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New Orleans, plus 22 day cruise on Mississippi

New Orleans, plus 22 day cruise on Mississippi

Old Aug 10, 20, 1:18 pm
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Join Date: May 1998
Location: Escondido CA USA
Programs: AS, UA, HY, Hil, Merr
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New Orleans, plus 22 day cruise on Mississippi

The pictures are now available. See my post below dated 9/13/20

This might be the type of cruise that will seem safer sooner? USA ports almost daily.NEW ORLEANS, THEN MISSISSIPPI CRUISE 27 DAYS TOTAL

My wife and I really found the American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC) cruise on the American Duchess a big change from the river cruise in Europe or the many international cruises we have taken. In the new world of Covid, you might find these cruises coming back sooner for you!

Okay, we are a lot late in making this trip report, but given what’s going on, I really thought it might be valuable for someone out there!

It’s July. They only do this length of cruise once or twice a year, so your choices are nil. There is another company, that plies these waters, with virtually an identical program.

We flew out of San Diego airport (SAN) to Houston airport (IAH) and then on to New Orleans (MSY). Both flights were on UA. We were forced to use the machine in SAN for check-in. This was a second time for us, we have always managed to get to the desk, or have the staff check us in. We both had pre check, although we are not signed up for that privilege. United Airlines seems to give that to us. Before leaving home, we received a notice of a time change (minor). We did not get the notice of a plane change until we got to the gate. This involved new seat assignments, with no choice, and a definite locational downgrade. We were assigned two middle seats, in very different rows. The flight was overbooked for the new, smaller plane. This Boeing 737, only had two toilets and two flight attendants (not including first class facilities and staff). Fortunately, the flight landed in Houston on time.

Our second leg, to MSY, was short, bumpy and the bounce on landing suggested a trainee pilot.

We took a cab to the Staybridge Suites (on Tchoupitoulas St) in town. The fare was priced fixed at $36 one way. Our lady driver, Marie, could not lift our bags (40 and 44 pounds). I managed to get them into the back, bad leg and all. We will be staying in New Orleans (N.O.) for a portion of 6 days.

George, at the desk, is really good. Lots of enthusiasm and some quality help. This facility is very old and made up of a few buildings, semi attached. Our room is in the adjacent building. You go out of the lobby, through a series of two locked doors and into an elevator lobby of an adjacent building. Our keys did not work on the door, but someone was leaving so we entered as they exited. We took the elevator to the 3rd floor. Our room key did not work on our room door either. Our room is #322. Back I went to get some help. George said the engineer would be there to help us soon. Sure enough, the engineer showed up soon and reprogramed our door (getting our keys to work on the other doors was a hit or miss issue).

Our room (suite) is huge. We are members of IHG, and were obviously upgraded to get this room. We are staying on points, but are only Platinum members. We are welcomed as Platinum members but no amenity or talk of bonus points. Our room has a large front room, facing the street. There is a huge couch, desk and chair, 2 chairs and a small dining table, 2 lamps and buffet. Our bedroom is small, but has all your need and more. The window, when you open the curtain, views the 3rd floor lobby seating area and the workout rooms...keep the curtains closed! The bathroom is modest in size. There is a full kitchen, including washer and dryer (no soap).

The AC was not on, so it was hot in the room. I could not get it to come on. So, we needed help.

We arrive on a day (M-W) that they have free wine, beer, soda and light dinner. Tonight, includes hot dogs, sausages, chile and salad. Jug wine, 2 beers tap. On the way, we stopped at the desk to ask for some help with the AC. George said he would send someone up.

As we returned from dinner, we met up with the engineer on his way to our room. First off, there is a remote control kept in the dining area (the thermostat is in the hall way). You point the remote toward the sensor light in the ceiling, above the thermostat to turn on the unit. Then you open up the remote, by sliding the cover to access the fan control! Why didn’t I know that?

It cooled down some, but lots of windows in the front, a large open space, in an antique building, is a challenge. The walls are a mix of old brick and wallboard. Lots of people would call this “charm”.

The Staybridge has a fairly long, narrow pool area with BBQ, seating and a “lane pool”.

We slept fairly well. A/C worked and was quiet enough. A bit of street noise and people coming and going outside below us.

It’s morning of day 2. We go down to have the included breakfast. Pancakes, cereal, breads, scrambled eggs (not runny), undercooked greasy bacon, and fruit. Good enough for a morning start. There are several large groups and plenty of children.

We decided that my legs were not good enough to walk/bus to the zoo. We, instead, opted for the 3 day hop on hop off bus. It is $49 each and includes a walking tour of a cemetery, and a garden walking tour (iffy for me). The stop for the cemetery (#12) is not in use at this time, so the walk to get to the cemetery is too far, and we pass. OH, stops #13 and #14 are also down for construction in the area. While I am at it, stop #2 is also down. The bus has about a 20-30-minute wait in between buses. There is a “rest stop” (for the driver) that lasts 15-30 minutes. Getting on the bus seems to be on the honor system, but they do have teams that get on and sell/check tickets. There seems to be lots of violators.

The bus, in our experience, was normally less frequent than the 30-minute maximum advertised. The buses are not the same size and configuration. One, we road, had a canopy over all the upper deck. A second, had a canopy over only a few rows. Blaring sun and thunder showers make these exposed seats iffy.

The WWII museum is stop #10. It can be quite busy. It is not clear where to go from where the bus stops. Several buildings. More later.

Closed stop #12 is for the Lafayette Cemetery and the garden district.

Stop #15 is our favorite. It has a visitor center, a Subway for lunch and toilets all within 50 yards.

Stop #7 is Harrah’s casino, where “gaming” is available. Slots and table “games” where money is put up that may be lost or enhanced is practiced. Gambling is illegal! This stop also has toilets, and air conditioning. It is fairly close to our hotel.

We get rained on at stop 7, at the end of our day. The HOHO bus gave us plastic ponchos, but we ducked into Harrah’s. It was still sprinkling 15 minutes later, so we put on the ponchos for the few block walk we had back to the hotel.

No free dinner tonight, so we go for a “special” steak dinner down the street, to the right leaving the hotel. We passed the ruckus, semi open place this morning. (Barcadia, 601 Tchoupitoulas St.). The dinner is a 16-ounce boneless ribeye steak, garlic toast, fries, Brussel sprouts and a glass of wine. We split one meal, as we seldom eat more than 5 ounces of meat at a meal. There is plenty of fat on the steak, but also plenty of meat too. We passed on the sprouts, and they gave 2x fries! The fries were thin, moist and very flavorful versus what we are normally offered in So. CA. The garlic toast was quite strong. The wine was quite good (options were offered) and we ordered more. Our server, Shayla, did a great job. We arrived before 5PM, as the special started at 4PM. The bar was packed, while the tables were nearly empty. They have outside and inside seating. They also had “gaming machines”. Food specials M-Th. Some hors d’oeuvres are ˝ off during the week happy hour from 4-7. $1 drafts!

We get back to our room. There are two remotes for the TV. One turns it on, and the other changes the channels. Why didn’t I know that? Neither offered a “mute”.

Sleep was good again.

This morning, a Friday, breakfast is an omelet, ham with the balance of the offering the same as yesterday. We went back to our room and checked our email (WI FI included). We received a text from UA letting us know our seats had changed on the flights we took two days ago! We received a note from Super Shuttle (our ride to SAN) and our neighbor Terry wishing us a good trip.

HOHO again today. We go back on at #7 (18 might be closer?). We rode to #10 to see the WWII museum. HOHO offers a $2 discount. The price for seniors is $24. If you are a vet, as I am, you get two entries for $36.

The Museum touches on WWI, but quickly goes thru the years until Germany rearms, while the world mostly sat by. They cover the period when Hitler took over most of Eastern Europe. This is followed by Hitler’s failure to abide by several agreements to not do this or that, until most of Europe was German controlled.

When the Germans broke their deal with England, the Japanese decide to start eating away at Asia, including attacking China. Briton made a number of overtures to the US, but our population generally did not want to get involved.

The attack on Briton, led to the Lend-Lease Program. The mass murder of Jews, the sinking of 100’s of our ships, started to change minds in the US as to involvement. We moved our fleet to Hawaii to be closer to the war theater. This led to the attack on Pearl Harbor, that clearly put us in the war.

The next section in the Museum was dedicated to the tool up for war and the role of women and blacks in that effort. It covers the round up and internment of the US Japanese. It covers rationing, volunteering and the massive draft.

The next section is the “revenge” section. Here is covered where the US began to take back territory and inflict damage on the enemy.

The last section was on the Manhattan Project.

The US was on a big learning curve to deal with the Japanese and preparation for the landing on Normandie, etal. As an aside, if you have not been to Normandie, it is a moving experience not to be missed or forgotten.

The above is a summary of the presentation. There are way too many gaps for much accuracy and is written from the USA perspective. There is also a room dedicated to Bob Hope. It is a very moving tribute, and reporting of massive deaths, only days after one of his visits.

With construction going on in the area, the next exhibit is the Boeing Building. It involves a several block walk with a street crossing to get to. Here you will be treated to several aircraft suspended from the ceiling, including a flying fortress. The various levels in the building, accessible by elevator, allow a view of the planes from beneath and from above. The Museum also offers a research area to find Medal of Honor recipients, etc.

The Museum has a lot of interactive displays, film clips and recorded oral history. There are two movies available at extra cost (and time). We were at the Museum for 3+ hours and could have spent 6, but I ran out of legs to do so!

As a side note, IF I were a young Bill Gates type and as rich, I would make a series of educational movies depicting the facts and dates present here. Then I would put it on the internet for all the children of the world to see (especially those 20-50 years old), so they could see what sacrifices were made to keep much of the world free, and to end extermination of blacks and Jews. The story of what true sacrifice for freedom looks like. Makes sitting home during the covid, a snap.

The next stop is #11. This stop is now used for the Garden Tour, which is included in the 3-day HOHO pass. This would have been impossible for us. It is a long hot walk just to get there. It is also the closest to the self-guided tour of the La Fayette Cemetery number one tour. Both tours involve a long walk, as stop #12 is gone (as is 13 and 14). The French Quarter #2 is also gone.

We next take the HOHO bus to stop 15. Here is the St. Charles Avenue street car stop, the visitor center and the Subway sandwich place. We get off here to have a very late lunch and get a second 12” to split later for dinner. The BLT should be fine until we get back to the hotel. We exit at stop #18 (the other Harrah’s stop) and make the short walk back to our hotel. We have a full kitchen, and wine we bought at the local shop.

My feet are really tired and my legs continue to be challenged.

We really enjoyed the visit to the WWII Museum. It was well worth the time and money. Then, we like these tributes to the efforts to provide us the freedom we have today. We have spent 2.5 days in the Canberra War Memorial in Australia in the past.

We call my Mom (she is 99 then), have our Subway sandwich and wine, and watch some “old TV”…Mel’s Diner, Barney Miller, etc. The TV reception is good and the stations plentiful.

It is rainy tonight. We can hear the kids running in our third-floor lobby and the floor above our room. People are using the workout equipment. It is noisy until about 1AM.

I did some texting with my neighbor, Terry. I also sent a text to my Goddaughter, Chris. Maybe I will figure out how to use this phone after all.

Today is Saturday. Breakfast does not start until 7:30AM. Sausage today, and back to scrambled eggs. I had some of both, along with some fruit.

We get a HUGE extra treat today. Out our window is the Running of the Bulls, New Orleans style. First there is a parade of teens and young adults down our street. The are dressed in white and red. Some are on inline skates. A few are pushing grocery carts with booze or a boom box. Chasing after these people is another group, most with plastic horns and plastic bats. This group is the bulls. Lots of interface and chasing around in fun. We watch this parade of rabble-rousers as they go by, several hundreds of people.

