The food on board the American Queen was superb and the staff in the large dining room was wonderful. By the time the cruise ended, it was clear to any who were at all observant that the wait staff worked very hard putting in 16-hour days, serving and cleaning up for three meals a day, and they did it on our cruise for six-plus days in a row.
One of the servers at our table was an attractive young woman from Chicago. On our last morning aboard, I said I was sure she would welcome the chance to take a couple of days off after working seven days in a row.
“Oh, no,” she said, “there’s a whole new boatload of passengers coming aboard this afternoon for the week-long trip back up the river.”
She said she wasn’t going to get a single day off for six weeks.
One stop on our tour was at Vicksburg, Mississippi, where we toured the national park located on the site of what turned out to be one of the decisive battles of the Civil War.
We had arranged in advance for a tour guide who turned out to be a woman in her 70s, a retired school teacher and a native of this area. She knew everything about the Battle of Vicksburg and how General Grant managed to overwhelm the town’s defenses and achieve a decisive victory for the Union.
In the parking lot after the tour, however, she set us straight on a misconception held by many people not from the South. Slavery, she stated quite firmly, was not the cause of the Civil War. The actual cause was politics and the economy. I was tempted to observe that one reason for the South’s strong economy was very cheap—that is to say, slave labor. It was clear by the set to her jaw and the tone of voice that there would have been no point in raising that issue.