MISSISSIPPI QUEEN
Cruise Review
< GUIDED TOUR >
Boat:
Mississippi Queen
Cruise Line:
Delta Queen Steamboat Company
Date:
11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
Cruise Length:
6 nights
Theme:
Thanksgiving, Riverbondin' for Families
Cabin:
Category G, Cabin Deck (inside, triple occupancy)
Itinerary:
New Orleans roundtrip (Oak Alley Plantation, St. Francisville, Natchez, Vicksburg, Baton Rouge)
River
Lower Mississippi River
Review by:
Carmen Winkler
Day 1 New Orleans
Although this was our 6th cruise with Delta Queen Steamboat Company it was our first one on the steamer Mississippi Queen and our first one out of New Orleans. We arrived around noon at Robin Street Wharf. Free covered parking is provided in the wharf building for those who arrive with their own or rental car. There were already porters waiting to receive our bags (you receive tags with your documents). We were directed to the office just a few steps farther. Check-in was smooth and easy with no waiting lines. We always choose express checkout with all onboard purchases charged to our credit card via our boarding passes. Check-in didnīt take us more than 10 minutes. You receive a one page Welcome Aboard paper including the activities of the day and a map of the boat. Walking out of the office back door you directly stand in front of the boat. You have to check-in with your boarding passes at the watchman and thatīs it. We were welcomed aboard by one of the social hosts and went for lunch in the Grand Saloon which is offered from noon to 4 pm on embarkation day. The stateroom (cabin) was available at 3 pm as announced. Keys can be found on the beds. We checked our dinner seating times and table with the Maitre dī. Then we left the boat to stroll around the wharf building and have a look on the steamboat artifacts stored along the walls. We returned to our stateroom for the 4:30 pm fire and boat drill. This is going smooth and easy too. You just put on your life west and line up in front of your stateroom. Your cabin attendant who introdruced himself when we first went to our stateroom is checking your life vests. As we are travelling with our then 4 year old daughter he quickly organized a child life vest. Our cabin was a category G inside cabin located on the Cabin Deck (2nd deck). It was equipped with two beds and an upper bunk bed which can be folded up to the wall. The upper bed isnīt secured by any kind of rails and doesnīt have a ladder to climb up so my husband decided to take it and leave the lower one to our daughter. The bathroom was surprisingly spacy and so was the cabin. We found enough room for our two suitcases (one oversized), a bag and a car safety seat. The stateroom smelled a bit when we first entered but the smell vanished as soon as we were cruising. Unfortunately our bags were delivered late so we werenīt able to dress up for dinner and I had to go in shorts and T-shirt. Afternoon activities for the first day included a wine tasting, a brief orientation talk, Welcome Aboard Music, Calliope Concert, Welcome Aboard Party. With a child we opted for the early seating at 5:15 pm (main seating is 7:45 pm). We shared a big round table for 7 with two ladies. There was a special kidsī menue for dinner each night. The show of the first night was themed "God Bless the USA" and well received (itīs after dinner for the early seating and pre dinner for the main seating). Departure was at 7:30 pm with a calliope salute. Big Band Dancing was offered in the Grand Saloon at 9:15 pm and the Paddlwheel Trio was playing in the Paddlewheel Lounge every night. And for those who didnīt get enough food at dinner which is nearly impossible thereīs a daily midnight buffet at 11 pm themed Sweet Treats for the first night. Our daughter was a little disappointed as the promised cookies and milk werenīt available when she went to bed (part of the Riverbondinī for Families).

