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September 6, 2018
Aboard the American Queen

Sunrise viewed from the American Queen

After we left Hannibal, Missouri, on September 4, we began to see the consequences of the rising water level of the Mississippi River. At 11:20 pm, the steamboat had to pass through the narrow side of a lock. Because many of the dams further upriver have been opened to release water, the current was particularly strong.

As the American Queen passed through, it was suddenly hit by a current. The port side of the boat (right behind the Purser’s Office) hit the bridge. Inside, many of us felt the jolt and a momentary loss of power. The pursers were literally knocked to the floor.

The bridge collision took an eight-foot chunk out of the port side of Deck 1 (the dotted line indicates where the deck should be)

As the crew inspects the damage, you can see how big a dent we got

While we were enjoying ourselves in Grafton, Illinois, on September 5, the boat was being inspected by Maritime and American Queen Steamboat Company officials. The good news is that we are cleared for proceeding through the rest of our cruise. The other good news is that AQ decided to put a “band-aid” on the damaged spot before we left Grafton. As a result, we departed about two hours later than scheduled.

The crew basically “cauterized” the wound by hammering and welding sheet metal over the frayed wood

The port side, before and after repair

Today is our third and last “river cruising” (or “steamboating”) day. It’s a good time to catch up on some random aspects of our boat that we haven’t written about already.

Our cabin (No. 214, “Franklin Pierce”) is on the “Cabin Deck” with all of the public meeting places. One deck below us, the “Main Deck,” has the Grand Saloon theater and J.M. White Dining Room. One deck above us, the “Texas Deck,” has the Front Porch Café.

Our cabin, No. 214 on the port side

The bow of the boat. The covered/shaded level is the Front Porch Café. Above that is the Chart Room.

We have impressed by the architectural details. (From left) the central stairs, J.M. White Dining Room, Ladies’ Parlor and Chart Room ceilings

We were amazed to discover the 1996 Olympic torch carried by Muhammed Ali sitting in an alcove. It was briefly transported by the American Queen.

Surprisingly, two things they don’t have on the American Queen are a casino or a photographer. For the latter, Gail has started walking around taking pictures of people, then offering to email the pictures to them. She has met a lot of our fellow passengers this way.

We have been able to tour both the Pilot House on Deck 6 and the Engine Room on Deck 1. One of the most interesting people we met on the “bridge” is Allison Bailey, one of the captains. Among the 1,500 riverboat captains, she is one of only five females.

The Pilot House
Gail with Allison Bailey, one of only five riverboat captains

The Engine Room

Pistons power the paddle wheels, which really do propel the boat

At any time, you can go to the Chart Room to see where the boat currently sits on the river. Here, we are at mile marker 290.0 and paddling at 7.13 miles per hour.

You can then look up your position in the big book of maps to see any noteworthy milestones

Every crew person we have met onboard is wonderful. Not only are they professional and customer-oriented, they are also friendly. On other cruises we have been on, the staff are not allowed to interact with passengers unless they are entertainers. Here, we constantly see crewmembers sitting down and chatting with folks.

Some of the waitresses in the J.M White Dining Room. What characters!

Joe the Maître d’ at the Front Porch Café and Frank the Watchman. Can you tell they’re brothers?

Onboard entertainers include (from left) Cruise Director Alex Berhnhardt; singer/dancers Lainie Gulliksen, Brance Cornelius and Deanna Julian; and Bar Pianist Phil Westbrook. (Here they are running a session of “The Match Game”.)

We spend a lot of time sitting on the Front Porch (or running around with cameras) watching the river go by. As we have traveled farther north, we have seen more wildlife along the riverbanks.

Two American bald eagles on the riverbank enjoy a fish they caught

North of St. Louis, Missouri, we have also started passing through canal locks. (There are 26 locks between St. Louis and Red Wing. Unfortunately, with our route change, we have only been able to experience a few of them.)

The American Queen approaches a canal lock

The boat hull is literally inches away from the canal wall

Behind the boat, the lock gates close, creating a watertight chamber

In front of (and around) the boat, the water level rises until it is level with the river outside the chamber


In the old days, the Government used to supply coffee to the canal workers, who had to be up 24 hours a day. When the Government stopped paying for coffee, the maritime vessels filled the gap, tossing bags of coffee to the workers as they passed through. Today, the American Queen continues the tradition by giving them food and snacks.

Tessa, one of the Front Porch Café servers, tosses cookies and ice cream to a canal worker

At one canal, the AQ passed an entire prime rib dinner to the worker (Kimberly)

Last night we sat down to chat with Cruise Director Alex Bernhardt after yet another spectacular show by the musical ensemble. Alex has only worked for American Queen, and he asked us how this cruise and company differ from other cruises we have taken.

Our answer: On other cruises, the ports are the destinations. The ship is merely a means of getting from one destination to the next. On this cruise, the boat is the destination. The little ports along the way are nice diversions and chances to stretch your legs. But here, the real adventure is being aboard the world’s largest paddlewheel steamboat.

Sunset viewed from the American Queen


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