Our group was made up of family, friends and our travel agent and her family. Most of us came from Colorado and California to New Orleans where we were met at the baggage claim area by a very friendly representative of the Delta Queen Steamboat Company who assisted with our baggage claim and helped get all of us into shuttles to the wharf. The shuttle ride to the wharf was comfortable and short.
The Delta Queen Steamboats are docked at the Robin Street Wharf near the convention center. We were met by ladies in period costume, presented with our color coded necklace for boarding calls, and directed into the reception area . As we entered the large reception room, a Dixieland band was playing and we immediately checked in and arranged for our on-board charges. This took a record 2 minutes! The maitre d' was available for dining room questions, and a shore tour desk was set up where a fair number of the passengers were taking advantage of the opportunity to reserve their excursions early. There were probably 200 or more people in this room and the seating was only a little restricted. There was a nice lite snack buffet set out with great fresh fruit and cheeses, sandwiches and a full bar was available if you chose to have more to drink than wine punch, tea, or coffee.
I could have taken a shuttle to the French Quarter but I preferred to wait for my folks arrival, and wait I did, long after they called to board my color necklace. When they finally arrived around 4:30, they had a missing piece of luggage and were being assisted with how to deal with this situation by Linda, the Passenger Service Rep, who was very helpful and supportive. Bonnie, the rep who had greeted me upon my arrival at the airport earlier in the day had told my parents that I had arrived and would be waiting at the wharf. This little extra touch is an example of what makes cruising with Delta Queen Steamboat Company a special treat. Mom's doing a good job of pretending not to worry about her missing suitcase, and wondering how she is going to get through a seven-day cruise with no underwear or evening wear. Dad has missed the buffet and we need to get on board.
My room is enough to take my breath away, mainly because I have to exhale to get inside. I had booked one of the 8 single cabins available on the boat (Note: she is a BOAT, and the difference, as explained to me, has to do with never traveling the blue water). These cabins are tiny but as cruisers know you don't spend much time in the cabin. There are no televisions and the radio offered 2-4 stations depending on our location on the river.
I head down the hall to check on the folks and find them laughing and unpacking the missing suitcase which had arrived on a different shuttle from the airport and was probably in their cabin before they left the airport. Now ANOTHER of the suitcases is missing, but as they call the purser to report this little comedy they hear a voice in the hall asking, "Where are the O'Hagans?". Apparently, this suitcase had been placed in someone else's cabin by mistake. All are now accounted for, both bodies and baggage. My folks cabin is the same class as mine, but a double; there is plenty of room, the shower even has room to turn around in, and adequate drawers for 7 nights.
It's cocktail time, so we head out on the deck to find tables, chairs and friends. Lots of laughs and another announcement that departure would be delayed due to late arrival of some passengers. At 7:30 PM the lines are cast off, the paddle wheel is turning its customary 12 revolutions per minute, and we depart New Orleans and begin our adventure up the Mississippi. 15 minutes later we are called to dinner and as we sit and contemplate which soup, which appetizer, which salad, which entree, or maybe just skip it all and ask about dessert, the American Queen heads on up the river and we settle in for a jolly good time.
The dinner is wonderful, we meet Reggie, our waiter, from Los Angeles, and Dan our Bus-person, from New York, who are the individuals responsible for our dining pleasure for the next 7 days. When the jokes and jibes start flying its apparent that this is a match made in heaven. Dinner is followed by a stroll around the two decks where you can make the full promenade. My favorite became the Observation deck at the stern, where you catch the spray from the paddle wheel 4 decks below.
The lifeboat drill was a unique experience: Go to your cabin, don your life vest and wait by the door to have it inspected by a crew member. Total time 5 minutes!
Day Two - The River and the Boat
I am an early riser and the first order of business is coffee, which I find in the Mark Twain Gallery at 5:15 AM. Coffee in hand, I head up to America's Front Porch, where I pull a big white rocking chair up to the rail, sit back, prop up my feet, and take a sip. Yuck! This is last night's coffee for sure. Oh well, the views and the sounds of the river are the important part and I have them all to myself. The birds are waking up now and the sky begins to lighten, no sun, sort of a haze over everything. I did hear something about big fires in Mexico, but could the smoke come this far?
We spend our first full day just cruising, and I find it the perfect time to tour the boat. So I'll take you along.
The American Queen has 6 decks, 222 staterooms and normally carries 436 passengers. She is decorated with antiques and reproductions and lots of dark wood. Sometimes the eclectic mix of different wallpapers was a trifle jarring to my sensibilities but I understand it is very much in keeping with the decor of the 1800's.