Day 2 Oak Alley Plantation
Due to our jet lag we woke up early the following day realizing that the boat has stopped. We dressed up and went outside finding the boat docked at the levee across the garden entrance of Oak Alley Plantation. Offered shore tours for this day were Oak Alley Plantation ($ 12), Cajun Swamp Tour ($ 36), Laura Plantation ($ 35) or a combo of Oak Alley and Laura or Swamp Tour and Oak Alley (both combos $ 46). Tours booking was available on the first day. We decided to walk over the levee, cross the street and go up to Oak Alley. For those who havenīt purchased a ticket in advance there was a temporary ticket booth at the garden entrance (which is usually closed) and tickets were charged to your cabin. There are three possibilities for breakfast each day. Early birds will find a Continental Breakfast in the Port Gallery served from 6 to 10 am. A Breakfast a la carte is served in the Dining Room from 7 to 9 am. We always opted for the Riverlorianīs Breakfast Buffet offered in the Grand Saloon from 6:30 to 9 am. Riverlorian Jerry Hay started his daily breakfast talk at 7:30 am and everyone was thrilled by his stories (also broadcasted on channel B in your stateroom). We signed up for the 9 am pilot house tour with Jerry Hay who did a great job. We choose the lunch a la carte in the Dining Room (served from 11:30 am to 1:15 pm) just to find out that there wonīt be anything for our daughter so my husband went over to the Grand Saloon and made her a sandwich from the Chefīs Light Lunch Bistro (buffet style lunch served from 11:30 am to 1 pm). We opted for the buffet the other days too. Departure was at 1 pm followed by the Calliope Capers, your chance to play the steam calliope (also part of the kidsī program). The onboard photographer was available for this event. You will receive a nice certificate at the end of the cruise. We skipped the afternoon activities (Riverlorian talk, Trivia, Bingo, guest lecturer and more) for the kidsī program. A experienced couple from Sacramento was hired to guide the kids. At 1:45 pm there was an informational talk for the parents followed by a Scavenger Hunt (parents were allowed to help). At 4:15 pm the Captainīs Champagne Reception for the early seating dinner started. We dressed up for this formal night and joined the line. The onboard photographer was taking photos with the Captain in the Chart Room ($ 10 each). Tonights show was "Take Me To The River" with all time favourites like Proud Mary or Olī Man River. The Paddlewheel Lounge was dedicated to a "Country Music Night". Midnight buffet was themed Drive-In Buffet featuring corndogs, burgers, onion rings and more. There were movies shown in the Movie Theater several times each day (current movies like King Arthur, Spider-Man 2, The Bourne Supremacy or historic videos about the river and riverboats). Cookies and milk arrived tonight.

Day 3 St. Francisville
Day 3 found us docked next to the St. Francisville ferry landing (take a ride across the river on the ferry and back!). Offered shore tours were Angola State Penitentiary and Greenwood Plantation ($ 48) and Rosedown and Myrtles Plantations ($ 52). There was also a shuttle bus offered touring every 30 min ($ 10). A free walking map with a description of the main attractions and the shuttle bus route was provided. You can hop on and off as often as you want and wave to the driver along the route or wait at the shown stops. The town of St. Francisville is about a mile away from the river. It can be easily walked if you do like walking but there arenīt any sidewalks and itīs going uphill. We decided to take the shuttle, walked around a little, went to some of the nice antique shops and took the shuttle out to a big local grocery shop. Some passengers opted for the bikes which are available in a limited number to get some exercise. We returned for lunch which was themed old-fashioned picnic (our daughterīs favourite). We skipped all onboard activities (f.e. Golf Putting Contest, Captainīs Navigation Seminar, Bingo) as this was the day for the Kidsī Captainīs Contest (part of the Riverbondinī for Families). Every kid had to pass 5 tests and got a little card which was signed by the "teacher". We met at 1:30 pm in the Chart Room for a chart reading lesson and nightly navigation lesson (as all kids were 9 and younger the nightly navigation was rescheduled by the request of the parents) held by Riverlorian Jerry Hay. We proceeded to the engine room viewing area where Chief Engineer Ted Kornecki explained how a steam engine is working. We went on to the Calliope Bar to be met be First Mate Mike Wardīs knot tying class. The kids learned three knots and had loads of fun with Mikeīs final joke. Last stop was the pilot house where Master Captain Paul Thoeny waited for us to explain the pilot house and navigation. We hurried down to the Grand Saloon for the Paddlewheel Steamboatinī Society of America Welcome Back Reception for all repeat passengers listening to some stories by Jerry Hay, Captain Thoeny and some passengers. After the "exhausting" contest the kids enjoyed the storytelling by the Junior Steamboater Counselors. We made it to the finish of the Olde-Tyme Sing-Along in the Paddlewheel Lounge (song books can be taken home with you). The show was featuring singer Sybil Haggard and titeled "The Best Is Yet To Come". Midnight buffet was themed "Reveillon", a special New Orleans Holiday feast.

