TAKE A CRUISE: American Queen takes patrons back in time

Published 9:25 pm Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Stepping off the gangway onto the American Queen’s deck you are transported back in time. Built in 1995, the American Queen is the largest steam paddlewheel boat ever built. From the steam-powered engines and spinning red paddlewheel to the antiques that fill the interior room, the boat serves as a time capsule back to the time when steam ruled the river.

In the age of diesel-powered engines, the American Queen still receives most of its propulsion from the steam powered paddlewheel at its stern. The spinning wheel guides the majestic riverboat along the Mighty Mississippi River traveling up to 15 knots with the current, but slowing to 3 or 4 knots when fighting the current.

The American Queen spends a portion of its season traveling back and forth between New Orleans and Memphis, taking guests on seven-day tours with stops in Louisiana and Mississippi along the way. During other parts of the year the 420-foot long steamboat takes its visitors on tours of the upper Mississippi from St. Louis to Red Wing, Minnesota.

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“A friend of mine did it two years ago and she just raved about it. It was a family trip for like 25 of them. I think it is great and don’t have any complaints personally,”  Betty Sharkey, from Toms River, New Jersey, said of her trip aboard the American Queen.

Along the lower Mississippi, the American Queen makes stops at Nottoway Plantation and St. Francisville in Louisiana.  Passengers also stop in Natchez, Vicksburg and Greenville where they can learn the story of cotton in the antebellum south, tour the Vicksburg National Military Park and visit the B.B. King Museum.

As the boat pulls into and leaves each port of call, the sweet sound of the calliope’s steam powered whistles wafts from the top deck to entertain passengers and those on shore.

“The trip has been terriffic,” Michael McDonald, from New Jersey, said. “I have enjoyed all the stops, but my favorite so far is here in Vicksburg. I like this the best. I am a big Civil War buff and they have tremendous history here in town.”

Aboard the American Queen, up to 415 passengers and 170 crew travel along the river eating, sleeping and playing throughout the six decks. The Grand Saloon hosts daily shows and talks including ones hosted by their Riverlorian.

The Riverlorian, an expert on the river’s history, also hosts talks in the chart room where he will teach passengers how the boat navigated now and in the past and answers any questions they might have about the river.

The stairway from the entry deck leads the passengers inside where antiques fill the men’s card room and ladies’ parlor — both now open to anyone. The centerpiece in the ladies’ parlor is an antique fireplace saved from an antebellum mansion that room was built around.

Further along the hallway opens into a long decadent room named for Mark Twain where guests can sit and read or socialize as they look down into the formal dining room or out at the passing river.

The luxury suites line the outdoor decks including two owner’s suites, which include butler service for the guests and a private deck area.

A pool deck at the stern and a sitting area at the bow let passengers relax and watch the river. For those looking for a little more excitement, the boat offers multiple bars where passengers can drink, dance and have a good time.