We want to visit St. Louis Cemetery #1 today. According to the internet they have tours at 10, 11 and 1:30. The tour is $25pp. You can buy tickets on line. The HOHO bus cannot get us there before 10, so we will have to wait.

We take the HOHO from Stop #18. It shows up at 9:40AM. The driver gets off at stop 1 to buy himself some water. When we get to the visitor center (VC), we find that there are several more tours than what is shown on the web. You can buy your ticket inside the (VC). The price there is only $20, minus an additional $5 if you show your HOHO pass. There is plenty to see inside the VC. It is modest in size, but it has AC!

Our tour guide is Charles. He is the “punny” narrator from our first HOHO bus ride. He believes his job is to inform and entertain those on the bus. IMHO, he needs to inform and let the sights be the entertainment. All the other drivers must agree, as he is the only comedian driving.

The tour is advertised on the internet as 1 ˝ hours. The sales lady in the VC says it is one hour. Charles, our guide, says it is 45 minutes. Much of the difference is the 1 block walk to get to the gate, some wait at the gate, and the tolerance in the walled area without breeze, in the hot and humid environment. The cemetery is about 5 acres. The outer walls are nine feet thick to accommodate “residents”. Most of the grounds are also concrete. They also have some freestanding family tombs, for multiple bodies. They even have larger tombs for organizations holding dozens, or more, remains.

Internment is normally in a pine box. The box is left for 1 year and one day sealed inside its respective placement. With the bugs, heat and humidity, the body is consumed in that time. The structure is then reopened and the modest remains are concreted in the appropriate tomb. This process makes it possible to bury 10’s or even 100’s in a single tomb, using a modest area over the years. There are a few single body graves and “inground” burial sites, but again they contain multiple bodies.

Take water, sunscreen, hat and keep hydrated. This is one really hot attraction. Our guide had a wet handkerchief…a good idea (as would be ice).

After the tour, we returned to the VC and watched a short film, while we attempted to dry out and cool down. Eventually, we went out and waited for the HOHO bus. When it was time to go, the bus was full and several paid passengers were left in the sun to wait for the next bus. At each subsequent stop (6, 7, 8, 9 and 10) large numbers of passengers were left behind, as we only had room if someone got off. Clearly, they operate with not enough equipment. Plan for that. At stop 10, the rains came, and those up top, at least ˝ were getting wet. At stop #11, several people got off to take the included walking tour. Even more were waiting to get on. Not enough room for all of them, and the seats were in the rain.

Remember stops 12,13 and 14 are not anymore (not disclosed on the website). We planned to get off at stop #15 for our Subway late lunch (it’s 1:30). The rain is now much heavier. There is a waiting group to get on. We decide to stay and continue to Harrah’s (stop #18). Getting off would risk a long wait in the rain for a seat on a future bus, perhaps in the open section upstairs.

By the time we got to the Mardi Gras stop, the rain was pouring. This normally popular stop, had no takers. Passengers were all planning where to get off to get to cover or their hotel. Fortunately, by the time we get to stop #18, the rain eases off some. We have two mini umbrellas, so we will be fine. OOPs, mine will not stay open, it is broken, so I must hold it open!

We decide to eat out again. It is two blocks to our hotel and one more to Barcadia. The place is packed. There is one table, filled with trash, and two chairs. Nearby is a table that is clean with no chairs. We combine the two for a place to sit and eat. The place is packed with the young participants from the Running of the Bulls. They have been drinking for the better part of 5 hours! The noise level was off the charts…music, talking, a game played with lots of 2/4’s piled up until they fall. The physical, under the clothes, action was enough to make the devil blush in a restaurant.

We order ice tea and a couple of burgers. Over the next hour, about half of the intoxicants leave. A few tourists come in to take their place. It was about $35 for us tonight. The rain stopped, so it is dry for us to get back to the hotel.

Our room cleaning is not included today. We did get someone, at the door, offering clean towels. Leslie takes a shower, there is no tub.

The view out our windows is a mix of the street, a parking lot, portions of buildings, and part of a bridge.

We asked the desk clerk if we can stay a bit late tomorrow, Sunday. As Platinum members, this is often okayed. We were cleared until 1:30PM, with no charge.

Today, we transfer to the InterContinental Hotel, as part of our Mississippi package. The extension of our check out allows us to have a leisure breakfast, followed by final packing and watching some golf. The cleaning lady comes while we are still in the room. We provide her our new check out time, for her planning.

We head downstairs and checkout. We have the desk call us a cab. We arrive at our new hotel too early to get our room, so we wait a bit in the lobby. The clerk sees that we are Priority Platinum Members and comes and offers us a different room, without wait. Our room is 645, nice, but not large.

By 3PM, we were down at the docks to precheck-in for tomorrows cruise beginning. We were given a key, bus pass (HOHO bus tied to the boat, and driving along the route, between each port), and picture ID.

Returning to the InterContinental, we go down to eat at Pete’s. It is closed on Sunday. They have a nicer lobby dining room, Trenasse. We checked out the menu, and asked if we could split a burger, and if we were dressed okay. Yes, on both. It is early, and the place is 85% empty. The menu we were give at the table, was not the same one we were given at the desk! (late lunch versus early dinner?) No sandwiches on this menu. Fortunately, our waiter turns out to be the one from the desk, so all is good.

This is an upscale place. We receive a basket of bacon rinds with our iced tea, while we wait for our burger to come. The service is good. The noise level is very high. Several young adults have amassed at the bar, and are yelling around each other. This might be the result of massive consumption of alcohol.

Sleep was generally good. Woke up a few times in the early AM, by loud talking in the hallway, perhaps our “friends” from the bar?

It is Monday morning. We pack our bags, put on the ship tags and place them inside the door of our room, but close to the door as instructed. The bags will be taken to the boat after 8AM! We really appreciated that service.

Our 22-day boat cruise included last nights stay and breakfast this morning. Breakfast is served, in a ballroom, on the second floor. The time served is 6:30 to 9AM. The buffet includes scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, grits, breads, cutup fruit, juice and coffee. There is plenty of room to sit. The area is well maintained and bussed regularly. It is a formal set-up for an informal breakfast.

At 8:30, the American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC) set up a second period of check in and tour sales for the ˝ day. Those not taking an AQSC tour, are free to meet at the boat at 3PM or take one of the buses from the InterContinental (3 or 3:30PM timestamped tickets given).

We have 3PM tickets and are too worn out to take a ˝ day tour. We request a late checkout. The cost is $100, but is waived for Priority Members. We ate a big breakfast, so we skip lunch. We watch some TV in the room. We note the luggage has left for the boat ahead of us, as scheduled.

We went outside at 2:40PM. I could see the bus parked on the street. It has American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC) printed on the side. We walked the block, and gave the driver our ticket and were allowed to board early. Shortly thereafter, we are joined by many of the 3PM and 3:30 ticket holders. At 3:05 we departed for the port. The route is a bit messy, and took about 15 minutes. There is already a bus there ahead of us, so we wait while it unloads. It starts to rain. Our bus pulls up and a woman gets on. She starts talking until the rain is quite heavy, then she lets us off. The “stage” (gangway), is the way aboard.

Once aboard, we are greeted by various people, given a glass of sparkling wine and left to our own devices to find our rooms. We are entering on level 1. The passenger rooms are on level 2 and 3. We walk up one flight, but find this is M, not 2, so we have another floor to go.

Our room is 227. Our luggage is waiting in our room, as promised. There is a River Times, the boats’ newspaper there for today and tomorrow. We immediately go into unpack mode. The room is not large, and there could be some better use of space, but it works. Most of their cruises are 7-10 days, so they are not as equipped to handle a 3-week voyage. We put one suitcase under the bed, and the other in the closet, on its side, to serve as another shelf.

We spot two material problems while we unpack. The mechanism for the slider to the balcony is off its track and the toilet is leaking modestly from its base onto the floor.

Our room has a desk w/drawer and chair. There is a mini settee (3’ across). The bed is a Queen. Two end tables with 1 drawer, two shelves and a lamp. There is a clock. The closet has a safe that sits above a 3 drawer “dresser”. There’s adequate hanging space, but minimal hangers (we brought some and the boat has more). There is a high shelve in the closet. The bathroom has plenty of space. There is a “full” length mirror and a flat TV. A hair dryer hangs on the bathroom door in a bag.

Our cabin steward is Cleon. He comes in and gives us a short run of his services and what we need to do. We ask him some questions and tell him of the cabin issues. The toilet is fixed while we are at dinner, and the door, the next day.

At 4:30PM, there is a life jacket drill. You must wear the life jacket and wait in the hall to be inspected. Then you go downstairs, to have your card scanned. That’s it.

We returned to our room to change for dinner. This will be full length pants and collared shirt. Cleon came, while we were dressing, with two cookies? We went down to level 1 for dinner. We hung out our “please make up our room” sign on the door as instructed.

The menu is extensive. Our waiter is Ed. We are seated at a table for 2, as requested. There is no view. It is along a wall. Ed is from New Jersey, and it is obvious from his voice. He will be going on leave in two weeks, but is ours now. He is very explicit about the items on the menu (think slow) and the wines and beer (inclusions and exclusions).

We know what we want, but Ed talks us into trying the fried green tomatoes with corn and crab too. Leslie thought it was okay. For me, it was too spicy and the coating so thick that anything could be in there. Leslie ordered steak and fries. I ordered halibut, fries and a Caesar salad. Both were fine. Leslie had Merlot and I had Chardonnay. For dessert, Leslie had vanilla ice cream and I had peppermint stick ice cream. Ed was not good at keeping the wine filled. He passed by empty glasses often. You had to catch him, and ask. Same with coffee. Flag him down if you want something. He seems like a nice enough guy, but as your waiter?

Dinner took about 2 hours (no second seating). Some people came as late as 7:45PM. The show is at 8:30. There is a less formal dinner option, but it requires reservations. We passed on the show and returned to our room.

Our room had not been done. We call. Cleon only works until 7PM. That is that. We bring our sign back in. Hopefully this does not repeat.

It’s Tuesday, July 17th. We get up at 7AM and head for breakfast. It starts at 7:30AM. There are multiple menu items, but we both opt for bacon and eggs, toast, juice and coffee.

At 9:30AM we attend the first weeks’ tour presentation. Both the included and extra charge tours are covered. The presentation is done by Trish.

About 1 hour later, Mike gives us a presentation on the River. Much of what is covered is signage and vocabulary we will encounter. Locks and dams are also highlighted, as they are associated with the Mississippi. This is the first, of several, seven-day segments we will hear from him. Note, they normally do 7-day trips, so much of our cruise is thought of by them as several weekly cruises strung together. This first segment is 640 miles of river and includes 4 states (Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee).

Lunch is served on the 2nd floor, ˝ hour before the main dining room opens for lunch service. This allows those with early tours or paid tours to eat. We go and have a modest bite. Leslie has a small portion of pasta, and I have 1/2 a beef sandwich and salad. We shared a small piece of fried catfish.

Today, our included tour is Nottoway Plantation. It is currently a B&B and tourist attraction. It was open to the public in 1980. Restoration, starting in 2008, has cost $14 million so far.

Nottoway Plantation was built by John Hampden Randolph and designed by Henry Howard. The house was completed in 1859, and was home to him, his wife Emily, and his 11 children. Randolph was a farmer and slave owner. The house has 64 rooms. It was occupied during the Civil War by the North, with Emily and four children still in residence.

The tour of Nottoway was paced thru tickets, starting at 12:30PM. We had 1 PM tickets. The time was at the plantation. The Plantation was a couple blocks away. The walk included passing over a small levee, and then a street. To get to the house, several stairs were involved (there is an elevator somewhere, we are told). The tour of the house was done with skill. Two floors were covered.

After the formal tour, we went into the small museum and saw an 8-minute film. Ken and Jan, a couple we met on the cruise, were “with us”. The are from South Carolina. We briefly looked over the grounds and then headed back to the ship.