Starting at the Main Deck Lobby, forward is the Main Deck Lounge with the Captains Bar on the starboard side. Smoking is allowed in this bar area, starboard side only. This is where the late night buffet is served. Beyond is the J.M. White Dining Room. There is no deck access for the passengers on this level. Aft of the lobby is the Grand Saloon, where all the shows are held, as well as afternoon games and dancing every night. Tucked in a back corner is the beauty parlor. Ascending the grand staircase I arrive on the Cabin Deck, progressing forward I pass the tour desk and pursers office on the port side and the A.Q. Emporium on the starboard. These are separated by an open balcony looking back down to the lounge and up to a painted domed ceiling. Next is the Mark Twain Gallery, where we first entered the boat. The antique furnishings are beautiful and the large chairs very inviting to wile away the hours reading Life on the Mississippi. Windows on both sides of this room look down on the dining room.
Continuing, on the port side is the Ladies Parlor with a small porch outside with a large birdcage which has a couple of nests and at least two baby birds that make their presence known occasionally. Opposite is the Gentlemen's Card Room with an identical porch. There is a TV located here for diehards. Straight ahead takes me outside and to the head of a great wide staircase leading down to the Main Deck. On both sides are stairways leading up to the third level and the Front Porch of America. Moving aft, on both sides of the lobby are hallways leading to cabins where those on the outside have bay windows, and those on the inside have doors offering access to the Grand Saloon balconies. The Engine Room Bar is at the end of the hall. At the back of the bar are portholes which provide a view of the paddle wheel. Watching it turn at night is a constant reminder of where you are, and an addition, not a distraction to the entertainment going on here. Smoking is allowed in this bar, on the port side only, and I believe the ventilation is excellent as I never noticed a smoky cloud hanging in the room. On both sides of the bar are small patios, and inside on the starboard side is the door leading down to the engine room observation area.
Exiting the bar starboard, I take a stairway up to the Texas Deck where I find myself in a third floor hallway with cabins aft having private porches over the paddle wheel. Moving forward I pass more cabins where the outside ones have private porches. Just before reaching the lobby I pass the door to the theater. At the lobby I can choose to continue up an inside hallway or exit to the outside deck. I check out the inside hallway first and find a public ladies restroom right next to the cabin named "Head of Passes" (someone had a sense of humor). This is mile marker 0 at the mouth of the Mississippi River. I head on into the screened area of the Front Porch of America, where the lunch buffet is served every day as well as soft serve ice cream and terrific cookies (my personal favorite is the Chocolate Chunk). I exit through the far left of four doors out to the porch furnished with rocking chairs, porch gliders, and a great view. This porch area is completely covered by the next deck up which allows for the swings to be suspended from the roof. It's just like everyone's Grandma's house should have been.
I can continue back to the lobby or take the stairs up to the Observation deck. I select the stairs and arrive on level 4 next to the Chart Room, where you can have your questions about the river and navigation answered. The room is a collection of memorabilia, maps, charts, and captain's logs. 7 laps on this deck make a mile. This becomes our deck and every evening we will spend some time up here for cocktails and conversation.
Returning to the starboard side of the Chart Room I ascend the outside stairs to the Promenade Deck. This 5th level also allows a full circuit of the boat however it is slightly narrower than the deck below. Outside cabins line both sides with the premium suites at the front. I head down the port side all the way to the Calliope Bar, where I find the Hot Dog stand and Eric the bartender, ready to fill any request for liquid refreshment. The Calliope is an unassuming keyboard until you realize it is attached to 37 gold-plated brass pipes overhead which will sound off each afternoon as we depart our various ports-of-call. On both sides of the bar are stairs leading up to the Sun Deck with the Athletic Club and bathing pool. Note that it is referred to as a bathing pool because I challenge anybody to try and swim in it. There are a large assortment of tables and lounges which entice me into a brief respite from this arduous trek.
The view of the pilothouse and the smoke stacks, those great black filigree funnels, is magnificent. Legend has it that in 1856, the Chicago & Rock Island Railroad built the first railroad bridge spanning the Mississippi River near Rock Island, Il. A few weeks later a paddle wheeler heading down river clipped the bridge with her stacks, upsetting her stoves and setting the bridge and the boat afire, and both were destroyed. Steamboat owners then tried to prevent rebuilding of the bridge. On behalf of the railroad a young lawyer drafted what was to become known as the Lincoln Doctrine, which says that a man has as much right to go across a river as he does to go up and down it. Lincoln then invented a way for the steamboats to safely pass beneath the bridges by hinging the smoke stacks so they could be leaned forward, providing the needed clearance. The height of the American Queen is 109' 5" to the top of the stacks, but with the stacks and the pilothouse completely lowered (the pilothouse also drops down into a recess in the upper decks), the clearance is only 55'. This is a good place to add that the American Queen is 418' long and 89'4" wide.