Day 4 Natchez - Thanksgiving
We spend the whole day in Natchez on Day 4. Offered shore tours were Frogmore Plantation: Music, Mistresses and Marriage ($ 66) and Natchez Historic Homes ($ 58). There was also a shuttle bus available ($ 10) and a free walking map was available at the tour desk. The boat is docked in Natchez-Under-The Hill meaning you have to walk up a steep street to get to the town of Natchez. If you love to walk itīs easy. Miss Sophronia, the Praline Lady, is welcoming you with her pralines which you shouldnīt miss to taste. As the American Queen was due to arrive until noon and dock next to the Mississippi Queen we walked up the hill and searched for some good photo opportunities and waited for her arrival. All shops were closed for Thanksgiving so we just made a short walk passing by Rosalie Plantation which has a breathtaking view over the Mississippi River. We went to a tiny souvenier shop under the hill before we boarded the boat for lunch. For those who love to gamble, a casino boat is located right next to the boat landing. We spend the afternoon visiting the American Queen which was already decorated for the Holidays. Some of the days acitivies were Line Dancing, Trivia, Napkin Folding, Scavenger Hunt and the daily A.M. Millerīs Club for the mile walk around the Observation Deck (8 laps). We finally started making our hat for the Hat Contest on the Mike Fink Party on the last day (supplies were available each day in the Port Gallery). Thanksgiving Dinner was traditional with the Captain slicing the big turkey. There was a special souvenir menue which your table mates can sign to memorate your trip. The boat left a bit late after 5 pm with a beautiful sunset. The nightly show was called "At the Hop" with a tribute to the 1950s. The Paddlewheel Lounge featured an Oldies Night. Midnight buffet was themed "Hey Chocolate Lovers!".

Day 5 Vicksburg
We arrived in Vicksburg during breakfast. Offered shore tours were Battlefield & Seige Tour ($ 48) and the Past Comes Alive Walking Tour. Shuttle passes were also available ($ 10). Vicksburg is located at the Yazoo River and you can directly walk into town. A casino boat is within a walking distance. We picked up the free walking map at the tour desk and went into town. Itīs all walkable but all streets are going uphill. We first had a look at the Robert Dafford Murals on the floodwall. We visited the Old Courthouse Museum and the Biedenharn Museum of Coca-Cola Memorabilia. Vicksburg was already "dressed up" for the Holidays. We left at noon upriver. The Mississippi Queen went upriver to the Yazoo Diversion Canal where the river widens and makes a turn around possible. We joined the kidsī activities in the afternoon for "Arts and Crafts - Coat of Arms or Family Crest". As our daughter was terribly tired we missed the Kite Flying at 3:15 pm and joined the program for the "Ice Cream Sundae Party". This was the second formal night, the Captainīs Champagne Dinner. As we were invited to the Captainīs table we met Captain Paul Thoeny and the other invited guests for a cocktail reception in the Paddlewheel Lounge before we went to the Main Seating Dinner. Because of the two not overlapsing seatings the Captain was only present for the Main Seating Dinner but we were told by our table mates that he came to the Early Seating Dinner for a toast. The nightly show was themed "The Way We Were", a high-energy amemorable montage of movie memories. The Paddlewheel Lounge was featuring a New Orleans Style Party. The Midnight Buffet was titled "Left Overs Buffet".