We returned to the Duchess. Ken and I took the cart up to the boat. Leslie and Jan opted to walk. We all then met at Perks. Perks is a fairly small (seats 10 or so) self-serve coffee shop, with ice cream, pastries, cookies and popcorn. It is a popular stop on the Duchess. We sat just outside the room, in some comfortable chairs in the walkway. Leslie had popcorn and Jan and I had soft ice cream. Note that the soft ice cream may be had in cone or cup. Lots of sauces, speckles, nuts, etc. are also offered.

We then make our way back to our rooms. Leslie and I work on our write-ups. She her pictures, and I, the contents of this report. Soon it is time to change and get ready to attend a champagne affair with the top brass on the ship in the lounge. This event starts at 4:45PM. Most passengers, not all, show up for the toast and to shake hands with the top 7. The lounge is across from the dining room, so…the transition to dinner is convenient. Music from the “crew musicians” and a sales pitch for future cruises follows the lounge affair.

We sit at a table for 4 in Ed’s section. We are joined by a couple that live in the North Dallas area, Clarisa and Hugh. They have a daughter that lives in the Seattle area, so we have a chit chat about Seattle. We order deep fried gulf shrimp for a starter. I have onion soup (minced onion and broth) and a steak with rice. Leslie has duck and rice. We both have Cabernet wine. We both have the chocolate cheese cake (we should have shared, as the piece was very large). I have some coffee to help the cake down.

There is a birthday celebration at the table next to us. A chocolate fudge cake with fruit on top is brought to their table of 4 to share. The cake would easily be $150 retail. Only a portion of one small piece is eaten, in addition to much of the fruit being picked off. The baking lady, whom we met another night, really loves her baking. She is excellent!!!

We skip the show again and head back to the room to work on our reports. It is 9:30PM and my body says it is time to get some sleep.

The cruise line has it own buses. HOHO and transportation. As stated earlier, they drive the route we are doing on the river. They meet us at each stop to provide the local transportation. There is a machine, next to the Purser’s desk, that spits out tickets, which you access the night before or morning of to get a time stamped ticket. We get out tickets for the 9:30AM HOHO.

It is Wednesday, July 18th. We are in St Francisville, Louisiana.

We get up at 6:30AM and are at breakfast by 7:15. The place is almost empty, even though it opens at 7. Sidney is our waiter. He is plenty hospitable and presentable, but perhaps doing a job just above his skill level. He takes our order. Ken and Jan show up as we finish ordering. Sidney does not bring them water. Another waiter covers for him. When Sidney thinks he is thru bringing breakfast, I do not have my English muffin, and Jan does not have her bacon. Refills of coffee come too late, and are regular, not the decaf, I was drinking. Butter comes for our toast after we have eaten and …Nice guy but.

We finish breakfast by 8:30AM. Our HOHO reservations are not until 9:30, but we call the pursers office and get switched to go with Jan and Ken. We just missed the bus. The buses are scheduled out at 20-minute intervals, but that often gets to 45 minutes sometimes during the day for various reasons. They actually need another bus, as special tours often remove one bus from the HOHO schedule. We walked to stop 9, and managed to get on the bus there, because 20 people got off.

Our tour of St Francisville (25 miles from Baton Rouge) includes 9+stops. Stop 1 is popular for Grandmother’s Buttons. Stop 6 has the Audubon Market (grocery store). Stop 7 is a pharmacy. Stop 8 includes the West Feliciana Historical Society Museum. Stop 9 is the Grace Episcopal Church.

Our bus makes an extra stop for Hugh and Clarisa to see a dentist. He has a tooth cap issue. We also make a bonus stop before #8, for a tour of Myrtles Plantation (myrtlesplantation.com). Built in 1796 by General David Bradford. Tours are conducted daily. Construction is adding 6 rooms and a restaurant. They currently operate as a B&B and are expanding. The tour is heavy on its claim to being a haunted house. Many outrageous claims are made during this otherwise informative 50-minute tour. There is a large patio area with some shade, restrooms, good parking, and lots of grounds to walk. The cotton fields are long gone, caused by the bole weevil. The gift shop also serves as the dining area for the B&B. There is a pond and several out buildings.

Our second stop, stop 9, is West Feliciana Historical Society Museum. The museum is mostly reading and film. It is a very modest size museum. The area was first settled by the Houma Indians. A more aggressive tribe, the Tunica came in and conquered them. The Spanish arrived in 1550. The French moved in the late 1600’s. The Anglo Americans took over in 1780.

Our last stop is Grace Episcopal Church. The large grounds surrounding the church are burial sites (a cemetery). The church itself is nice, generally fairly plain. It seats about 200 and has a pipe organ.

While waiting for the bus that comes every 20 minutes, I fell backwards onto my butt and cut my calf on an 18” wall after waiting for over 40 minutes in the hot humid weather, without water (my fault partially). The sidewalk is slanted downward and I just lost my balance.

The people on the cruise are generally older than we are. My guess is the average is near 78. There are two people with scooters, neither are particularly large. There are several with walkers. Perhaps ˝ the passengers have some mobility issue, including me. The elevators are mostly in use, but everyone is a gamer and makes an effort, where possible, to get up the “hill” or master the stairs.

There are at least 3 bars on the boat. The showroom has enough seats to handle everyone. There is a main dining room and a buffet dining room. Oh, and Perk’s as previously described.

Bingo, scavenger hunts, river talks, tour talks, meet the crew and drinks are among the offerings. No newspapers, except the ships. They do offer crossword and sudoku puzzles daily.

The boat is not quiet. We are fairly mid-way. It is likely louder nearer the stern. The noise has not interfered with our sleep.

Laundry is provided on this 3-week cruise, but is not offered on the shorter ones. The service is one bag per week (about 5 days of clothes, not including pants). We came on board with 4 days of dirty laundry, and were given a second bag for laundry.

We have not sat out on our balcony yet. It is too hot and muggy. I cut my finger nails out there and Leslie took some pictures. Hopefully, we will get more use later in the cruise.

I am a mosquito magnate. I have used repellant both of our tour days off boat. I have seen some “tiny fliers” around, here and there, on the boat. I don’t know what these nagging flyers are. I have a few bites that I am nursing. Neck, arm, leg and back. I should have brought a light pair of jeans or other light pants, not shorts.

There is another river talk soon. Leslie will go, but I will stay back and place another coating on my cut/scrape from my fall. Our view, along the river, is of trees, and of only one type (cypress?)? They are growing in the river. Many near the shore line are toppled. The taller ones in the back maybe as tall as 40’. They are very dense, so it is impossible to tell how far they go back. Earlier there were gaps, so one could see that the trees thin out about 40’ back. There are no mountains. There are no hills. The levees are the altitude winners in this area. I am sure this will change as we make are way up river.

Dinner tonight is another adventure for me. Ed talks me into trying frog legs! Not sure about the “chicken thing”, but it does look a bit like a chicken wing extended I probably would not order it again, but I would easily eat it if needed to do so. I also have the shrimp, from the shrimp and avocado plate. Leslie passes on the frog legs, but gobbles up the shrimp and avocado. We both have the beef Bourguignon, ˝ orders for our main. Leslie had sugar free cheesecake and I, a scoop of ice cream for dessert. This was all washed down with some Merlot.

Thursday, Natchez, Mississippi.

Breakfast was again a poorly served meal. There are very few people in the dining room, but even with only a few tables and 5 employees to serve them, the service is bad. Ordering seems to be labored. They use a hand held machine. Preparation time is 30 minutes or more for eggs, bacon and toast. Toast seldom arrives within ten minutes of the breakfast. Butter is only on request. A second cup of coffee or decaf, requires finding the waiter (we have not had a waitress yet). It is a crap shoot which coffee they give you. Water is also hit and miss. Arriving first, at 7AM, does not seem to improve the service. Most Denny’s restaurants out do them on breakfast service.

We are doing the HOHO bus again today. We did not get a bus ticket last night, but all times were available, except the previously departed one. Some passengers are doing afternoon tours, so they needed early HOHO tickets to do that as well. We choose 9AM to line up with Ken and Jan.

WOW, Natchez has some elevation! Not too exciting, but the walk up from the river to the central city would be a challenge. History, in Natchez, seems to begin in the 17th and 18th centuries with the Natchez Indians. In 1716, the French built Fort Rosalie. Eventually, they clashed with the Indians, killing most of them and driving off the rest.

Cotton was responsible for the wealth in Natchez (and it’s slaves). Natchez has a large number of very large homes with a variety of architectural styles.

Our HOHO service is three buses until 12:30PM, when one is routed for another tour. The route is about 20 minutes. Time is highly variable, because of the number of power carts and walkers that must be handled at many stops (stowed, brought, motored out and in to the bus.

We have 10 stops. The first is the Natchez visitor center. They have 3-4 people to help visitors, the history of the area on sign boards, a 20-minute movie, a gift shop, a TV with seating, cold water and bathrooms.

Stop 2 is the Rosalie Mansion. It is a self-guided tour of the two-story house, grounds and outback kitchen. There were 4 or 5 staffers spread out to answer questions? (security?). No photos were allowed in the house! Many dolls and children’s furniture seemed to set this house apart from others we have seen.

We just missed the bus, so we walked to Stop #3, rather than wait. This stop is for the William Johnson House, a Federal National Park! The history is in the NP portion and the rooms of the house are upstairs, accessible from out back (there is an elevator). Leslie got the NP book stamp on a plain piece of paper to add to her NP Passport Book.

Stop 4 is Magnolia Hall. Stop 5 is Stanton Hall. We passed on both. There never was a port where there was time to see it all. Advanced planning is a must.

Stop 6 is the Charbonneau Distillery (rum) and Kings Tavern. We were given 2 sips of white rum to taste and a 15-minute talk that included bragging, selling and stalling until the next bus came. The distillery is tiny. The building might be 25’ by 70’. They make white, gold, ??? and black (coffee) rum. We missed the tavern next door, as the bus did come (it is for a quick bite).

Stop 7 is Franklin & Commerce street shopping. Natchez also has a HOHO bus program. They cannot use ours, and we cannot use theirs. Guess one could buy a ticket.

Stop 8 is St Mary Basilica. It has seating for over 500. We went in to view this ornate church. It is still very modest versus many we have seen overseas.

Stop 9 is the Afro-American Cultural Museum and #10 is the town gazebo and river overlook. The bus stop at 10 is long enough to get a picture and return on, if you choose.

The bus drivers have been very accommodating today.

We are back on the boat in time to participate in the BBQ in the River Club and Terrace (the buffet that requires reservations for dinner). Leslie has a very rare (too) burger. I have a couple small slices of brisket, two dry rub ribs and a ˝ ear of corn. Iced tea for both of us. Dustin, the cruise director, provides the music and singing.

This afternoon we have: Trivia at 1:30; Veteran’s Meet and Greet at 2:30 and Password at 3:30.

For dinner tonight I have Caesar salad and the steak and fries. Broccoli and squash show up on the plate too. Phew. It was dry, so easily whisked off. Leslie had oysters. We ate with Mel and Teri (from Monrovia, CA). They seemed to enjoy our waiter, Ed, so they may be back.

We attend the slight of hand show tonight. There is no screen or projector, so most of the passengers could not see anything. I am fairly tall, so I was able to see parts. The parts I saw suggest the skill level quite low (perhaps what one might expect). He was funny, but unfortunately his performance went unseen and unheard by most.

Friday, July 20. Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Vicksburg was part of the Natchez Indian Territory. The French came in the early 1700’s. They built Fort Saint Pierre in 1719. Disputes with the Indians precipitated the Natchez War. Many hundreds of people were killed.

