American Queen Cruise Review
Itinerary: Mississippi River - Kentucky Derby - May 2012
Always wanted to go on a real Mississippi river boat. Finally got my chance. Went on the Great American Steam Boat’s American Queen. I didn’t have a lot of time and wanted to see Churchill Downs, so I took the 4 day Kentucky Derby cruise.
Arrived in Cincinnati the evening before so that I could avoid a little jet lag and see a bit more of Cincinnati. Took a taxi from the airport, $30.00 fixed price and cheaper that two bus tickets. Taxi ride was about 25 minutes and the funny thing is that the Cincinnati airport is actually in Kentucky. Stayed at the Hilton which is a great location. Right in the middle of old town and just down the street form the Fountain.
In the morning checked in with the Great American Steam Boat Company and went out for a walk. Walked down to the river and visited the Underground Railroad Museum. Great way to spend the morning. Walked over to Skyline Chili to try some Cincinnati Chili. It was good, but like Texas style better. Then decided to walk down to the boat. Got to the ship just before loading, about 3 pm. It is a beautiful ship. Looks like you are about to step back into the past.
Boarded the ship and everyone was very pleasant and helpful. All the rooms are furnished with antiques or antique reproduction furniture, even the stateroom. Met Mark Twain on the way to my cabin. Already excited about fulfilling my dream. We are in Category B Observation Deck, we have doors that open onto the Promenade Deck with two chairs to sit out on.
Dinner was good with free wine. Went to the show in the showroom. The showroom looks like a miniature of the Booth Theater where Lincoln was assassinated, very cool. The performers put on an entertaining show and off to bed on the first night. Tomorrow Louisville and the Kentucky Derby. Did have one hiccup, there was a terrible thunderstorm that night, but it cleared up by Louisville.
After breakfast, got on the “hop-on-off” busses to take us around Louisville and to the hotel where we had lunch and could watch the races on big screen TV with a bar to get your Mint Juleps. After lunch and a rest, took the shuttle out to the track. Couldn’t ask for a better way to get to the track. The shuttle drops off and picks up just outside of Gate 17. Walked into the infield and was meant by 100,000 of my “closest friends. It was a mad house, but very exciting. There was everything from guys in T-shirts and shorts to beautiful young women in $500 hats, platform high heel shoes and stunning dresses. Asked a policeman where to see the race. He said the third turn.
Pressed through the sea of humanity to the third turn and there was the track, but weren’t sure. Asked some young people and they confirmed it was the track and offered to share their cover and chairs to see the race. That was so nice of them. Also, even though there was a 100,000 people jammed into the infield, everyone was reasonable polite and there was no fights or rough housing. I found this an exciting event and another thing off my bucket list. Went back to the ship for a nice dinner and another good show. Off to Madison, Indiana.
That night the fog got really bad and we ended up parking near the shore in a bunch of trees. No problem. As soon as the fog lifted, went to Madison. Madison is a cute little town which is essentially “stopped” in the 1850’s and the entire downtown is on the National Historical Register. Loved seeing all the old buildings and even went to an operational “saddle tree” factory. Again we used the hop-on-off busses. These worked great. Did not have to take any of the Premium Tours.
Today we just sailed all day back towards Cincinnati. It sure was nice to rest a bit while cruising the river. The best place to go is the Porch which is on the third floor at the bow of the ship. There are swings and rocking chairs and places to get chips, hotdogs, popcorn, ice cream, coffee and drinks. Bring your Kindle or book and sit for a while in one of the rocking chairs and read and relax as the river flows by. Had talks by a riverboat expert and a vet from the racetrack. Learned lots of neat things, very educational.
Last night was a good dinner with the Captain. Had to dress up a bit, but ties and coats were not required. Also another show in the Showroom to end a great day.
Got off the ship at 8:45 am and took the bus to the Hilton where the luggage got stored. Walked around Cincinnati and took a taxi to the Cincinnati Museum Center (cost $7) which is actually the old train station. The building was beautiful and saw the Pompeii exhibit, very interesting and educational. Took the bus #1 back to the Hilton (cost $2.). Bus stops at the fountain only a block from the hotel. Could have taken it to the museum, but weren’t sure how. It was very easy to come back on.
Taxi back to the airport , another fixed fee of $30.00. Think the trip was fun and a good value. The crew was still a little “green”, but very willing to help and to serve and I think in a short time will be doing a great job.
—Jerry B., Pasadena, CA