Wow - talk about talented marketing staff at the American Steamboat Company!! Their literature is top notch, making one expect the utmost luxury and fabulous river cruising experience. I cruised with them 4.18.2012 - 4.27.2012 from New Orleans to Memphis. I will disclose that I am 35 years old and that this type of an experience is really not geared to anyone under 70. But I expected that and they don't get a "Poor" rating because of that. "pkbrando" review above me was kind. I will be polite, but far more truthful about my experience.
Food: Absolutely terrible. I have had more gourmet meals at the Olive Garden. There was under-seasoned, bland fish, appetizers served on top of a "tomato coulis", which was really a spoonful of canned tomatoes, shrimp that was not devained, beignets that were rock hard, buffet lunch items that were very obviously leftovers from last night's dinner, desserts straight from the Cisco truck (which was probably a good thing, considering the state of the entrees), vegetables seasoned with canned tomatoes and a TON of dry herbs, and the list goes on and on. I will say that the coffee was awesome, but finding a clean cup in which to have it is an exercise. Every day saw me going through at least 5 cups, before finding one without previous coffee stains, lipstick stains or downright sediment. Even then, I had to wipe the cup down. Outside of regular meal times, there was very little selection for food (popcorn, cookies (albeit good cookies, when they had them) and salty hot dogs). The wine served on the ship was vinegar quality and the complimentary beer with dinner was Bud or Bud Light, although others were available for purchase.
Accommodations: I stayed at one of the suites, which cost approximately $1000 per person per night. The suite was located in the back of the boat, right by the wheel, two floors up from the engine room. The company should learn that size isn't the only thing that matters when it comes to pricing these staterooms. The suite was loud, the balcony unusable due to engine and wheel noise while cruising, and the vibrations enough to make even the strongest stomachs roll. The bed was excellent (although the staff still had the beds together when we checked in, even though we requested them separated 3 days prior to cruising when we received a call from the company regarding this very preference) and the size of the suite quite large. But the carpet was stained, the drapes dusty and water-stained, cobwebs covering the corners. The toilet system broke two days in a row. 7 rooms flooded on the 5th floor two days prior to the end of the cruise. There are limited lounging areas inside of the boat if the weather outside is uncomfortable, so be ready to spend lots of time in your room. There are too many open utility closets, too much "behind the scenes" stuff that passengers should not need to be looking at.
Staff: Everyone was incredibly nice. The company is proud of its hiring philosophy of "Hire for attitude, train for aptitude". The problem is - somewhere along the way, they seem to have run out of time to train for aptitude before paying customers got on the boat. Not a single day saw a properly set table, with all place settings. Waiters were slow, many with dirty, stained uniforms (I learned they have to wash their own uniforms, which is a REALLY bad idea), long, dirty fingernails, etc. Pouring wine was always an adventure and a prayer to not have them drip the wine from the bottle tip on you while they got the bottle off the table and above your head. Service was slow and there were nights that it took half an hour to get the menus.
Entertainment: Geared to the intended passengers, so if you're 70+ years old, you will love the trip down memory lane.
Stops and excursions: Except for Helena, which seems to be a stop only because of its geographical location (the only place to stop between Vicksburg and Memphis), the rest of the stops were fine. Very historical, very well organized, beautiful plantations and mansions and heaven for the Civil War history buff. The tour buses are comfortable and the guides informative.
Overall impressions: Unless something changes dramatically now that the company has hired Apollo Hospitality and a new executive chef, this experience is not worth a tenth of its average daily cost, which happens to be a whopping $500 pp/day. Take the money and your free time and hire a private company to take you to all the sites of interest, dine in 5 star restaurants and stay in 5 star hotels along the way. Skip the boat. You'll save money and have a far better experience.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
May 2, 2012
Dear Zitiste and all,
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I wanted to give a quick update and also address some of the questions and concerns.
First and foremost, we (the shore-side and onboard management) have quickly recognized that there have been some shortfalls in the dining experience and housekeeping. And we are quickly making changes to rectify that.
While an extensive amount of planning and training went into the re-introduction of the American Queen, everything does not always go according to plan.
We did indeed hire staff for attitude - you can train someone to be an excellent server but you can't train them to be nice. That said, some staff have required a much shorter learning curve than others.
We have signed on The Apollo Group , brought in a new Executive Chef from the Ritz Carlton in Houston and new Executive Sous Chef from the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans.
We also have housekeepers coming in from Apollo to provide additional horsepower and training.
Our Chairman, CEO and President will have a constant presence onboard and I can tell you this, things have already taken a dramatic change for the better.
I would suggest checking out sister-website Cruise Critic whose Managing editor is posting updates on his blog. He does not sugar coat and has commented on how the changes are taking place.
Our VP Hotel Operations, David Kelly, has been "manning the line" in the galley for the past few nights and Sunday night was a new high-water mark, entrees took an average of 38 minutes to reach the table from the time guests were seated. The galley staff were all singing and humming at one point "It's a whole new world" from Alladin - they are now seeing the fruits of their labor come to bare.
The staff are now beginning to "gel", they are getting into a rhythm which sometimes does and in this case, did, take a few weeks. They are proud, capable and want to provide our guests with a great experience.
I would also add that the comment card scores have been very, very good.
During the first two voyages, the staff were rated at 101% and the dining experience also rated very high with quality and presentation at 94%, variety at 90% and presentation at 95%. Greater than 95% were likely to recommend us to a friend, 80-85% said they are likely to sail with us again and both voyages ranked in the low 90% for "Overall Experience".
That does not excuse any service shortfalls and I would want that no guest every go away unhappy with any aspect of their voyage with us. For those that have voyages booked for both the near and distant future, I can firmly say that we will not disappoint.
But for guests that did travel with us on that voyage and were disappointed, I would love the opportunity to welcome you back and showcase the improvements and will offer a 50% credit towards the future trip.
We are a truly commited management team and we ccare deeply.
Senior Vice President
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.