Delta Queen Steamboat Company
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Operator: Delta Queen Steamboat Company
Year Built / Last Refurbished: 1976 / 1996
Length / Tonnage: 382 / 3,364
Number of Cabins / Passengers: 210/ 420
Officers / Crew: American / American
Operating Area: Year-round North American rivers
Review by Mark H. Goldberg, TravelPage.com, Cruise Editor, and Christopher E. Smith, TravelPage.com, Associate Cruise Editor
Both of us had long wanted to take a ride on the MISSISSIPPI QUEEN…both of us were drawn to her for the same reasons…we thought the boat was extraordinarily well arranged so we both always liked her layout and, well, with so many public rooms, we just knew we'd like her…and when we finally had a chance to take her, we booked for the Great Steamboat Race of 1999…we were RIGHT! We LIKED her..we liked her a lot…and we are here to tell you. That we think DELTA QUEEN STEAMBOAT COMPANY GIVES GOOD BOAT…not only that, their boats are good in every aspect we consider…and don't forget, neither of us pleases all that easily and frankly, there is a lot about the MISSISSIPPI QUEEN that thrills us both. We should have known that we'd c ome away impressed for the Delta Queen Steamboat Company has been around along time and the company's staff ashore and afloat know what they're doing. Through its purchase of Greene Line, a Cincinnati steamboat line, the Delta Queen Steamboat Company, is successor to over one hundred years of service on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Often, when new owners buy old standards, they muck things up so badly that the eventual product bares a scant resemblance to what came before. We have to tell you that under its current owners, steamboating on the Mississippi, Ohio and other neighboring rivers is alive and well, more comfortable and generally nicer than ever before.
The line calls its cruises "steamboatin'" and yup, STEAMBOATIN' is in great hands! Since America's first steam powered vessels started to appear with some frequency on the Mississippi River (from 1811 on), it's no surprise that the operators of the night boats, those ships offering passengers overnight accommodation and transportation along the river, developed credible, often enviable, standards of catering and hostelry....and Delta Queen Steamboat Company warmly carries on the traditions of the best of them. For many years, some of America's best restaurants, if not actually on board the boats running the Mississippi River, were located in nearby locations like New Orleans. Would you be surprised to learn that some of the staples of the American kitchen, fried chicken, pecan pie and chocolate brownies first showed up on the tables of Mississippi River steamers? They did, and America has been licking its fingers after chowing down on plate after plate of Southern fried chicken ever since. Don't be mislead into thinking these river boats existed solely to carry passengers.....their true raison d'etre was to carry cargo....cotton, in great measure.....and the carriage of passengers was but a peripheral business to add a few bucks to the voyage report. But passenger carrying really did catch on, and some of the boats developed were nothing short of marvelous….better, in fact, than the homes of the wealthiest planters of the day…so sumptuous were the steamboats, in fact, that they were known as "floating palaces" and we think that sobriquet is little exaggeration. Some of those old boats were truly grand and in the MISSISSIPPI QUEEN, the Delta Queen Steamboat Company sure does keep that grand tradition alive.
The MISSISSIPPI QUEEN was the first night boat built for the river in many generations.
If you're angling to see a big slice of middle America....and we're not referring to the class system here....but geography....the Delta Queen steamboats are a great way to go. They are comfortable ships, lovingly maintained....and the American crew will wow you with their earnest friendliness and efficiency…These vessels are one of a kind....designed to hint, at the very least, of what it must have been like to be a wealthy passenger on the steamboats of the nineteenth century. Of course, American travelers are a coddled group, and would not put up with the inconveniences their ancestors had to endure. So besides well appointed cabins redolent of the charm of the more gracious aspects of the Victrian era, you'll find a full array of activities and entertainment, and satisfying, if not elegant food…We oughtta tell you RIGHT now that we liked the food so much we built a monument to the Chef..unfortunately, the monument is between our chests and hips!!!. After many years of travelling and writing together, Chris is still a champ at relaxing, but Mark, here, with the exception of trips and cruises to and in Hawaii (where Delta Queen's sister company American Hawaii Cruises operates that great old timer INDEPENDENCE we both love so well, had thoroughly failed his courses in relaxation until we got to the MISSISSIPPI QUEEN where his workaholic tendencies were coddled into several episodic afternoon naps! Yeah, the beds on this boat are truly comfortable and most of the time we had to look outside to see if the vessel was actually moving because most of the time we felt no more motion than we do in our house..the one in MARYLAND, not the place in Southern CALIFORNIA, which moved quite a bit every time the ground shook… If you are traveling with the family, consider how much more relaxing a river boat vacation is versus long motor trips.
