Mississippi River Cruise, Anyone?

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I started thinking about a different kind of vacation: a cruise on the Mississippi River. It does have a certain appeal: Start in New Orleans. Head up the river for stops at some towns that played important, even pivotal roles in the Civil War: Natchez and Vicksburg.


 I sent away to American Cruise Lines for a brochure and it arrived within a few days. Impressive! A two-page spread with a drawing of the boat and a detailed diagram of the several decks. It looked fabulous. And the idea of less than 200 passengers was also appealing. Cozy … intimate … a chance to really get to know some of the other passengers. It all sounded just right for us.
Then I thought about looking for some reviews by people who had taken these cruises and I soon came across a web site that was all about cruising and which was not affiliated with any of the cruise lines. There were lots of reviews of the particular cruise that had appealed to us. And there were plenty of very positive reviews, several of which referred to the experience as “the trip of a lifetime”.
But there were a lot of negative reviews, too . . . about cleanliness: mould on the shower curtain, fingernail clippings on the balcony. Many reviewers had the same complaints: mediocre food that was not hot when it was served by a disorganized dining room staff. Several comments noted that most of the passengers were very elderly with many of them infirm. One reviewer swore that the alcoholic beverages were watered down, and reported that a gentleman in his party resorted to insisting that each night he personally observe the opening of a brand new bottle of scotch from which his nightly double scotch on the rocks was poured.
Another less-than-thrilled reviewer noted that one evening’s entertainment included blowing bubbles and flying kites from the top deck. “Be still my heart,” he added. I might sign up if I could be sure that guy would be one of the passengers.
At the moment, our enthusiasm for a cruise on the Mighty Mississippi has waned, although I have learned that Viking River Cruises will be expanding their offerings to include the Mississippi. We’ve decided to revisit the idea when and if that company enters that particular field, although I suspect one look at their prices will sink that cruise, too.