Lisa Marie and her son Benjamin

Opened in 2018, a Graceland exhibit – “Lisa Marie, Growing Up Presley” – features a video of Lisa Marie talking about life at Graceland. Items on display include her first record player, roller skates and outfits she wore as a singer.

Elvis’ airplane named after his daughter

Graceland visitors also can tour Elvis’ airplane, the Lisa Marie, and see some of her childhood items in the Graceland mansion.

Elvis and Priscilla married in 1967 and separated when Lisa Marie was 4. Divorce was finalized in 1973. Lisa Marie was 9 when her father died.

Lisa Marie’s baby items are displayed at Graceland.

“Anytime I was in Memphis with my dad and at the house, I was happy. That was, like, a given. It was what I lived for,” a quote from Lisa Marie is displayed in the exhibit. “There is not one bad memory… It was his safe place and mine, too.”

Lisa Marie’s grave at Graceland

The Lisa Marie exhibit also includes a quote from Elvis: “Becoming a father is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.”

 

Lisa Marie is buried next to her son at Graceland.

The graves of Lisa Marie and her son can be seen near the grave of Elvis.

Night Before Cruise

When Graceland closed for the day, I walked back to The Guest House and watched “Elvis: That’s the Way it is” in the huge Guest House theater. The 1970 documentary showcases Elvis returning to live performances after years of making films.

Complimentary movies are shown nightly at 7 p.m. in The Guest House Theater. Other choices posted for the week are “Viva Las Vegas,” “Love Me Tender,” “Aloha from Hawaii,” “68’ Special,” “Elvis on Tour” and “Jailhouse Rock.”

Tomorrow, we cruisers will enjoy a complimentary breakfast at Delta’s Kitchen, climb aboard the American Cruise Lines bus and take a tour around Memphis before boarding the American Serenade. Am looking forward to seeing my solo stateroom for the Music Cities Cruise.

Bottom Line: Memphis pre-cruise well worth it to visit Graceland and stay at The Guest House at Graceland.

 

Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch

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

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