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September 10, 2018
Goodbye Queen, Hello Princess

After 23 days, our final departure from the American Queen

There is an anticlimactic sadness to the way a cruise inevitably ends. After days and weeks of thrilling sights and new experiences, you don’t get to end your adventure on a high note. Instead, you spend your last night packing furiously, trying to stuff your things into suitcases that seemed much bigger weeks ago. At the same time, you try to catch one last meal, one last show, one last conversation.

The last show from the fabulous Steamboat Syncopaters musical ensemble was a 70s music concert. We finally got a photo afterward with Alex Bernhardt, Lainie Gulliksen, Brance Cornelius and Deanna Julian.

The farewell performance by the fabulous American Queen Entertainment Team was a 50s/60s dance show. Gail has earned a scandalous reputation onboard as the “barefoot dancer.”

Captain's Bar pianist Phil Westbrook sang a 10-verse ballad – recounting the saga of our cruise – that he composed verse-by-verse over the last three weeks

Some of the many friends and dining partners we met include Sue and Ron (from New Zealand). Don (center) wrote a poem about the cruise and included a verse about “the bike riders.” His assessment of us: “You're a little peculiar, but really nice.”

In the morning, you have to be up bright and early. (In our case, we were up at 4:30 am.) Everyone sits together in the Grand Saloon, waiting for their bus number to be called. Conversations tend to be low-key, as everyone is still only-half awake.

A sad sight: the 11:00 pm luggage gauntlet

The bus waiting game in the Grand Saloon

Our original revised plan called for American Queen to bus us to Chicago, Illinois, then fly us from Chicago O’Hare airport to La Crosse, Wisconsin. At the last moment, they informed us that they couldn’t find an available flight to La Crosse. Instead, they booked us a flight from Chicago to Minneapolis/St. Paul and rented us a car.

This is almost identical to our earlier plan if we had finished the cruise in Red Wing, the original final port. Unfortunately, it was too late to try to re-schedule a get-together with our friend Erin. Instead, we would drive from MSP down to La Crosse.

Our new revised plan was still touch-and-go. Our bus was supposed to depart the steamboat at 7:15 am. But there was so much luggage, the contract bus driver had to reconfigure the storage to make everything fit. We departed half an hour late. Traffic to O’Hare was pretty jammed as we made the hour-and-a-half drive to Chicago at the height of rush hour. We finally got to our departure gate just as our plane was boarding.

The flight was uneventful – we even arrived half an hour early. We thought of driving from Minneapolis/St. Paul to La Crosse via the Great River Road, but decided that would take too long. Even taking freeways took two hours. We arrived at 4:00 and went directly to our granddaughter’s school.

It has been four months since our six-year old granddaughter Avery has seen Gail, and more than three years since she has seen Russell. Avery insisted on staying at the school daycare until we picked her up, so she could give us a tour. Our daughter Colleen also met us at the school. When Avery saw us, she ran right past her mother to give Nana and Rupa the first hugs.

We will be in La Crosse for three days. One adventure may have ended, but a new one is just beginning.

With our daughter Colleen and our grand-daughter Avery

Avery was supposed to get a tour and gourmet lunch aboard the American Queen steamboat. Instead she got an AQ tee shirt… but she seems just as happy.


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