Tour completed, I check the daily program listing - Steamboating Events - and begin to plan out my day. I'll check out the paddle wheel first, then the engine room and get a look at the workings. I plan to get breakfast at 7:00 AM, catch the Riverlorian's talk at 8:00 AM, and find Mom and Dad at 9:00 AM.
When I get to the engine room, the engineer is real talkative, and as I'm the only one down there, I get to ask all the questions. How much fuel do we burn? And what is it? "Diesel and we carry 63,843 gallons." How big is the paddle wheel? "30' high and 30' 6" in diameter, weighs 45 tons, and this is the second wheel - the first one was 55 tons and it broke in half leaving the boat without the wheel for 3 months while a replacement wheel was constructed." Did they have to cancel all the trips? "No, they used the auxiliary power." What is the auxiliary power? "2 diesel/electric Z-drives which increase the total power output from 1,500 horse power to 3,500 horse power." Where did the steam engine come from? "The U.S Army Corps of Engineers Paddle Wheel Dredge Kennedy." How old? "From 1927." How fast can we go? "Top speed is 11 mph, average speed is 8 mph." How long does it take to reverse the wheel? " A couple of minutes." How often do the paddles get broken? "About 2 a year and they can be replaced in about 2-3 hours." After awhile it was starting to warm up a lot and I needed some breakfast.
Already behind schedule (it's 8:30 AM and the Riverlorian talk is well underway), I catch the folks going in for breakfast and join them. I had most breakfasts in the dining room where the buffet is very adequate, and you can get made to order omelettes. One day I ordered pancakes from the menu and they were the worst! I ended up going back through the buffet.
The whole day goes this way, a little too late for everything except watching the river. We all manage to catch the Shore excursion talk and decide on the side trips we want. I'll head to the Battlefield at Vicksburg with Dad on Sunday, the Antebellum Homes in Natchez with Mom on Monday, and the Cajun Country excursion on my own in Baton Rouge on Tuesday. We also decide to buy the $5.00 bargain shuttle pass which allows unlimited use of the shuttles into and around the towns we stop at. Unlike other cruises I've taken, you can change or cancel your shore excursions with 24 hours notice.
Along the Mississippi, there are places where flood control consists of nothing but leaving the riverbank low and letting the river have the land where it will do no harm. We pass by areas where water stretches out for miles and the trees seem to take this soaking quite well. Catching the mile-post markers we can follow the progress up the river. A member of our group found a map of the distances and the mile-markers so we could know where we were at a given time. Somehow it didn't matter, except as a mark of time and the river passing.
The Robin Street Wharf in New Orleans is at marker 96, we are headed to St Francisville at 265.5, 169.5 miles with two nights and a day to get there. The only loudspeaker notice this day was to announce Nottoway Plantation. One of the barges ahead of us took the cut-off and we were heading into the main river channel, not the usual coarse for this boat but it did bring us within view of the plantation house and the view is spectacular. Nottoway sits behind the levee, an example of genteel plantation life in the early part of the 19th century. Mile marker 195.
After cocktails, we change for the Captain's champagne reception in the Grand Saloon where we meet Captain John Davitt and have our picture taken. The show tonight is the flashback to the 50's and you can tell by their faces that the passengers enjoy the flashback to what was only yesterday for many of them. The average age of the passengers must have been well into the 60's and there were no children on board. This was great group of people to travel with, very friendly and full of fun.
Dinner was terrific and afterwards we discovered the Engine Room Bar with Bob and Bobby, playing banjo and piano - great entertainment with lots of sing-a-longs and fun songs.
It's late, but one more walk around the deck seems in order. The spotlights are running up and down the bank and we are slowing way down; it's beginning to look like we may be putting in to shore so we head up to the bow, where all the action seems to be. The captain had announced at some point that due to high water we would be docking on the opposite bank from St. Francisville in the morning. Ferry transport would be provided across to a shuttle bus for town. Sure enough we are pulling in to a spot where there is nothing but a gravel road running down into the river and a lot of trees. This is what I imagine a riverboat did in 1854, pull over to a spot on the river and choke a stump. There are 5 deck hands out on the bank with flashlights. Docking by committee, they all speak their piece about how it should be done, and then each go about doing what they like - probably why the gangplank is stuck out over the bank, blocked by large shrubs from swinging to the gravel path. Lots of talk about alli'gators, and very nervous laughter. As 2 of the guys are stomping around checking the shore line very carefully, one of the hands on deck coils up a big old rope and tosses it out into the bushes. The two guys on land whooped and jumped, and I split a seam laughing. I know laundry was being done in the crew quarters that night. Later in the morning I hear a couple of 'gators were spotted right where we docked, but as the activity in the area was driving the easy food away, the 'gators soon departed for quieter waters.