The Spanish came in 1790 and built Fort Nogales. The Americans took over the fort in 1798. Vicksburg was incorporated in 1825. During the Civil War, Vicksburg surrendered after the 47-day siege.

Breakfast is a bit faster, and better served today. We choose to eat alone and I told the hostess why. That may be why the service was better. Jan and Ken did eventually join us, but we already had our food.

Stop 1 is the Church of the Holy Trinity. It is constructed in Romanesque Revival. There are 26 large stained-glass windows. Six of the windows are Tiffany. The windows run the gamut of Tiffany’s progressive: from painted glass to opalescence, then a relief with depth ending in a copper process. The docent gave a 20-minute presentation, and we spent another 15 minutes in this Episcopal church.

Stop 2 was the Anchuca Mansion built in 1830.

Stop 3 is the Old Courthouse Museum. We are here for almost an hour. The bottom floor is mostly remnants of the war. Lots of exhibits, including 2 types of hand grenades. There is period furniture, a custom shop and the courtroom on floor 2. The stairs are very steep. They do have a chair on rails to use, but getting some one to run it may prove iffy.

Stop 4 is shopping.

Stop 5 is a Doll and Toy Museum and the Biedenham Coke Museum.

Stop 6 is the Lower Mississippi River Museum. The Museum starts with an overview film. The film covers the roll of the Federal Government in the history and development of this area. It covers the devastating flood of 1827 and the attempts to come back. Today Vicksburg has a population of about 25,000, only about 150% increase in over 100 years! Adjoining, and a part of this Museum, is the M/V Mississippi IV. She is a showcase of the advanced technologies for the 1960’s. The tour of this boat is self-done. The Corp of Engineers is featured in much of the museum.

Stop 7 is the Old Depot Museum and the Murals. We skipped 7, but it has a 250’ diorama of the Vicksburg Battlefield, 250 model ships, 150 model cars and other displays. Also, along the river there are 20 plus murals of important events in the history of Vicksburg and plaques explaining their signifernce.

It is a steep slog down to the ship. We have a bite of late lunch. Afterwards, it’s off to Perks for ice cream for me, popcorn for Leslie and more write-up for you.

Dinner is with John and Lydia, from Sugarland Texas. The food is perfect for me. I have short ribs and scallops! Leslie opts for the scallops alone. We settle on some wine. John and Lydia finish and head off, while we continue to relax with some more wine. Ken and Jan join us, just before we were leaving, so we stay until all but two other tables are empty. They are going to the show (started 5 minutes ago), but we are passing. The cruise director and his wife are singing.

Saturday, Greenville, Mississippi

Here, the levee’s failure in the massive floods of 1927 are still a rebuilding challenge today.

We go to breakfast at 7:30 and are still the first ones in the dining room. After sitting a bit, one of the girls finally comes to take our order. Everything comes as ordered and timely! We sit a bit extra as we will not be getting on our HOHO until 12:30PM. We are a short ˝ day here today.

At 9:30AM, we attend a river talk with Mike (his 3rd or 4th, our second). He covers Greenville, with a lot of passion. He also gives a very useful presentation on the Mississippi River, its feeders, the floods, The Flood of 1927, levee demolition, uneven treatment of blacks vs. whites in the protection, saving and recovery.

Our HOHO includes: Stop 1 Greenville History Museum; Stop 2 Hebrew Union Temple and 1927 Flood Museum; Stop 3 Bass Art Center; Stop 4 Washington County’s Courthouse and Family $ Store; Stop 5 Library and St Joseph’s Catholic Church and Old #1 Firehouse Museum; and Stop 6 Trop Casino and entertainment district.

We planned to go to Stop 2 first to see the 50-minute film from the start. At stop 1, the lady in the motorized chair was getting off when the mechanism failed. It took 20 minutes to get her safely off the bus. When we got to stop 2, those that got off at one, had seen The Greenville Museum and then walked to stop 2 for the Flood Museum. It was crowded, but we managed to find a seat for the movie. The movie has a lot of original film from the 1927 flood. It discussed the attitude, before and after, and the problems that followed. There are some exhibits, but they are all in “one road shack” area of the building.

Next, we walked back to stop 1 (2 blocks). The Greenville History Museum is located in the old Miller building. The Museum is chock full of old stuff. Nothing stands out as a theme, more something for everyone. They had a fuel pump, it was a Union Oil Company (Leslie’s and my former employer for about 30 years each) one, with a globe from 1989.

The bank, up the levee, is quite steep here. The cart was running, but it only carries 5. I cannot imagine why the bus does not drive down to the dock!? There were at least 50 trucks/vans with boat trailers parked on the sloped area.

Back at the boat, it’s time for popcorn and ice cream, write-up, picture ID/selection and resting.

Today the crossword puzzles are horrible copies. Some numbers are unreadable. Some of the squares are blurred and cannot be read if written in. New toner time?

Dinner is lobster tail tonight, among other choices. Our waiter tells us the tails are 1# w/o the shell, 2# before (?). What arrives is a 5 oz tail, so we order a second round. We are joined for dinner by Bob and Joyce.

Sunday, River Day

Today, we have breakfast with Ross and Daphne (from 100 miles north of Brisbane). The crew may have read the reviews. There is some management in breakfast service today. They start a bit late, but do a better job overall. The copy quality of the puzzles is back up to snuff too.

There is a river talk at 9:30AM. We are at mile marker 631. 1905 total to Minn.

No lunch for us today. We watch some golf, NASCAR and do some write-up work.

Dinner tonight includes a fresh water white fish and red Argentine shrimp. Both good.

Monday, Memphis

Breakfast is buffet in the main dining room. The other one is closed. Graceland is an early tour today. Those on that tour are in line at 7AM or skip breakfast. Several people are complaining about the time squeeze. The buffet has two waffle makers, in the line flow. This really is a bottleneck. The bread category is small, especially the sweets. Scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy, sausage, bacon, cereal, cut and whole fruit, and beverages round out the offerings.

Access from the boat today is very steep (as is becoming common). They are operating several “golf carts” that carry 5 passengers at a time. Most people walk. The first HOHO bus goes out a 9AM (the Graceland bus left at 8AM). We are on the 9AM bus. Generally, most things do not open until 9AM. The round trip is about one hour. Spacing is scheduled for 30 minutes.

Stop 1 is the Memphis Rock ‘N Soul Museum (admission included). The bus is there about 9:10AM, but they are not open. Our guide checks with the man moping the floor and comes back to tell us they will open for us in ten minutes. A dozen plus people get off. The lady inside has no paperwork on our group and we have no vouchers. She makes a list from our boat cards, then lets us in. The first exhibit is a 12-minute movie covering slave music, gospel and the flow of white and black music together.

After the movie, we are given head sets and a recorder. Each display has a number which you punch in, if you wish to view and understand the exhibit. There are options, including music or a story associated with the display. A few of the displays include a jute box, having a choice of 10-20 songs to pick and choose from. FANTASTIC.

We are 2 ˝ hours in this venue. We both, independently, listen to many of the optional music and song. Each stop presents a very useful explanation of the music of the time.

This stop also is for the Gibson Guitar Factory Tour. We skip it, only so much time, and we already are behind.

Stop 3 is just another block down the street. This stop is for Beale Street, and for going to the Memphis Music Hall of Fame (entry included). Beale Street is shops, bars and restaurants. A few of the bars had hawkers outside attempting to pull customers in. We were in the area from 12:45 to 2PM. The activity on the street was very modest. About 95% of the outdoor tables were empty.

We walked up Beale Street a block to the Hard Rock, which shares a building with the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. The museum is on the second floor and there is an elevator. The museum is fairly small. It has some costumes of performers and other similar items, BUT NO WAY as much as the Rock ‘N Soul Museum. The best part is some of the “talking screens”. The museum is intended to highlight the studios, writers and others instrumental in moving the music forward. It has a lesser coverage of the singers. We spent 45 minutes here.

Stop 4 is Autozone Park/Peabody Hotel. This is the hotel that has the duck march at 11AM. Many on our ship, whet there directly and waited all morning to see this event. There is also a Walgreen’s at this stop.

Stop 5 is Sun Studios (fee).

Stop 6 is the Mud Island Memorial and walk. It is closed for restoration.

The final stop is the Bass Pro Shop (BPS). It is located in a massive pyramid shaped building. BPS bailed out the City, when this sports venue was vacated. We are told the building holds a hotel, 2 restaurants, bowling alleys, as well as, BPS and its fish aquariums, shooting range and retail sporting goods store. It is $11 to ride the elevator to the top.

Back to the boat at Wolf River Harbor. We go to Perks for the normal.

Tonight, we have dinner with Bill and Julie. Leslie and I each have a 5 oz filet dinner.

Tuesday, July 24th River Day.

We are river cruising today. We find out that our trip will be delayed for 12 hours, by the Corp of Engineers. We landed about 9:30AM to accommodate/comply. This will delay our arrival to New Madrid tomorrow.

Breakfast service is somewhat better, but still issues with second coffee, first juice and time to get main.

After breakfast, I went to the Pursers Office to inquire about our friends (Jim and Cheryl) joining us on board on July 30, in Alton (they live outside St. Louis). The procedure is: let Purser know; if a meal is requested, that is a separate approval; get the form, fill it out and return it 48 hours in advance. The form requires full names, driver license number or passport number and reason for visit.

There is no phone reception today or AM tomorrow. Our phones can do wi-fi, but the operator (me) has no clue how that is done!

Today, Teresa (shore excursions) provides a talk on the next 7 days of river travel. That took about 30 minutes. She did not have to cover the process of our HOHO buses again or the difference of “landing” or “docked”. This presentation was followed by Mike giving his 30 minutes on river chat. I attended both. Leslie’s back is bothering her, so she is taking it easy this river day.

Other events today, none of which we attended, included: Bourbon Tasting; Future Cruise Presentation; a second river chat; Liars Club; and cocktail music. No bingo today ($5/card).

Each night there is a Showtime at 8:30PM. Tonight, it is Dave and Cathy playing and singing, river music. Several historical instruments were played, as well as, the guitar and banjo. We attended this show, our second. Very entertaining.

There is music after the show each night for the night owls.

Wednesday, July 25 New Madrid

We are scheduled to arrive closer to ten, because of yesterday’s river closure delay. There will be no premium tours here.

We have breakfast, served by Ed today, and the service is great.

NM was founded in 1783. It has had to endure a lot of hardship, especially between 1811-2, when it was the most important landing on the Upper Mississippi River. About 150 boats were in port, laden with goods, when the earthquakes began. With over 50 after shocks, loss of goods and lives followed.

On ship today, we have: daily games in the library; a river chat; towel folding; scavenger hunt; trivia and a Pilot House Tour.

It is hot again today, about 90 degrees. We spend about 1 ˝ hours trying to “land” (put out the gang plank). We are informed that there are bikes for the passengers to use, as available.

Our HOHO start at 12:30PM.

Stop 1 is the NM Observation Deck is at the end of the River walk.

Stop 2 is the NM Historical Museum. It has two movies, shown back to back for about 15 minutes total. The first is some town history in general. The second is on the earthquakes lasting over 2 years. The Museum is located across from the NM Observation Deck. After the movie, there is an area all about the earthquakes and the type this one was. They also have some war items and misc. “museum stuff”. Upstairs they have quilts, dolls, furniture, photos and lots of “smalls”. Well worth the walk upstairs. There is no elevator. They do have photos of many of the items displayed upstairs, on the wall downstairs. There is a modest gift shop with books. There is a modest fee, included in our tour.

Stop 4 (there is no stop 3) is the Courthouse. This is an operating facility with property taxes, licenses, courtroom, a map room, etc. You have to check your stuff (backpack) and go thru a metal detector, for virtually nothing to see.

Stop 5 is a State Historic site operated normally by uniformed State Park employees. When the boat is in, or on special occasions, the employees dress in period clothes. This historic home is 2 stories, and contains mostly original furnishings. You are passed from one guide to another for most of the tour. The house is air conditioned to protect the furnishings (window units).