The kids will love the boats...and so will you....parents can sit back and relax and the kids seem to love this place. Things some said we 'd find hokey, we found charming. Take the CALLIOPE, for instance…one of not all that many built, the distinctive sound of that "steam pie-Anna" is known for a limited repertoire, but on the MISSISSIPPI QUEEN, the maestro skillfully coaxed out quite a few unexpected tunes in addition to many we knew would be played…Of course, our favorite tune for the calliope and a "Steamboatin'" cruise is of course "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee" and to the strains of that grand tune and the turning of the giant wheel at the stern, we found ourselves charmed back into Mark Twain's America…Later on in the cruise, we both took turns to try to sound five recognizable notes out on the calliope and while Chris' attempt made pretty music, indeed, I'm afraid Mark's music sounded something like the opening of P.D.Q. Bach's "Concert for Bicycles, Bagpipes and Balloons", but good sports that the boat's staff are, they allowed him a certification of "Vox Calliopensis", meaning that he, too, had sounded five recognizable notes on the steam powered instrument…Quite a few passengers turn out for this event and we gotta tell you, it's riotous fun…Another thing we have to tell you right here is that so far, the MISSISSIPPI QUEEN gets our vote for the best music played aboard anything afloat today…we both love BigBands and music of the "Swing Era" as well as Broadway tunes, Dixieland jazz as well as jazz and in live performances and on in cabin radio, our ears were thoroughly pleased…While production shows lack the special effects possible in some of the 1,200plus seat show lounges of the giant cruise ships, the talents of the entertainers are way up there with the best of the best of them! So let the sound of the calliope lull you into a bit of river fever.....and come experience the magic of the Mississippi....on a Delta Queen steamboat.
Every public room and cabin on the MISSISSIPPI QUEEN provides you a terrific view....and there is a public room to suit most any mood. Down on Cabin Deck, you may happen upon the Forward Cabin Lounge....an area that is underused unless you have to visit the purser or the shore excursion office…but it's our favorite.."ringside" or forwardmost, on both sides of this handsome space decorated in an understated Victorian style are four comfortable, big, deep chairs positioned to give you a pilot's eye view of the river ahead of you…and don't kid yourself, the scenery is magnificent and this is a great place to while away some of the time you will need to digest some of that great "Steamboatin'" cookin…We like to grab the table at the port side and spend hours in endless games of our favorite card game, a Greek game called Birimba…every now and then one of us will catch a game stopping glimpse of something we're passing…we look and then the game goes on…The Grand Saloon, like most other public rooms, located on Observation Deck, serves as a comfortable main lounge...the place where breakfast and most lunch buffets are set up and laid to waist by ravenous passengers is also the venue for floor shows and entertainment....geared, of course, to the steamboatin' experience. One note for experienced salt water sailors new to "Steamboatin"….the show for second sitting passengers, called "Main Seating" here, is put on while "Early Sitting" takes dinner, so prepare for an early curtain! That 6:45PM starting time may be why you can always find a good spot for a before dinner cocktaill, either in the Golden Antlers Bar....an intimate getaway on the starboard side....teetotalers have equal opportunity for privacy in the similarly sized Port Gallery...coffee is available here..or in the rather amazing Paddlewheel Lounge. My favorite room in the entire Delta Queen Steamboat Co. fleet is MISSISSIPPI QUEEN's Paddlewheel Lounge and it's upper level.....featuring floor to ceiling windows overlooking the paddlewheel... almost hypnotic init's constant turning…upstairs and also glassed in with floor to ceiling windows are a pair of niches…and we both enjoyed many a moment in comfy chairs here enjoying the passing shores…Outdoors topside is the Calliope Bar .With its adjacent deck it's a perfect spot to lounge away the day and sultry nights on the river....and there is a tiny pool and plenty of sunning space up on Sun Deck. The guys and gals who put this boat together seem to have thought of everything a passenger might need or wanat…even your dirty clothes, because while one of you is living the life of Riley enjoying the variety of lounges and decks on the MISSISSIPPI QUEEN, the other one might choose to be practical and care for the laundry in the passenger laundromat, down on Main Deck.
The MISSISSIPPI QUEEN is an American registered vessel....so it is our duty to inform you that the apple pie served in the Orleans Room is excellent.....for that matter, most of the food you'll get here is excellent.but the signature dessert is BREAD PUDDING! Try some but make sure you leave some for us. Whether you are an American or a visitor from a far off land, make sure to taste the typical American dishes that are served up on these steamboats....the Southern and New Orleans style cooking is particularly appealing...and since there's an off chance that your breakfast menu at home doesn't include fried grits, try them here.....you may realize what you've been missing all these years. The two sitting dining room is up on the Observation Deck. It has thoughtfully placed bay windows for magnificent views of the passing scenery....the line will hate me for this...but request a window table if you can. But the chances are good that you made your way to the dining room because you feel a bit peckish....and just now, a river view is the last thing on your mind.... you want to know how much you are going to enjoy the food. Well, as long as you're not the type to insist on cuisine de Maxim's, you'll leave your table very satisfied....there's plenty of selection, and if an item is not to your liking, the wait people will cheerfully bring you something else. Even if you don't ask for anything else, you can be sure that the waitstaff is at the ready to bring you ever more taste treats. We can't say enough about the high quality of the ingredients or the tastiness of the finished products of in the kitchens here…go try it for yourself!