Day Three - St. Francisville
I'm up early and see that we are now snugly tied up in the brush, and the gangplank has been secured and leads to a gravel path to the ferry. Mark Twain would approve. There are tours to take, but I pass as it's a lazy, humid day. I hope the passengers heading off for the Myrtles and Catalpa have air-conditioned buses.
After breakfast, we head for the ferry and short trip into St. Francisville. The bus driver gives us a good tour on the way to town. There are quite a few homes here from the 19th century, very low key homes, a part of rural America. There is a lot of river where it doesn't belong and the locals are looking forward to it going down. I asked the bus driver when they expect the river to go down and he responds, "when she's a good and ready to". This is a very small quaint town and Mom and I peruse Grandma's Buttons for a bit, where they have a vault with antique buttons on display. Dad has gone off for a walk and when he returns we hear about the Episcopal church and the graveyard that surrounds it. I'd go off and check it out if it weren't so blasted muggy!
We are back at the boat in plenty of time for lunch and a Calliope concert as we cast off and head on up the river. The afternoon passes slowly as we make our way on up the river, 98.3 miles, to Natchez, Mississippi. We pass on the Jazz Show and stay out on the deck. We just talk and comment on the mile markers, and the barges that we pass. This heat is really oppressive.
Dinner, as always, was terrific, and after we headed to the Captains piano bar and some entertainment by Hung Pham Vo, the boat's Executive Chef, who we heard speaks 6 languages. He plays a few songs on the guitar and sings for us. As cries for encore continue, he promises to return tomorrow night. It seems the piano player that handles this little lounge took sick and had to leave the boat, so Mr. Vo was just filling in, spur of the moment - what talent. Now its time for the Engine Room Bar, followed by a stroll around the deck. The quiet of the river is so relaxing.
Day Four - A water stop at Natchez
I start the day looking out at Natchez under the hill where there is only one street left with a few buildings, a bar and some restaurants. A riverboat casino is docked right behind us. There is a little trolley running every 20 minutes into town - Natchez over the hill - and off we go. We pass block after block of the most beautiful homes, some of the 100 antebellum homes of Natchez. One in particular catches my eye as it is painted a rather drab shade of tan and I comment to Dad that I would love to see inside that one. We find a Qwik stop and buy out their entire supply of tonic water - both bottles, and we head back to the boat.
Lunch today is a picnic, and some of the best just plain all-American cooking: potato salad, cold slaw, corn on the cob, fried chicken and beef. The waiters are all decked out in cowboy gear and Bob and Bobby entertain during the meal.
At 3:30 PM I make it to the Master's Navigational Seminar with Captain John Davitt, who is a very entertaining speaker when telling us about navigation on the river. There are no compasses on board as 'on the river' there are only two directions, up stream and down stream, and you don't need a compass to figure them out. A question came up regarding why we pass some barges on the left and some on the right. It seems that the down stream pilot makes the call, since he has less control and, with the river pushing him, he always gets the right of way. Captain Davit also told us some great stories about the re-enactment riverboat races. The Delta Queen Steamship Company has two of its boats re-enact the great Race from New Orleans to St. Louis each year. There is another race between the Delta Queen and the Belle of Louisville each year during the Kentucky Derby. I would love to see this but then I might lose the 'just lazing down the river' feel.
Cocktail time, followed by a visit to the Stage Door Canteen, a musical trip to a U.S.O. tour of the 40's. Dinner is terrific. After dinner Mr. Vo keeps his promise and we join a small group of passengers to do some sing-a-longs and just listen to our very talented chef. After an hour or so, he begs off as it is time to start the buffet - I can't believe it's almost time to eat again. But we convince his boss to let him stay and he calls out one of the cocktail waitresses to join him in a duet. She is great!
Day Five - Vicksburg
I have coffee as I look out at the river wall that protects Vicksburg from the rampages of the Mississippi. There are markings on the wall for the worst of the floods. The water front is rather drab and our only company at the dock are small power boats being put into the water. We are actually on the Yazoo River, the Mississippi is just down river a piece. There is a casino within easy walking distance and some passengers head that way. There is no casino on board the American Queen.