Dinner tonight is with Julie and Bill. They tell us of the horrible waiter the had the night before. Leslie and I both have the tomato and mozzarella starter and the Caprice salad. She has veal for her main, and I have the Mahi-Mahi.

As usual, we skip the show tonight.

Thursday, July 26, Hickman, Kentucky

We were scheduled to do the HOHO buses in Hickman. We were informed of a last-minute change. We will bus thru Hickman, and on to Union City, Tennessee. We are going to Discovery Park of America (DPA).

On the landing, where the buses are parked, there is a vintage lady passing out pamphlets “Welcome to Historic Hickman”. She is imploring us to stop on the way back and visit their city. She, nor we, know that there will be little time to see DPA, let alone come back and visit Hickman. Sad.

Hickman is the largest and second oldest Kentucky city on the river. Its brochure covers 7 named sites /areas to visit. They are yet another of the dying towns, with great pride, clawing to hang on. As we pass thru town on the bus, we see many closed businesses, homes collapsing and, a few better homes kept with pride. We pass thru massive amounts of crops.

The buses started at 8AM, with the last return at noon. Breakfast was not started until 7AM in either restaurant. We are ticketed on the third bus today, at 9:10AM (unfortunately). We manage to eat in the main dining room and still get to the buses slightly before the 8:40AM bus leaves. They have room, so we are welcomed aboard. Good thing, as every minute at DPA is valuable.

The drive takes about 20-25 minutes. We are given wrist bands (entry is included) for the DPA, not including the Earthquake Simulator and one other premium attraction. DPA has three floors of exhibits inside the main building (100,000 SQ.FT.) and two outside areas on 50 acres.

We chose to do the Southside outdoor exhibit first. There is a Methodist Chapel/Church, built in 1896, donated and relocated here. Next is a reconstructed Train Depot. Next to the depot are several train cars: engine; club car; dining room; kitchen; “cheap seats”; compartments; high end seats; and the caboose. You can walk thru all of the cars, as we did. They have a liquor license and serve outside and inside the train on busier times, not today.

There is a Union City Rotary Pavilion next. It has bathrooms, vending machines, and material sitting areas. Much of this area wraps around a lake. Freedom Square has 2 war memorial gardens, a Vietnam Memorial Monument, a drug store, barber shop, firehouse and Magnolia Place Liberty Hall (MPLH). MPLH has a recreated Liberty Bell, paintings, two short films, tributes and patriotic/feel good stuff!

Next, we do the Northside of the outdoor area @DPA. Note we are rushing, as time is a premium. First, there is a food, snack and beverage stand with outdoor seating. There is a Children’s Discovery Garden. The Settlement contains several small buildings including: David Crocket Cabin; Loom House; Doctor’s Cabin; Escape Room; Critchlow Cabin; Farm House, and Sleeping Beauty Cabin.

The Ag. Center has a barn, Antique Tractor Exhibit, vineyard, row crops and a sorghum mill. I noticed a large area of sunflowers too. Mill Ridge has a school house, feed store, a smith shop, a wind mill and a gristmill.

Unfortunately, viewing the outside exhibits took almost all of the 2+ hours we had before we needed to board the second to the last bus back (the last bus was likely to be over subscribed and was scheduled only 15 minutes later). With the time we had left, we breezed thru much of the 1st and 2nd floors, of the main building, to see what we were missing. Lots of prehistoric skeletons, fish tanks, antique cars and things that we passed by too rapidly to remember.

From the brochure I add: Science, Space and Technology Gallery (including a Gutenberg Press and a 300 kg meteorite); the StarshipTheater; Energy Gallery; Children’s Gallery; Café; Life Enrichment Center; History Gallery (aquarium, oral history theater and Making a Living at Reelfoot Lake); Earthquake Simulator; Native American Gallery; Military Gallery; Exploration Gallery (tootler area and antique toys); Art Hall; Dinosaur Hall; and a Transportation Gallery.

Outside is a Titan 1 Missile, Moon Dome, Blue Angel Aircraft and Thunderbird Aircraft. Two hotels are in the planning stages.

We get back to the boat for a quick bite. I had some shrimp, a baked carrot and a thin slice of pastrami (from the sandwich area). No dessert for me today, unless you count a bite of Leslie’s cheesecake (regular type, very good) which she had after a small bowl of rice.

Dinner with Dottie and Karen (mother and daughter team). Tonight, we both have pork rind with pulled pork for a starter. We had beef tenderloin for our main. Dottie and Karen left to attend the show. We stayed on to finish some wine. Ken and Jan joined us, and we all “closed” the dining room.

I had a tough night. Tummy was yelling from the BBQ sauce? Woke up three times with leg cramps. I really need to remember to drink more water in this hot and humid weather. This day was particularly challenging with all the fast walking. The boat goes thru some locks tonight, we watch, a bit early, then went to bed.

Friday, Paducah, Kentucky.

Paducah is a valuable port city. It is located at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers, and close to the Cumberland River. They were flooded for about 3 weeks in 1937. 27,000 residents were forced to evacuate.

We are here from 8AM to 5PM. Our HOHO buses start at 8:30 (us) and continue every 15 minutes until noon. Later the spacing is 30 minutes. There is a premium excursion that leaves at noon.

Stop 1 is the National Quilt Museum (a very popular stop).

Stop 2 is the Moonshine Company.

Stop 3 is the Lower town Arts District (lower and upper town refers to the river flow).

Stop 4 is the Lloyd Tilghman House and Civil War Museum. The $5 fee is included. This smallish, 2 story home was saved from teardown, and ended up with a descendant of the Confederate civil war group. The docents give free tours of the house with emphasis on the war, especially confederate victories. The talk was difficult for us to follow. We were unfamiliar with the people he named and highlighted. The furniture is not original to the house, but is generally period correct. Lots of war specific items. We were given a very long rifle, with bayonet, to hold and be pictured with. The Tilghman home is an 1852 antebellum style. It was 6’ in water during the 1937 flood. U.S. Grant occupied Paducah during the war. The bulk of the men here, fought for the confederacy. The iron clads were highlighted. Located at 631 Kentucky Ave. Figure about one hour, if doing the guided tour.

Stop 5 is the Paducah Railroad Museum. 200 Washington Street. Generally open ˝ a day Wed-Sat. Closed Jan. and Feb. All volunteer staffs. There is a 30-minute movie of the history of the RR’s, an operating CTC machine, and a locomotive simulator (only 2 people at a time). There is also a large train layout, but it was not being operated at the time of our visit (poorly displayed). Figure 1+ hour with movie and simulator.

Stop 6 is shopping and the convention center (visitor center).

Stop 7 is the riverfront wall, with 2 dozen (?), murals of important area events. There is also a park along the river to sit and enjoy (recuperate) the view.

Our late lunch, was a repeat of last weeks’ BBQ. I turned in the paperwork to, hopefully, get Jim and Cheryl aboard Monday (our friends from St. Louis).

Tonight’s show, featuring Henry Rhodes, and his sultry, soulful voice is postponed, so we skip the show. He had issues with his flight.

Dinner is with Mel and Teri. They are a kick. The girls have calamari for a starter. Surf and turf are the main we chose, although Leslie opts for the lobster only. One of the starters is “pasties”, and we have some fun with that, teasing our waiter Ed. Jan and Ken join us after, Mel and Teri leave. We do have a reputation of sitting with our wine. Eventually, we have to leave so as not to be last. Many people seem to be so-so with the singing at the crew show.

Back to our room. Our “bedroom” Kleenex box was removed (needed replacing but was not) and the shell left. Not that big a deal, but this morning our bathroom Kleenex was also emptied, removed and not replaced. I found a box on a cart in the hall, so I stole it. When I talked to the Purser about it, she asked what other items, when depleted, did we want replaced. What!? I told her, everything. She is writing this down? I guess, no one runs out of stuff on the usual 7 day runs. The Pursers office is open really long hours, and they receive a lot of complaints. Guess that is the approach, instead of good service. OH, yes, we also find out we have a new room steward. His name is Francis. Lots of staff turnover, at all levels, during this cruise.

Talked with Jim today on my cell. I could hear him clearly, but I was coming in poorly to him. I tried calling him back, but it did not work (me, T-Mobile, Jim, area?). I sent him a text and he called me back. I let him know all was a go for him and Cheryl to come aboard on Monday in Alton.

I called to talk to my Mom. She is in a rehab center after a fall (she’s 99). With three to a room, one having company and the TV on, it was hard to hear. Mom is getting oxygen, so it was hard for her to hold the phone near her mouth. According to Mom, her sister was a no show on her planned visit on Thursday. She thought my brother, Denny, was there but was not sure. She is having some short-term memory issues. Denny is carrying the load in my absence. We hope rehab will keep her until she is fully ready to go back to her independent living status. Neither of us really knows what’s next. (all worked out).

Saturday, July 28, on the way to Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

I head down to get our HOHO tickets for this afternoon and return. Leslie goes to the Pursers office to see about the loan of a heating pad (yes, it will be delivered). We watch 15-20 minutes of news and then go to breakfast.

Ed, our waiter, has our table set, with water and OJ poured, before we come in. We are first. Ed waives us to the table and then gets our decaf coffee. The head waiter brings our menus, but our order has already been placed by Ed! Yes, we are that predictable in what we order for breakfast (usually). So, he is trained, but it is Saturday, and his last day is Monday. Then he goes on leave. Maybe we will try Ashley, as we have heard good things about her.

One of the couples, at breakfast, is complaining about the bad vibrations in their room. Their room is near the stern, and the paddlewheel. It seems to be worse, as we change directions.

During breakfast, Ross and Daphne (from Australia) come in wearing coats. Few Australians have air conditioning, so it is cool for them in the main dining room. They also complain about the time it takes to get their meal, or even coffee. Another couple leaves in a huff, telling the main waiter they had waited 15 minutes, and had not been served yet. On the best of days 15 minutes to get your main is unrealistic. 30-40 minutes have been the average. I cannot be sure, but this seems to be a cooking capacity issue. That does not account for the lack of refills, delivery of butter and jam, etc. They have enough waitstaff, as very few passengers go to the main dining room for breakfast. Most people eat at the buffet.

Lots of passengers sit in the common area, bars or outdoors, as the rooms are small. The first deck is off limits to passengers to allow the crew to get about unhampered. This deck goes all the way around the boat. Deck two and three have balconies, so they only have modest areas for passengers to walk. The fourth deck is a large open area with dark carpet. It can be very hot, and sometimes quite windy. There are chairs and tables, and sometimes the umbrellas are open. Some passengers do their walking up there.

Today, we are scheduled to arrive in Cape Girardeau around noon. There is a premium tour, “Tracing the Trail of Tears” that starts at noon and ends at 4:30. We have 12:45 HOHO tickets for today. It is the second bus. The schedule today is every 15-20 minutes until 4:30.

The HOHO bus has a 6-stop route today.

Stop 1 is Mississippi Wall of Fame, and is similar to the murals in several other towns I have reported on herein. The stop also serves those interested in shopping and the waterfront.

Stop 2 is the Old St Vincent’s Church. It is Renaissance architecture (English Gothic Revival). There is a guide that discussed much of the history, disfavor and saving of this church, twice consecrated (1851 and 1853). The church was destroyed shortly after consecration by a tornado, and rebuilt in less than two years.

The second attraction at stop 2 is the Red House Interpretive Center. The house and contents commemorate the life of community founder, French Canadian, Louis Lorimier, and the visit to Cape Girardeau of Lewis and Clark in 1803. Lorimier was an important individual in the area, and ran a prosperous trading company. He lived to over 70 years, had 3 wives over time, and fathered 7 children.

