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Paddlin’ Up The Mississippi On The “Americana” Queen

The American Queen and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, photographed on the evening of our departure.@ 2012 Ralph Grizzle

Even if you’re an avid cruiser like me, you’ll find there’s little to compare to the American Queen.

It’s unlike a river cruiser in Europe. The largest paddlewheeler ever built, the six-deck American Queen is nearly 2.5 times wider than those river cruisers, which are typically no more than 40-feet wide because of constraints imposed by the locks.

Spanning 90 feet across, the American Queen offers more facilities than European river cruisers: three restaurants, including a gorgeous two-story main restaurant, lots of public rooms, a variety of staterooms and suites, a (smallish) pool, an extremely well-equipped gym and more that I’ll be reporting on this week and next as we make our way between St. Louis, Missouri, and St. Paul, Minnesota.

It’s unlike ocean cruisers. The only similarity between the American Queen and ocean cruisers is that they both float, jokes Christopher Kyte, president of the American Queen Steamboat Company. Christopher spent the first two nights of this week’s trip on American Queen. We’ll be sharing his thoughts here on Avid Cruiser later this week.

Early morning on the “Front Porch of America.” Love those rocking chairs! @ 2012 Ralph Grizzle

After a couple of days on board, I am discovering that the American Queen is in fact a little like a river cruiser but with an ocean cruise overlay.

Some of the management, for example, comes from Oceania Cruises, and they bring a high level of expertise and professionalism with them. So far, the dining experience, something Oceania is noted for, has been better than anything I’ve experienced on a river, thanks to the efforts of Regina Charboneau and the generous budgets provided for dining by the American Queen Steamboat Company.

Beer and wine (some that I consider premium wines) are included with dinner, and there are many other inclusives in this product: shore excursions, internet, soft drinks, speciality coffees (using Starbucks beans) and more. We’ll be covering them all in future stories.
Admiring the views while chugging along the mighty Mississippi River at 8 miles per hour. @ 2012 Ralph Grizzle

Perhaps the most impressive component of the product to me, however, is the array of senses that American Queen stirs.

I find myself enjoying the nostalgia of this vessel, including its Victorian touches. Activities remind me of the easy and happy days of my childhood. I wasn’t born when ragtime music was popular (it reached its peak between 1897 and 1917, according to Wikipedia), but I enjoy it. I also enjoy visits to such places as Mark Twain’s Hannibal, Missouri. I read all of Twain’s books as a child.

I appreciate the immersion into Americana. The crew is all American. U.S. flags flap forward and aft. It gives me a sense of pride to see those flags and what they represent and to cruise through the heartland of America. God knows, we Americans have been through some challenging times over the past few years (decades really), and yet, we persevere as one nation. In Europe, it remains to be seen if the multiple nationalities will survive their union.

And as someone who spends a lot of time in Europe, I’ve enjoyed the friendliness of my good-spirited countrymen and women. We truly are a remarkable people.

Speaking of, I love the Southern hospitality. The crew members, a lot of them from Memphis, Tennessee, are just downright friendly.

Well, that’s enough for now. Time to get back out and enjoy the slow chug up the river.

I’m writing these words from an attractive outdoor area called the “Front Porch of America.” I kinda like that name, and with the rocking chairs and the views of the river and the heartland of this great country, the name seems apt.

Stay tuned, I’ll return tomorrow with more from the Mississippi on the American Queen.

Headed north, up the Mississippi. Destination: St. Paul, Minnesota. @ 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Headed north, up the Mississippi. Destination: St. Paul, Minnesota. @ 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Paddlewheeler of Pride: Flying the red, white and blue. @ 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Wheels of Americana: A real paddlewheeler at work. @ 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Paddlewheeling under a full moon on the Mississippi. @ 2012 Ralph Grizzle

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  • I am interested in a 3 -4 day cruse on the lower Mississippi for 4 adults, 2 cabins in late July 2019. Please forward options to my e-mail address.

  • We are interested in a 7 day cruise in October 2021 for the Civil War Cruise departing Memphis. Please forward to email.
    Thank you


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