After surviving again to again nor’easters, I used to be prepared for the beckoning South and per week of cruising aboard the model new American Duchess steamboat. Little did I do know that the snowstorms had dumped sufficient water to boost the extent of the mighty Mississippi, which flows from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. From my balcony onboard, I noticed tree logs floating down the river, and the bottoms of cypresses submerged on the banks, however I might barely really feel the paddlewheeler shifting. It was a dream to be on the most recent and widest vessel of the American Queen Steamboat Firm. The Southern sunshine was sufficient to treatment my winter blues, nevertheless it was the up to date, luxurious lodging and top-notch service on the Duchess that made my escape much more wondrous.
The American Duchess—which debuted in August 2017—affords a number of cruises alongside the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Every is staffed by an all-American crew. I used to be on a week-long Easter voyage from New Orleans to Memphis that made stops in St. Francisville, Natchez, Vicksburg, and Greenville—a sequence of charming river cities identified for his or her Antebellum mansions, heat hospitality and musical legends.
The American Duchess: a contemporary steamboat
Within the American Duchess, the award-winning American Queen Steamboat Firm continues the magic of the riverboating custom with a vivid crimson paddlewheel, arched balconies and chimney stacks. The outdated attraction meets up to date luxurious with state-of-the-art, fashionable lodging and distinctive service. The American Duchess is the one all-suite riverboat with lofts on the Mississippi, and three of the 83 cabins are ADA-approved.
With a 36-foot-high foyer decked out with chandeliers and fashionable artwork, Murano glass floral decorations, and work of historic steamboats adorning the hallways, the Duchess is a murals. Neighborhood areas include snug leather-based couches and huge home windows overlooking the scenic river. On the primary flooring, you’ll discover the the Present Lounge, adopted by a mezzanine piano bar sitting space resulting in the Grand Eating Room. Two staircases take you to the expansive Lincoln Library, providing a collection of books concerning the second-longest American river. On the stern is the River Terrace Membership Restaurant with al fresco eating and a bar. Throughout, orchids and plants add class and a really feel of house.
Even when all passengers had been onboard, I barely noticed anybody strolling the halls or in widespread areas. This gave me an opportunity to take pleasure in cruising with out having to stumble upon anybody—exterior of after I needed to make mates, an exercise for which the centrally positioned bar is good. Wi-Fi is accessible all through, and there’s a small health heart and enterprise enclave. On these full days of river cruising, I loved lounging on the Solar Deck to sit down on a rocking chair, studying my Kindle or watching barges float by.
Onboard: Suites and staterooms
Do you know that the time period “stateroom” comes from a time when cabins had been named after states? At its capability, the Duchess accommodates 166 friends, with rooms purposefully greater to permit passengers to expertise luxurious throughout. There are 5 suite classes: Proprietor’s Suites, Loft Suites, Deluxe Suites, Veranda Suites, and Inside Staterooms, starting from 180 to 550 square-feet in dimension (which helps clarify why I barely noticed anybody wandering round).
I stayed in a 550-square-foot loft suite distinctive to the American Duchess. Strolling into the spacious suite, I discovered it arduous to imagine I used to be on a ship. My floating lodge room got here with a decrease stage outfitted with a full rest room, a small eating space with mini fridge and Keurig espresso maker, a up to date lounge furnished with a sofa-bed and flatscreen TV, and sliding doorways to the non-public balcony the place I spent many evenings.
Up the steps was a semi-private bed room with a big closet, one other TV, a protected, and a full rest room with sufficient house for all my toiletries, one thing that’s arduous to seek out on different cruises. Flooring-to-ceiling home windows introduced in pure mild to each flooring and got here with remote-controlled blackout curtains. Had it not been for the purr of the engine, it might’ve been arduous to inform that I wasn’t on land.
The most effective half was having my very own butler. The loft suites, together with the three proprietor suites, belong to the Commodore class. These embody butler providers, a bottle of wine and a fruit basket upon arrival, and an invite to dine with the Senior Officers. Gerard Williams, a spry Southern gentleman, was among the finest butlers I’ve ever had. He gave the impression to be in every single place, leaving tasty pre-dinner canapes and post-dinner sweets in my suite, taking orders on the eating places, making reservations, and escorting me to the night leisure. Regardless of having to are inclined to a number of different friends’s wants all day, Gerard all the time greeted me with a smile and anticipated what I wanted subsequent, a trait I discovered widespread amongst all of the workers onboard.