Stop 3 is the Glenn House. We miss this one. It is not possible to do everything in the time allotted.

Stop 4 is Crisp Museum. It is in the southeast Missouri State University, River Campus. The University was founded in 1873. The museum is thought to cover from 35,000 years BC to more current times. There is a movie on the Cape that lasts 10-15 minutes. Early pottery is shown with dozens of examples. Spanish, French and American impact on the indigenous Indian population, culminating in the “trail of tears” is covered. One fourth of the native population died on that trail. There is also an alcove with paintings available for viewing (about 1900 sq.ft.). Free parking and entry.

Stop 5 is the Cape River Heritage Museum.

Stop 6 is shopping, including a Dollar General and a pharmacy.

The population of the Cape is about 38,000 plus another 12,000 at the University. The area was established in 1733, as a trading post.

We are scheduled to depart at 5PM. The town really comes out to greet the boats. We were given a pin, lots of paperwork and a New Orleans riverboat band salute.

Dinner tonight is with Mary and David, both doctors. They live in the NE, USA. Lamb chops are on the menu, as are shrimp. We both have the chops (the type from a rack).

We listen to the entertainer, Henry Rhodes, from outside the theater while I finish my wine. Tomorrow is a bit earlier and shorter for the tours, so we head to bed well before Henry is done.

Sunday, July 29, Chester, ILL.

We have breakfast at 7AM, as our boat is arriving into Chester. The optional tour leaves at 8AM (St. Genevieve). The time the tours leave, including the HOHO, today requires exiting the boat, then up and over a levee and down a block. So, we eat, do personal functions, retrieve our camera, back pack, etc., go down to floor one. We exit and clock off the boat, climb the steep levee (or wait your turn for the golf cart), and walk to the buses. Hand in your ticket and get on, all before the departure time.

Back to breakfast. Ed is really performing (leaving soon, looking for extra tips?). We are first in; he is bringing our OJ and the water is poured. He confirms our order, which he has already put in his machine. Once confirmed, he sends it to the kitchen. Food is on the table in record time, 12 minutes. The second people in get theirs in 18 minutes, then the service starts to wane.

Those with premium tours, can get coffee and sweets or lite snack in Perks. The River Club and Terrace (buffet) are open at 7AM this morning.

We have the 8:45 HOHO. The earlier bus, 8:30 is available when we get to the stop, so we get an earlier start. Today, is a short visit, and we must be at a Stop at 11AM to get a HOHO back to the boat or make it on our own. The HOHO bus gets you back NEAR the boat, but you still have to walk to the approach area, down the hill to the landing, and up the plank to sign back in (scan card) and be on board by the 11:30AMdeparture time. The ship actually leaves a bit later, as the crew must unhook, untie, bring in the landing platforms, etc.

Our HOHO bus has 5 stops today.

Stop 1 is the Cohen Memorial Home. This is yet another chance to tour a rich person’s home and view its furnishings. The home was built in 1855. Only 5 people, of the 50 some on our bus, got off here. Some may return later, if time allows. We did not view this home.

Stop 2 is uptown shopping. No takers from our bus.

Stop 3 is for The Spinach Can Collection Museum (SCCM) and two other stores. The SCCM is a fairly small retail store, disguised as a museum. They sell mostly everything Popeye. Some items are not for sale, or so they say (museum). The adjoining building has many other older items, not Popeye, but again mostly for sale. Next door is a plaque tribute to veterans and a few stalls with misc. for sale. We went thru all of this quickly. Anyone “Popeye’d” could spend a lot of time. The area is called the Chester Square Gazebo (Riverboat Market). We did not find The Opera House Antiques, but it might have been in an old furniture store.

Stop 4 is the Courthouse and Randolph County Museum (RCM). The Courthouse is known for its 5th floor viewing room. Great place to take some pictures of town in all directions (recommended stop). There is a ramp or stairs to enter the building on floor 2. There are stairs up to 5, or your can take an elevator. There are large, clean restrooms on 2.

Next door to the Courthouse is the RCM. This is a tiny museum. There are steps to get in. It can handle 5-6 people before it jams up. Only 4 people and it was crowded. The small size belies the expansive exhibits including: drawers; cases; floor; and reader boards. Plan on 15-30 minutes. The paperwork from the boat lists two more places to visit at this stop. One is the Annex Museum (the same as the RMC according to the sheriff and the curator of the RCM). The other attraction is the Stone Cottage, a block away. We took a picture, but did not attempt to enter.

Stop 5 is the Welcome Center, with a Popeye statue near the entry. We pictured the statue and used the bathroom. We then went out to the river viewing area. We took about 20 minutes, but we missed the HOHO bus, and had to wait 22 minutes for the next one. I saved a 10” crawling worm, that was trying to make its way across the sidewalk. I relocated him in the flower bed. From here we returned to the boat.

Lunch is not available on 2 today. The dining room is having a buffet. It was just odds and ends by the time we got there. We ended up at Perks for ice cream and popcorn.

Lots of boat time today. The clouds abound and lighting and thunder respectively. I take a bit of a nap. Leslie showers and does some more time on the heating pad. We both work on our trip reports and will get a little news on TV before dinner. Unfortunately, the TV is not working (reception?).

Samuel Smith is the founder of Chester, ILL. He built a house and established a ferry system (river is about 650’ wide here). He put in a mill in 1829. Castor oil, a lubricant, was an early commodity here. Chester began to expand. In 2010, the population was 8,586. The town has a Hardees and a McDonalds, even though most of the population is in a maximum-security prison or in the lock down at the mental institution. I doubt either group are allowed to get a Big Mac!

In 1831, Nathan Cole started a small sawmill with a corn grinding attachment. This operation converted to a flour mill, which became the Cole Milling Company, later bought by Con Agra. Elzie Crisler Segar, the creator of Popeye, was born here.

Today’s onboard activities include: games; pilot house tour; river Q and A; scotch tasting ($20); future cruise booking; a movie on the Delta Queen; and bingo.

It’s about 4:15PM, and it is raining pretty good. The Wi-Fi is faded. The balcony is wet. Three hours ago, we switched from A/C to low heat in our room.

We reviewed the paperwork and realized that I forgot about the “City Steps”. From the Mississippi, one can walk up 256 steps to the city. Jan did that (down). David got a bike and helmet from the boat and rode up the quite steep roadway and did the HOHO too. Over achiever. We never had any plans to do more than see the steps, and maybe picture them.

Tonight, we are meeting with Jan and Ken for dinner. This will be Ed’s farewell, until his next contract period. Dinner service is poor tonight. Jan and Ken are a little late, but this throws Ed off his game. We get our order in, but refills, etc. are long in-between. No big deal. The meals, as delivered, only somewhat resembled what we ordered. Ed was busy and having a bad night.

Monday, July 30, Alton, ILL.

We have our friends visiting us today. Jim and Cheryl. Jim is an old army buddy. They are coming from the St. Louis area, across the bridge. We gave them the tour, had lunch in the River Club and had some sweets from Perks. We sat outside on the deck and talked. When the shade gave out, we returned to the River Club and continued our conversation. About 4PM, we saw them off and said our goodbyes. There was no charge from the boat for this visit.

This was a good stop not to go on tour. Our HOHO bus went to a few iffy places of minimal interest and a bird area (wrong time of year). Most people on tour returned early, with little good to say. The tour does not even go near the Robert Wadlow statue, the tallest man ever born in the USA (2800 College Ave). The pay premium to St. Louis was even worse. Five couples told us it was a waste. One attraction required a massive number of steps, as the elevator was broken. They only stopped at the Arch at the end to take a 5-minute photo break. The tour was late, because of the elevator breakdown. The tour returned at 4:45PM versus the scheduled 4:30, making our 5PM departure difficult. A revolt about the charge for this tour is brewing. As we were not involved, we don’t know what happened to the complaints.

At tonight’s dinner, we ponder trying to get to an Ashley served table, or just take our chances with Ed’s replacement. Ashley told us she was basically booked up, so we go with the ”new guy”. Randall is our new waiter. We are eating with Mel and Teri again. Service starts out good, but it is clear it takes a day or two for the waitstaff to get into full flow. All goes well, until: Mel’s request for ice takes 20 minutes; my main is the wrong fish; and my wine switch to red is forgotten. All in all, a mix, but better that some others.

Because my wine comes after desert, we go out to the lobby to hear the banjo player (in the show room). We don’t really need to see him. The playing is fine, but after 15-20 minutes, we decide to go back to the room with the balance of our wine.

There is a highway along the river. The boat is scheduled to go thru Lock 25, Winfield, MO at 10PM. The lock is 110’ x 600’ and was built in 1939. We were asleep when this happened. At 4AM, we are scheduled to go thru Lock 24 and Lock 22 tomorrow at 10AM. The river tells us “when” we actually can accomplish these passing’s.

Tueday, Hannibal, Missouri at noon.

Breakfast is again in the dining room, but today we have Randall as our waiter. Breakfast has always been tricky, but I believe we have a home with Randall. Total time, relaxed, is about 45 minutes, we are first in.

We see more and more signs of development as we continue up the river. We pass thru/under a revolving bridge with its fulcrum wheel house. Several enclaves of homes are appearing in view. More birds are coming along side.

Today, I go down to the purser’s office to get tickets from Teresa for a tour of Red Wing and transportation to the airport. These will be used when we make our final departure from the boat. The cost is $69 each. We have on board credit of $200, so that leaves us a balance of $62 to spend or forfeit.

Lots of announcements today. First, we are late, so our ˝ day in Hannibal will be cut short an hour or so. The river could shorten that more, but it is not expected.

In most of our remaining ports we will be sharing services with our sister boat, the American Queen (AQ). She is carrying 399 passengers versus our 166. As the larger boat, she will get the prime dockage. We, in many cases, will have to walk some distance to, and from, the buses. As most of the venues are small, her 399 passengers will likely overwhelm each one, and we will be hard pressed to visit some. Our HOHO buses will handle only Duchess passengers for their first load, then become open to all of the passengers. The same will be for the HOHO AQ buses. The exception is in ports where we are docked far apart.

We went thru the 10AM lock, and exited about 11:15. I doubt the level changed much more than a foot. No change was evident looking at the lock wall from mid-aft where we are.

We arrive in Hannibal late. The AQ is already there; however, we are on the other side of the river, some 15 minutes from town. We go down stairs and find a line to get out to the buses. We are 30 minutes ahead of the revised bus loading time of 1:30PM (versus the original time of 12:30PM). We have tickets for the first bus, but never could get to it before it was full. Teresa, the coordinator of questionable skills, had allowed people with later tickets to get on first. She laughed it off.

We were routed to the second bus (scheduled to leave in 10-15 minutes). They filled that bus, about 50 passengers. It had been having mechanical problems, but they loaded it anyway. We sat there for 15 minutes, baking in the heat without AC. Some people started evacuating that bus and getting on the 3rd one, us included. When that bus filled, instead of leaving, they decided to offload, Mickie, our lady in the motorized chair. Ten minutes later, Teresa got on to further delay our travels. Our short day in Hannibal is nearing over and we have not left the bus area! The first bus (the one we had tickets for) had gone to town, made all the stops and was pulling in as we finally started.

Hannibal is Mark Twains’ (MT) hometown. The main attractions are all MT associated. We have new bus rules today. The passengers on both boats, can use any of the buses to get around town, but different buses to get back to our respective boats on opposite sides of the river. The last buses back will be at 4PM.

Stop 1 is Big River Train Town (model trains). And the Haunted Wax Museum, and Ayers Pottery. Only 5 passengers exit.

Stop 2 is the main attraction, and most of the passengers exit here. We also get off here. This is the MT Boyhood Home and Museum Complex. The first building would handle about 60 people per hour, and there was a line out the door. The next buildings included: the Becky Thatcher House; Huckleberry Finn House; and the J.M. Clemens Justice of the Peace Office. All were crowded, but viewable. The ticket lady apologized, but they cannot handle the big boat and ours in the same day. It is too bad that the American Queen Steamboat Company is so poorly run, in so many ways. We returned to the MT Museum after seeing these other buildings, but there was still a line to get in.

