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August 20, 2018
And So It Begins…


On Sunday evening, we had our last New Orleans dinner at Gumbo Shop Restaurant in the French Quarter. We had an early evening, as the following day would be busy.

On Monday morning, we awoke early enough to (finally) see the sunrise over the Mississippi River from our hotel room. As an extra treat, we saw that the American Queen – our paddlewheel steamboat – had already arrive and was docked right outside our window!


Sunrise over the Mississippi River

    
Left: The American Queen, as seen from our window.
Right: Our hotel room is on the fifth floor, just above the outcropping on the end of the building.

We had to have all of our suitcases ready to be taken by 8:00 am. We had to return our rental car by 9:30 am. And we had free breakfast passes as part of our cruise embarkation day.

Two of Russell’s favorite words are “free” and “food.” As he loaded up on breakfast dishes, Gail was thinking, “And so it begins…”

Unlike other cruise lines, American Queen does all of the pre-registration the day before the cruise. As a result, we had already gotten our boarding cards yesterday. We had one small glitch where we were accidentally booked for the 8:00 pm main seating instead of the 5:15 pm early seating, but Oscar the maître d’ fixed that.

(We also had a couple of last-night glitches in the hotel: our room was never made up and we had no hot water in the shower. The front desk gave us a discount as compensation.)

After checking out, we killed a few hours window shopping at the Outlet Riverwalk Mall next to the hotel. At 2:30, we were finally able to board our steamboat.

Our cabin is No. 214 on Deck 2 “Cabin Deck.” Each of the cabins on this deck is named after a U.S. president. Ours is “Franklin Pierce.” Gail was disappointed not to get “Abraham Lincoln” one door down – he was a distant cousin of hers.

We originally had a smaller inside cabin, but we got a last-minute upgrade to a window cabin that is 50-percent larger. Still, we were barely able to stuff all of our luggage into the small nooks and crannies. This will be our home for next three weeks, and it felt great to finally unpack.

    

The American Queen is unlike any cruise ship we have ever been on. Christened in 1995, it is the largest steamboat ever built. It is 420 feet long and can hold 424 passengers in 218 staterooms. Unlike other tourist paddlewheels cruising the Mississippi, the AQ is actually powered and propelled by its paddlewheel.

The interior is decorated like an historic steamboat, with period furniture and décor. We were thrilled to walk around its six decks and explore all the different rooms and galleries.


The Mark Twain Gallery (down the hall from our cabin) is the main public sitting area


The Ladies' Parlor is bright and feminine


The Gentlemen's Card Room is dark, like a man-cave


The Chart Room is filled with detailed maps of our route


The Grand Saloon, the main stage, is modelled after the Ford Theater (where Lincoln was assassinated)


One of the interior staircases


In addition to deck chairs, there are rocking chairs!

For dinner, our table of six has interesting companions. (Russell thought he was the youngest person on this cruise, but our tablemate Paul is younger by one year.) The quality of entertainment is superb; better than many of the larger cruise ships we have been on. We can already tell that we are going to have a terrific adventure.

    
Phil Westbrook, who has worked here for 20 years, played the steam calliope as the boat left dock


Sunset over the Mississippi River

 

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