Onboard: Eating and repair
The Grand Eating Room and the River Membership & Terrace are elegant, with customized Italian materials and sweeping home windows revealing beautiful river views. Open eating is accessible for all meals within the Grand Eating Room, with an a la carte menu and a country-club gown code. The River Membership supplies a extra intimate various, with an open-view kitchen and a double-sided bar, providing a lunch buffet. A coated al fresco eating space overlooking the paddlewheel can be accessible. The River Membership transforms right into a specialty restaurant for dinner and requires reservations. Service was all the time top-notch; waiters took orders on iPhones and paid shut consideration to dietary restrictions.
For dinner, a nightly gourmand menu providing four-course meals is curated by Govt Chef Jeff Warner, together with his delectable favorites and wine pairings. The kitchen whipped up traditional American and Southern/seafood dishes, together with ribeye, citrus grilled salmon, lobster cannelloni, and steamed Maine lobster tail. Vegetarian and gluten-free choices and sugar-free desserts had been additionally accessible. Pecans—Southern staple—made appearances in most desserts, though my vice was the creamy, layered goodness of the New Orleans chocolate doberge cake.
In between meals, having the Perks Cafe close by was excellent for grabbing espresso, frozen yogurt or popcorn. It was particularly good to see the utilization of eco-friendly cups and utensils. Whereas beer and desk wine are included, the cruise additionally has an All-Inclusive Beverage Bundle that features top-shelf liquor and day by day specials.
Till this cruise, I didn’t know one particular person might sing opera, nation and showtunes so superbly. Courtney, the lead feminine singer, introduced down the home a number of nights in a row together with her distinctive performances. On the primary night time, I discovered that she was married to the Cruise Director, Dustin Cunningham, who was additionally distinctive singer. Collectively, the Cunninghams are worthy of Broadway and placed on pleasant exhibits nightly at eight:30pm at The Present Lounge.
One night time it’s “Popera,” a set traditional romantic songs made well-known by Pavarotti, Elvis and extra. The following it’s showtunes and ABBA’s greatest hits. The sock hop, a toe-tapping comedic hour filled with power, was a fan favourite, particularly when entertainer Jeff Hutson, dressed because the King himself, danced on rollerblades with two fortunate passengers.
Dustin and Courtney additionally organized afternoon bingo, trivia, enjoyable video games, and a veterans meet-and-greet. When docked, they invited native bands to entertain friends. The Present Lounge turned instructional within the afternoons with shows concerning the Mississippi River and steamboats by Riverlorian (river historian) Steve Spracklen.
Ports and excursions
At every port, the cruise affords a premium tour (for a further price) on which an American Steamboat Firm hop-on/hop-off tour bus takes friends round city and a neighborhood information shares data alongside the best way. The chance to expertise the deep South is what actually attracted me to this riverboat cruise. Due to flooding, we skipped St. Francisville, however the remainder of the stops greater than made up for the loss with their attraction, hospitality and engaging excursions.
1. Natchez, Mississippi
Our first port, Natchez, Mississippi, was in full bloom with colourful azaleas and locals wearing ornate 1850s apparel welcoming guests into their antebellum properties throughout spring pilgrimage. My premium tour included a guided tour of the Towers mansion, the place house owner Ginger confirmed us her uncommon and strange vintage collections. These eccentricities from the 19th century included the whole lot from beaded ostrich eggs and glass inkwells to valuable beaded purses and lace sheers.
2. Vicksburg, Mississippi
In Vicksburg, I took the included tour to the historic house of Anchuca, a B&B as soon as house to Joseph Davis, the brother of Jefferson Davis, in addition to the Previous Courtroom Home Museum filled with Civil Struggle artifacts. I walked over to the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum on Washington Avenue, which showcased unique bottles and adverts used to advertise bottled Coke by Joseph Biedenharn for the primary time, placing Vicksburg on the map.
three. Greenville, Mississippi
On our cease in Greenville, I opted to experience a motorbike, which I used to be delighted to seek out the American Duchess offered. The morning I spent driving the almost empty streets was so stress-free and enjoyable. The cruise additionally provided a premium tour to Indianola to go to the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Heart.
The following day we spent on the river earlier than our departure in Memphis. Because the Duchess chugged alongside over the muddy Mississippi, I loved a stunning champagne toast and one final superb meal within the Grand Eating Room and dreamt about my subsequent journey on the river.
American Duchess cruises start at $1,999 per particular person, together with a pre- or post-cruise luxurious lodge keep. Gratuities will not be included. For extra data, go to americanqueensteamboatcompany.com or name 1-888-749-5280.
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