River Cruise Post Mortem.

Now that it’s over, my wife and I have been evaluating our seven-day cruise from Memphis to New Orleans on The American Queen.
Did we have a good time? Sure. We met some very nice people. The boat itself is a marvel if, for no other reason, it’s the biggest steamboat ever built. The cabins were compact, but comfortable. The food was very good … and it was sure as hell plentiful. There was entertainment every night and a very knowledgable “riverlorian” held forth twice a day with informal talks about every aspect of the river for any interested passenger who cared to attend.
Each passenger was charged $16.50 per day to be allocated among the staff as a gratuity and it was discreetly suggested that we could consider an additional tip to individual employees should we be so inclined.
We were so inclined because our cabin attendant and every crew member we encountered was smiling and friendly and often went out of their way to be helpful.
On our last night on board, my wife and I slipped an envelope containing some additional cash to our cabin attendant and to the two people who took care of us every night at the dressy evening meal–Nikki, an attractive 20-something young woman, and Joe, whom I judged to be in his early 30s.
Since the cruise ended early the next morning, I asked Nikki if they would be getting a couple of days off before the next one. No, she said, we would dock in New Orleans early in the morning and later that same afternoon they would be heading back up-river with some 400 new passengers.
That meant all the cleaning and restocking of food and supplies had to be done between 9:00 a.m. when the last of our group disembarked, and about 3:30 or so in the afternoon when the next batch of passengers would come aboard. Just two hours later, doors would swing open for the first dinner seating.
“Then when’s your next day off?” I asked.
“In six weeks,” she said.
Truthfully, I was shocked. Yes, some of the servers can get a couple of hours off between meal services, but the dining room opened for breakfast at 6:30 every morning and the second seating for the evening meal didn’t conclude until 9:30 or so. And, yes, a full complement of servers and chefs would not be needed for lunch when many passengers were ashore on tours. But by the time Nikki gets some time off, she will have worked 42 consecutive 14-hour days.
So how was our cruise? It was good, although my wife and I agree that maybe seven nights on the river was a little long.
A little long? Nikki’s got 35 nights to go!