Straight away, let me say that if you can afford an outside cabin, get one. It's not a matter of lack of facilities in the cabins with no window....it's just that on a river trip, it's a real treat to be able to wake up and watch the passing parade of flora, fauna, towns and cities, as you recline in bed.
Categories "E" and "F" are the least expensive digs....with upper and lower berths, no window, and minimal floor space, they are recommended only to single travelers or those who insist that they use the cabin for sleep and bathing....and nothing else. People who want comfort on a budget are advise to consider the category "D" or "C" cabins....insides and outsides, respectively.....these cabins have two lower beds and an easy chair. If you want to splurge....and on a river trip it should be an approved expenditure with your business manager....take a "B" grade or better....all these cabins have a private veranda....you haven't lived 'til you've watched the sunset with your significant other, sipping a mint julep and dreaming of Scarlett and how foolish she was, letting Clark Gable get away. Category "B" cabins come with only a shower in the bathroom, but Deluxe cat "A", Veranda Suite "AA", and Superior Veranda "AAA"s all have tubs. My very favorite cabins of all the Delta Queen Steamboat rooms are the two "AAA" suites, numbers 274 and 275. These are the aft most staterooms on Cabin Deck, and have not only a balcony off to the side of the ship, but a large porch that looks right over the paddlewheel. Any noise or spray from this giant piece of machinery is but a minor annoyance....to be able to sit with cocktail and stare at the paddle.....is positively tranquilizing! We had a "B" grade room Cabin 252 on Cabin Deck, and heavy hitters that we are in the luggage department, found adequate, if not abundant storage space for all of the clothes, books, gadgets and gewgaws we two professional travelers bring with us…If you aren't packing for a four month grand tour of the palatial establishments of the world, and instead pack sensibly for the number of nights you will be aboard, remembering that this is a pretty casual boat, where gents need wear a jacket and tie but twice in a cruise, you oughtta find plenty of room to store all of your belongings.
You will find all kinds of folk on these vessels....and that's not such a bad thing, because everyone wants to be here. They chose a unique vacation....one that melds the water with the land...and they are well traveled, having already visited America's well known cities. They're making the advanced tour of the States now.....places like Paducah, Cairo and Natchez are foremost in their minds. All of them have the means to travel....steamboatin' ain't cheap. Children, the grandparents, all the kin, for that matter....will have a great time on the DELTA QUEEN.
To fully describe every itinerary the MISSISSIPPI QUEEN offers would be to write a booklet..and the company has done that…producing one of the prettiest, most enticing brochures in the business. Unlike the few coastal journeys to Galveston from New Orleans and back her elder fleetmate DELTA QUEEN makes, the "MQ" this steamboat remains in the Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland, Tennessee and Illinois Rivers. It should be more interesting to you to know that the MISSISSIPPI QUEEN often offers cruises for those with special interests....Big Band, fall foliage, old fashioned holidays, Mardi Gras, Kentucky Derby, the Korean War years with the Artie Shaw orchestra, and the Great Steamboat Race. Pick up a Delta Queen brochure and turn to the back....the cruise calendar is easy to read and will provide you with all the information you need to know. Cruises last from three to eleven days....but if the MISSISSIPPI QUEEN is making successive cruises to different destinations, it's fun to go on "back to backs"....doubling the number of ports you'll visit. Who knows, you may run into us…we can't wait to go "Steamboatin" again!
From the first minute either of us eyed a deck plan of this ship, we were struck by the number of veranda cabins. We can't think of a more ideal setting for a balcony cabin than on the rivers where this boat goes. So mortgage the house, rent out the kids to some production company to do commercials....but whatever it takes, you owe it to yourselves to afford a balcony cabin on the MISSISSIPPI QUEEN.....nothing fits better into the American vision of the old south than rocking away the day on your veranda.
They don't travel the open oceans, but the vessels of the Delta Queen Steamboat Company are American through and through....so they cost more to operate....with resultantly higher fares. We won't get political here and insist you "buy American".....but let us onto the bandstand for just a moment and urge you to give your support to our American flag ships....they're all we have left of a once proud passenger ship fleet. Now, will you get your money's worth here? Probably. You'll get to ride along America's famous rivers, coasts and waterways. You'll get to see towns and cities you never dreamed could be seen from a cruise ship...and you'll travel very comfortably, basking in a touristic production of Americana....courtesy of the hard working and friendly staff on board. If your objective is to travel the Mississippi via a large ship, this is really the only company offering such a product....so comparison shopping would be futile. Suffice to say that if you are contemplating a trip here versus a Caribbean cruise, that's like comparing an airplane with a car....they have a common purpose, but everything else about them is different. But we can, and do say, that the Delta Queen Steamboat Company will give you good travel....and you may become a regular face 'round their neck of the woods.
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