Day 6 Baton Rouge
We woke up docked in Baton Rouge next to the U.S.S. Kidd. Shore tours offered were Baton Rouge Untold Story ($ 54), Cajun Heritage ($ 57), Cajun Fiddler Walking Tour ($ 26), U.S.S. Kidd Walking Tour ($ 10). There wasnīt a shuttle available but the boat landing is next to the down town area which can be easily walked (all flat, no hills). For all gamblers: a casino boat is within a walking distance of the landing. Again we picked up the free walking map. We went to the State Capitol and took the free elevator up to the observation area on the tower. Itīs a breathtaking view over Baton Rouge and the Mississippi River. On our walk back to the boat we visited the Main Street Market. As there was a strong wind we needed a tugboat to get away from the landing when we left around 1 pm. At 1:30 pm the Disembarkation Talk was held in the Grand Saloon. At 2:15 pm we all met for the Mike Fink Party with Floozies, the Crazy Hat Parade, a Buck Bucket, music and lots of fun and prizes to win. The kids received their Cub Pilot Certificates and a Captainīs Hat. At 3 pm followed the Galley Tour. This is a real must and you have to see where all those delicious food is made. Itīs unbelievable that they can make all those things which such limited space. As this was the last day it was time for handing out the tips. You receive a tipping guide and envelopes the night before. Tonights show was featuring Steamboatinī Director Steve Spracklenīs "Ragtime!" show with a neverending applause. At Farewell Party was held in the Paddlewheel Lounge. The last Midnight Buffet was called "A Late Night Sweet Treat". Then itīs time to get your things packed. Bags have to be out of your stateroom until 2 am this night!

Day 7 New Orleans
The boat arrived back in New Orleans somewhere after midnight. A farewell breakfast buffet is served in the Dining Room from 6:30 to 8 am (no menue and no continental breakfast). Disembarkation is also a quick and easy procedure. Youīll find your bill in your stateroom and are ready to leave if youīve chosen the quick checkout. Otherwise you have to meet the purser. All passengers are asked to be all ashore at 9 am. Passengers who have transports organized by the Delta Queen Steamboat Company gather in the Grand Saloon and will be called out for their busses. We joined the folks in the Grand Saloon waiting for our friend to pick us up. Itīs always sad to leave the boat but all good things come to an end!

Food and Service:
Some general remarks about food an service. Breakfast and lunch were already mentioned in the day-by-day review. Dinner is a five course dinner with a choice of 2 appetizers, 2 salads, 2 soups, 4 or 5 entrees and a variety of desserts like the daily offer of breadpudding with different sauces, pies and cakes, fruits and ice cream. Cooking is southern style cooking. All food is really excellent. Thereīs additional food available all over the day like hot dogs and fixings at the Calliope Bar and also a self service soft serve ice cream machine. Hors dīoeuvres are available at the Paddlewheel Bar and Afternoon Tea in the Forward Lounge. Thereīs cookies, ice tea, water, coffee, tea and hot chocolate available in the Port Gallery. Full bar service is available in the Paddlewheel Lounge, the Calliope Bar and the Golden Antlers Bar. Dining Room service was very good and friendly. All other staff was very friendly and helpful. Our stateroom was clean and attended twice a day (including a change of towels and replacement of provided supplies like soap, body lotion). A daily onboard newspaper, the Steamboatinī Times, listed all daily activities and lots of informations about the ports. Additional fact sheets (The Tributary) featuring the river and steamboat history were available throughout the cruise in the Chart Room provided by the Riverlorian (f.e. The engine of the steamer Mississippi Queen, Steamboat Racing, Here comes the Showboat!, Milage Chart of the Lower Mississippi, Riverboat Terms).

This review is based on facts and prizes of 2004. Itīs not a complete account of all activities aboard or ashore. All children activities were part of the Riverbondinī for Families program which was offered on special cruises in 2004 with limited capacity and only available for families signed up to that program.