We waited 30 minutes for a HOHO bus, so we could continue on to Stop 3, the Trinity Episcopal Church. The bus that came was #149 from the AQ. They let passengers off at the front door and on at the rear. The guide from the bus, refused to take on passengers from our boat, except on a space available basis, after any AQ passengers got on (that is not the deal!). My guess is, this is more about tipping than company policy! My objection was snubbed. The seven of us were first in line to get on. Fortunately, there was enough room for all. There buses are much larger and more comfortable. The buses have a bathroom and 2 doors for ease of loading and unloading.

The side walk at the church is 3 steps up from the street. Anyone in a walker was forced to walk a block up the street to get to the corner, then access the sidewalk at street level. Most passengers struggled up these steps but others had to make the additional walk.

The church door is broken and opening it is very difficult. Once in, the docent was very helpful with the history of the church and explaining the various figures. This church also has one Tiffany window.

To continue on was a challenge. Those steps are now down, into the street. Time was passing quickly. Walking back up to the corner and then walking back down in the street was a real chore and of questionable safety (the stop should have been at the corner). We decided to go back to the boat, which meant we needed a Duchess HOHO. The first bus that came was an AQ bus. The next bus, about 25 minutes later, was from the Duchess. I told Mark, the driver, what happened with bus #149. He shook his head, and said he would report it. He also got out to help two people in walkers. He told them to go to the corner, and he would come around and get them there. The corner is about street level and has a ramp.

We continue on the bus to Stop 4, MT Cave. There is not enough time to really do this stop, and I am not keen of enclosed dark places. The Cave Hollow Winery is here and wine tasting could be done, and still make it back by 4PM.

Stop 5 is Karlock’s Kars and Pop Culture. There is time to do a quick run thru, but we pass.

Stop 6 is the Hannibal History Museum and shopping. This is the last stop before returning to the ship. The crippled bus is still there.

The boat is landed, but the walk is less steep than most of the others. This is one of the marques ports on our cruise, and it was very disappointing to have been denied much of the experience.

Some of the crew on the Duchess rotate every 7 days (?). Our cabin steward left after one week, and our waiter after two. The Captain was also rotated out. The cruise director left, but was not replaced (there is an assistant).

Dinner tonight is with Teri and Mel. Randall, our new waiter is a shining light. Willing and able. Shrimp and noodles, covered in sauce was Leslie’s starter. I have Caesar salad. We both had the steak, as this night nothing else suited us. All the food is basically good. The chicken has occasionally been dry, as has, some of the beef. Randall brings us forks and spoons, and six desserts, without our ordering. Leslie usually just gets vanilla ice cream, but not this time. He “begs” to bring some, but we are full, it is too late.

We take the balance of our wine and go out and sit in a lounge area outside the showroom. Jan joins us. We spot and flag down the pastry chef (from Mississippi) and talk with her for a few minutes. Her baking is a real standout. They, and we, are lucky she is on board.

There is a lady on the boat and her husband. She has been waiting for him to come out of the men’s room for what she considered too long. He has a walker, wheelchair and memory issues. Jan and Leslie urge me to intervene. I start into the men’s room to check on him, when he comes slowly out. Problem solved, for us. Sorry for them.

We head to our room about 15 minutes later. By then, the gentleman is sitting in a chair, near the elevator, and his wife is taking the walker back to the room. She is going to exchange it for the wheelchair, that sits in the hallway, folded. They are a couple doors down from us. I return with her to help transfer him into the wheelchair, then back to the cabin, and finally back to his walker.

It is Wednesday, Aug 1, a River day.

The door to our closet will not open all the way. The drawers in the closet, therefore, will only open a couple inches. It is enough to pull out something, sight unseen. We leave a note for Francis and hope he can help.

We go down to breakfast in the dining room a bit before 7AM. We are first again, and very few people come while we are there. This is common on river days. Randall is bringing our OJ, as we head for our table. He asks if our order is the same, we say yes, and soon it is on our table. Everything happens just as we would hope for. Great job.

When we get back from breakfast, our note is gone, as is our Kleenex (we had an extra box, but it is gone too).

We work on our write-ups and watch a bit of TV. About lunch time, we go down to the bar and have a beer (Michelob Ultra, $5.25 each). The movie lets out, and Jan comes to join us. Ken joins us a bit later. They decide to eat lunch. We decide to just have a sack from Perks. Leslie has popcorn and I have a big cookie.

We are now going thru another lock. Lots of people are on the bow, watching the process. Again, the rise is very modest.

I go down to the Purser’s office to see if our door issue has been reported. The rooms boss is there, so I explain the problem. He said he would check it out. It is now time for dinner, so that is fine. After dinner we find the problem corrected, but we have no shower towels. We do have two towel animals, so we undo them for use. Francis seems a bit marginal.

Dinner is with the doctors, David and Mary. We cover some tough issues, quite civilly. Nice to have an adult conversation, of divergent opinions, where both sides accept a “reasonableness of difference.”

Randall is on top of his job, yet again. Dinner for Leslie and I are ˝ orders of beef Bourguignon. Dessert is 4 items, brought to our table without ordering. Leslie also gets her vanilla ice cream. David and Mary take a choice, leaving me with a mixed berry shortcake. The sun is pouring thru the window, bothering David and Mary. The crew cannot seem to be able to shut the curtain, so our tablemates leave. We get a late wine refill and head to the lobby. This Merlot has a heavy cherry taste, and I dump most of it out. It is early, but we want to hear some of the show. Lainie Gulliksen is the singer. Being in the lobby, we can hear the show, but leave if we wish without being “bad”. We leave during the third song.

Thursday, Aug 2, headed to Bettendorf, Iowa.

We get to breakfast at 7:30AM (todays opening). Someone jumps in front of us, but Randall still manages to see we get breakfast first (a prize in itself).

After breakfast, we return to our room. Our laundry is waiting, hanging from the door and on the floor. Our nearly empty Kleenex is replaced! It is close enough to the end of our voyage, that we pack, in big plastic bags, some of the clean clothes. We fill the bag, sit on it and seal it. Makes the most clothes, fit in the least space. At 9:30AM, they are having a disembarkation talk.

Teresa does the presentation. She gives a general presentation, followed by specific instructions for each group departing. We will be given new luggage tags, 0-10, based on our departure option. Breakfast will be buffet, from 7-9 in the dining room. Rooms must be vacated by 8AM. Boat must be vacated by 9. All luggage, for the boat to handle, needs to be out in the hallway by 11PM the night before departure. Hand luggage, being transported by the passenger, must be out of the room by 8AM.

Based on your category: boat bus to the airport directly; boat bus tour and then to the airport or Lowe’s hotel (post cruise hotel); boat bus to Lowes; taxi-rental car; or friend picking you up/other. Each group will be assigned a #, tags, and a time to meet in the showroom. The luggage will be on the docks in # groups, for the passenger to ID. We, or a porter, can then take the luggage to the appropriate bus or area.

Teresa reminded everyone that the option must be selected and turned in by 5PM, tonight.

Today, we expect to be in Bettendorf (Quad Cities), Iowa an hour or so early. The guides for our HOHO are not available early, so the times will remain the same. As soon as we are landed, anyone can get off, but there is only a casino nearby. The Premium tour “John Deere Experience” will be leaving at noon. We have the first HOHO tickets, for the 12:30 run. We must be at a Stop by 4PM to insure a ride back to the boat for our 5PM departure.

Today’s Stops are: 1). Isabel Bloom Studio (demonstrations of carving in limestone sculpture during a 1 hr. 15 min. guided tour); 2). Figge Art Museum, River Music Experience (museum with live presentations); 3). German American Heritage Center (museum); 4). Quad City Botanical Center (sun garden, waterfall and pond); and 5). Village of East Davenport and shopping.

We only went to Stop 4. They have four model trains with docents to explain things. There is a sun garden. They have lots of paved and grassy areas to walk. They have 2 KOI ponds, where we feed the fish (25 cents a baggie). They have a 14’ waterfall. The Children’s Garden is nearly as large as the rest of the gardens. They have a “mock Mississippi river” that you can splash in 0-4” deep. There is a dam you can construct. We talked to the curator for a bit, while we were there. Once done at the garden, it was nearly impossible to go anywhere but the city shopping.

We got back to the boat and called Leslie’s brother, Paul and wife Moni. It’s Moni’s birthday and Paul’s third day of retirement! They have company from Arizona. The reception is poor.

I called my Mom, who is temporarily in a physical rehab place, after a fall. She is back from Physical Therapy. She had eaten lunch and was being put to bed. With the ankle boot gone, she can flex better now. She says her PT is very painful. She must get good enough to: get up and “go”; get to meals; and manage before being released. I have set her up for pill delivery back at her residence with each meal, after her return.

We receive a letter in our cabin, from Captain Randy Kirschbaum, telling us that the stop at Dubuque, IA has been cancelled due to a mechanical delay (boat, landing, what???). We will be river cruising for tomorrow.

Dinner with Elaine and Marty tonight. They are the ones, down the hall from us, that I helped get back to their cabin. Randall does very well with the serving. I have the “every night” steak, and Leslie has the lamb chops.

We hang out “in the lobby”, once again. The show is a guitarist, perhaps the person that played the banjo before. We lasted 2 songs and went to our cabin.

August 3, Friday, river cruising instead of Dubuque.

Somehow the mechanical problem prevents us from making our port, but it does not interfere with our continued paddling up the river? No compensation is offered for the port fees (common with ocean cruises). The Captain did brag in the letter about keeping us informed?

Breakfast is well handled, as it has been for the past week or so, after the very poor service in the beginning.

Our room steward went into our closet and removed coat hangers! He also failed to replace our shower towel, and did not fold and hang the “used but keep” shower towel left on the hook. He does get our room done while we are having breakfast. We are a couple of habit, so breakfast and dinner are “always” the same time for us. We leave by 5:20PM for dinner and do not get back before 8:30PM.

It is a river day, so not much for us to do. We pass on bingo, old movies shown in the showroom, trivia, liars club, etc. This gives us time to keep our write-ups up to date.

Lunch is a BBQ, so we go to the River Club for some ribs. They are pretty good.

Today there is an open bar from 2-4PM (too many complaints about missing a port?). We show up as it starts and stay until it is done. We have a couple Margaritas made by Aldean. He did an excellent job of keeping up with the demand, the open bar presented.

Dinner tonight offers two of my favorites. Short ribs and scallops. I get both. Leslie just has the scallops. Our table mates are Dewy and Mike.

We have a bit of Pinot Gris left, so we sit in the lobby area to hear tonight’s soprano, Hannah Timm-Macis. We leave quite early for our room. The boat is really noisy tonight. Lots of squeaks. Hard to get to sleep.

Saturday, August 4, heading to La Crosse, Wisconsin.

We are expected to get to La Crosse by noon. Our bus tickets are for the first HOHO at 12:40. We are required to be at a stop at 4PM, to get back by 4:30 for a 5PM departure.

Breakfast is another great job by Randall. We are first in, as is usually the case. No OJ on our table today, or ON THE BOAT! They have run out of some of the wines as well. The skipping of Dubuque and having open bar, seems to have left us short on supplies.

It’s 9:30AM, and we are seeing La Crosse already. The AQ is already docked (they did Dubuque). We know the schedule will change. Leslie calls the Pursers office to check. They are preparing an announcement. We get ready and go downstairs. The are letting people off and have yet to make the announcement. All the HOHO tickets have been converted to 2 hours earlier. We get off and head for the buses. The AQ times for bus departure are 10 minutes offset from ours. The buses are lined up in alternate order. The AQ bus loads their passengers and leaves less than full, but with none of us. We load on the Duchess bus, and then take AQ people until we are full.

The premium tour is “Winona Revealed”.

The HOHO stops include: 1. Dahl Auto Museum; 2. Chapel of St. Rose; 3. The Hixon House-Victorian; 4. Pearl Street Complex/shopping; and 5. Riverside Museum and Riverside Int’l Friendship Garden.

Stop 5, where we are going, is only a couple blocks from the boat, but we choose to ride the bus to get a tour of the city. We might see somewhere else we would like to stop and visit.

The auto museum gets 10-15 takers. The Chapel is occupied until 1PM, so no takers here. The Hixon House get 15-20 takers. Shopping get several and the rest get off with us at the Museum and gardens.

The Riverside Museum is on the small side. Entry is included. The gift “shop” is an “area”. The museum displays start 10,000 BC. There are petroglyphs and rock art. There is a large cabinet of various fresh water mussels. A button exhibits shifts us to more modern times. Logging is a big part of La Crosse’s history. There is an exhibit of steamboat lighting, bottles and china. Figure just shy of an hour, including the movie. The movie chronicles the inception and growth of La Crosse. A material part of the film discusses the competition between the steamboats and the railroad. They have bathrooms in the museum.

Next, we went to the Riverside Int’l Friendship Park. This multicultural garden seems to be open 24/7, and is free. Sister cities from China, France, Germany, Russia, Norway and Ireland are participants. Figure about one hour.

Thanks to the early arrival, and our limited stops, we manage to get back on board in time to have a late lunch…River Club buffet.

Tonight, we are dining at a table for 8, as guests of Ken and Jan for their 50th anniversary. Mickie and Chuck, and Karen and Dottie fill the table. Our waiter is Kenneth, aided by Sydney (he is not our favorite). Kenneth does an average job, and Sydney is there. Nice to share with Ken and Jan, their very important landmark! Nice bunch of flowers on the table. No centralized cake. It’s lobster night. Ken does not even offer to deshell the tails! We do our own and our neighbors. The empty shells are left on the bread plate, not removed by our waitstaff.

After dinner we take up residence outside the show room. After a short period, several people leave. Guess the entertainment was not very good. We were talking, and did not notice. We head back upstairs to our room.

Sunday, Aug 5, Red Wing (RW), Minnesota

We are scheduled to be in by noon. Church services are offered by one of the guests.

Breakfast is very good, included the service by Randall. They are out of wheat bread, or so they tell the couple next to us.

Showtime tonight is Lewis Hankins as Mark Twain. We are told that he is good, but tonight is packing and an early morning tomorrow.

Red Wing is having a parade today, so our HOHO is operating the route differently to avoid the main street. We go to our bus, which fills quickly. Teresa gets on and does the intros, but leaves it to the guide to fill us in on the changes. The bus stops at 1, 2 and then 6, but no one tells us! Treasa really needs some training IMHO. After we let a number of passengers off at Stop 2, I asked the guide about the route changes. She told us why, but did not know the route stops. When we got to Stop 6, I asked what happened to Stop 4, where we wanted to go. She had no idea of the order, or content of the stops. Now, she pulls out the map to see where we were to stop, and in what order! Stop 4 is closed until after the parade (2PM). Stop 5 is close to 6, so they just skipped it.

The six stops today are planned to be:

1. Red Wing Marine Museum

2. Pottery Museum of Red Wing

3. Walgreen’s

4. Alive Military Museum

5. St. James Hotel, shopping, RW shoe store, Duluth Trading

6. Red Wing Visitors Center

We have to go back to the boat and start over. We are 30 minutes behind, and the AQ buses are still leaving full, so no help there.

Out we go again, but this time we get off at Stop 1. There are two buildings that make up the RW Marine Museum. The main building/exhibits are a number of pleasure boat motors. Not of much interest to us. The film is an interview, explaining a bit of the Company’s history (that built the motors). In the other building, they have a restroom, a small group of very small motors (they run on air injection), a lot of fishing lures and a few older water skis.

Back on the bus, we decide to try Stop 2, the Pottery Museum. We are the only ones to get off here. The museum is quite large. There are a number of docents. We became a group of 2, getting a very special tour. As we progressed thru the exhibits, we were passed off to the next docent, etc. The flow follows the history of pottery making at this facility, and has thousands of examples. We are shown: sewer ware; salt grazed stoneware; white ware and kitchen, sponge ware, advertising stone ware, water colors; art pottery; the designers, the mold room and the contemporary work. They even had a section of “lunch hour” pieces, made by the artisans on their own time. The facility also has a gift shop.

We spent so much time here, that we were forced to alter our remaining plans. The driver tells us that Stop 3, Walgreens is closed on Sundays (another mess up by Teresa). As we approach Stop 4, we realize that there is not enough time to do it justice, and get back on the bus in time for the return to the boat. We are on the AQ bus, but they will take the bus to the AQ and then to the Duchess. When we got to the AQ stop the bus drive refused to take us to the Duchess. Something is very wrong with this company, and they need to get it fixed. The walk back is thru muddy grass, around some temporary seating area for the AQ, and over its hoses. We end up having to walk in the street, with our backs to the traffic.

The Captain’s farewell toast, tonight was back with our original Captain. He is back from vacation, as his replacement was relieved of duty. The toast was poorly attended, 40-50 people show for a free drink.

Dinner tonight is with Mel and Teri. Service is good, but not great. We are not a foursome until 12-15 minutes in from opening. The expected prime rib is not on the menu. Wine refills are late, and dessert is brought to us as 5 items, and not to our taste. I ask for something else for me and vanilla ice cream for Leslie.

Lots of hugging, photos and good byes tonight. The show is definitely in competition with packing. We choose packing. New luggage tags with our exit option shown.

We are docked, but we and several others, get a poor night’s sleep. We put our bags out in the hall about 10:15PM. Murray, from down the hall, had to go for an emergency look at his leg tonight.

Monday, Aug 6, departure day

Breakfast starts at 6AM, only in the dining room, a buffet. There are 20 plus people ahead of us waiting for breakfast to open. This would have been a great day to open a few minutes early, not a few minutes late. Lots of people need to be in the show lounge at 7AM, ready to go.

Tickets for #5 are called first. They go out, find their luggage, take possession, before having it loaded on the bus. We are next, group 4 and do the same. Leslie asks Mike (bus driver), which Terminal Alaska is in, and he says 1. When we get on the bus, we are told terminal 2. We are going on a tour first, so we have time to see what is what.

The drive thru the Red Wing countryside to Minneapolis/St Paul is boring. Corn and soy beans forever. Then we get fog for an additional material time. Minnehaha Falls Park. Here we use the bathrooms and see the “falls”. These falls are really just shooting water traveling rapidly. Lots of water, minimal drop.

We drive on to Minneapolis to visit the Playhouse. We go upstairs to see the views and our second restroom stop. Then it is on to St. Paul. We travel Mount Curve Avenue, and see the ritzy homes.

At the airport, about 45 minutes early (the tour was cut short, but not much of a loss). It takes about 30 minutes to offload the luggage from the bus, and the 20 or so passengers. We are offloaded at a place without luggage carts, wheelchairs, or porters. We find out this is Terminal 1 (Southwest + Suncountry), and we want 2 (American, Delta, Alaska). Eventually, we find the hotel pick-up (we are spending some time here), for the Fairfield, a block from the Airport. We call the hotel for pick-up. The driver comes, but does not find us. I call in another 30 minutes, and try again. Seem like we are still at Terminal 1. Who knows? The driver eventually finds us.

We check in to the hotel, and then walk over to the Mall of America (our reason for spending an additional night here). We end up seeing little. First, we try to get a burger. The wait is at least 30 minutes for a table! We move on toward the Amusement Park. We spot a Subway, and head there. Empty tables are available in this small area. All are full of empty wrappers. We clear off a table and put in our order. It is not much past 3PM, but we are hungry and tired. A 12”, soda and chips is $14 dollars (sales tax of 7.525 included).

We walk back to our hotel and work on our write-ups. Leslie doses in and out. I’m sitting in a chair, or might do the same…

I did not keep track of our trip home. Flew Horizon Air (Alaska 2777), seats 18AB, no food, $25 baggage check to SAN.

The link, to the pictures from this trip, will be available in about a month or so. I will post here when they are available. If you send me a PM with your e-mail, and the word Mississippi, I will forward you the link.
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Last edited by ranles; Sep 13, 20 at 3:57 pm
ranles is offline  
Old Aug 29, 20, 3:57 pm
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Does anyone have any advice on what the best Mississippi river cruise is? My family's coming to visit and I'd love to take them on a cruise.
amelbeabk is offline  
Old Aug 30, 20, 12:11 pm
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Interesting read - kept me entertained during a slow 12 hour night shift - i followed your progress along on goggle maps
adampenrith is offline  
Old Sep 7, 20, 9:35 am
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The Mississippi River is on the list. I've been along parts of it; as far north as Illinois and as far south as the Gulf. So much in between to see and do.

Thanks for sharing all of the details; I respect that was much effort!
lamphs is offline  
Old Sep 13, 20, 3:55 pm
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The pictures are now available. They are posted on Snapfish. For a link to them, please send me a private message with your email, and your preference for one or all of the 3 groups. Each takes a bit over 30 minutes to view in slideshow. They include:1. New Orleans (four days), La to Memphis, Tn – New Orleans, La; Nottoway, La; St. Francisville, La; Natches, Ms; Vicksburg, Ms; Greenville, Ms and Memphis, Tn.

2. Memphis, Tn; New Madrid, Mo; Hickman, Ky (Union City, Tn); Paducah, Ky; Cape Girardeau, Mo; Chester, Illinois. and Alton, Illinois

3.Alton, Illinois; Hannibal, Mo; Bettendorf, Davenport (Iowa), Rock Island (Illinois); a River day; La Crosse, Wi and Red Wing, Mn. (from there went by bus to Minneapolis and St. Paul and then flew home)

The pictures include extensive photos from the running of the bulls in New Orleans, museums, historic homes, Discovery park, the American Duchess paddle wheel we were on, botanic gardens, Pottery museum, RR museum, several churches, Popeye's hometown, and the rock and soul museum.

Happy viewing...a supplement to the write up on Trip Reports
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ranles is offline  
Old Sep 17, 20, 7:27 pm
Join Date: Dec 2004
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Originally Posted by ranles View Post
The pictures are now available. They are posted on Snapfish. For a link to them, please send me a private message with your email, and your preference for one or all of the 3 groups. Each takes a bit over 30 minutes to view in slideshow. They include:1. New Orleans (four days), La to Memphis, Tn – New Orleans, La; Nottoway, La; St. Francisville, La; Natches, Ms; Vicksburg, Ms; Greenville, Ms and Memphis, Tn.

2. Memphis, Tn; New Madrid, Mo; Hickman, Ky (Union City, Tn); Paducah, Ky; Cape Girardeau, Mo; Chester, Illinois. and Alton, Illinois

3.Alton, Illinois; Hannibal, Mo; Bettendorf, Davenport (Iowa), Rock Island (Illinois); a River day; La Crosse, Wi and Red Wing, Mn. (from there went by bus to Minneapolis and St. Paul and then flew home)

The pictures include extensive photos from the running of the bulls in New Orleans, museums, historic homes, Discovery park, the American Duchess paddle wheel we were on, botanic gardens, Pottery museum, RR museum, several churches, Popeye's hometown, and the rock and soul museum.

Happy viewing...a supplement to the write up on Trip Reports
Fantastic, thanks!
fly747first is offline  
Old Sep 18, 20, 8:50 pm
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Interesting read....thanks for taking the time(s). Always curious and your writing matches my imagination. Not something we could ever afford.
hedoman is offline  

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