Dad and I grab a quick breakfast and prepare to board the bus for the Battlefield tour at 8:30 AM. Our guide for the tour is named Pat and her true talents come to light later in the tour. The battlefield park is absolutely gorgeous. All the trees are so beautiful. Pat explains that all of the trees were cut down prior to the siege of Vicksburg to build the fortifications that protected the town and so we try to picture the battles that took place without the cover of trees and bushes. The battle was fought in such close quarters that it's easy to picture men talking by night and shooting at each other by day. There are memorials erected all along the road through the park by the states, both north and south, that participated in the battle. The Illinois memorial is up on a hill, up exactly 47 steps, one for each day of the siege of Vicksburg. This memorial is a smaller version of the pantheon in Rome. The names of all the soldiers lost from Illinois are carved on tablets on the walls. As we walk around the inside, Pat begins to sing and the sound seems to be coming at me from all directions. I have never heard a more beautiful rendering of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. The crowd joins her for the final verse and I really don't believe a dry eye left that building.
We continue around the Union positions and stop at the Museum that houses the Union gunboat Cairo. The boat was launched in January of 1863 and sunk in the Yazoo on Dec 12, 1863, noted for being the first vessel in history to be sunk by an electrically detonated mine. She was covered by silt in the river and discovered in the 1950's but not salvaged until the next decade. The artifacts are astounding. The tour continues to the Confederate lines and we see the same battles from the other side, the high ground. The story of the two companies from Missouri - one Northern and one Southern - is a tragic and fitting note to end this tour and make our way back to the river and our home for this week.
Lunch is served, and as we finish up, some of the crew/cast are rounding up an audience for the game 'He said, She said' and we head on in to watch. Mom and Dad play the game from their seats and it's probably a good thing they weren't up there. A couple of our group members, Bob and Maggie, after a very poor start, come through in the end and win. Another bottle of champagne!
The afternoon passes quietly and I take in a movie, "Tested By Time To Become An American Legend: The Delta Queen." The Riverlorian, Daniel, gives a brief background on the Delta Queen to the 6 passengers gathered, and starts the video. The theater on board is a small room, holding about 30 chairs and a large screen TV. As a long time resident of Stockton CA., I take exception to Daniel's statement that the Delta Queen was built in Glasgow, Scotland. I ask him if perhaps he is referring to the keel being laid in that foreign port? His response is that without the keel, there would be no boat, and quickly departs. The movie is very interesting and has great old footage of the work that went into bringing the Delta Queen from obscurity on the Sacramento River, to storage in the mothball fleet at Antioch, to the Great Mississippi River and this most elegant mode of vacation travel. I wanted to know if the tape is available for purchase but Daniel did not reappear. I figure maybe the gift shop can help me out so I head down there, but no luck.
As we depart Vicksburg and head backwards down the river, I chat with the engineer at the rail. He has some interesting input about why we are running backwards down the Yazoo. All the people on the deck seem to have an opinion about how there isn't enough room to turn this boat around, or he is positioning us to swing back into the main channel, or there must be sand bars making the river too shallow here to navigate, etc. The truth according to the engineer is the Captain will turn the boat around when he wants to because he's the captain, and thats his job!
I hear we are making a fast run back to Natchez in order for the crew to have a party at the saloon in Natchez under the hill tonight. I also learn that all the speculation by passengers that one of the smokestacks isn't working is a misconception. The left stack, which usually has black smoke coming out, is the vent for the engines and the kitchen, and the right stack is the vent for the boiler - no smoke, just steam. The venting of the kitchen through a stack also explains the very strong aroma of cooking at certain times. When they lower the stacks down onto the upper deck, the venting continues, right at deck level.
The evening show sounds good so at 6:45 PM, we head to the Grand Saloon to hear Bobby van Deusen and his favorite numbers. This is the same piano player from the Engine Room Bar and he is a very accomplished musician.
We do indeed make Natchez this evening, where I watch us tie up about 10:00 PM and the party starts right away. I wouldn't want an outside cabin tonight.
DAY 6 - Natchez (and my second trip)
After taking a spill on deck (I was going a bit fast, I admit) and eating breakfast, it's time to head to the bus and the tour of the Antebellum homes of Natchez.
The antebellum homes of Natchez are a wonder. As we head out of town, the guide gives us a description of several of the homes along the way. Our first stop is Longwood, the largest octagonal home in the country. The home was started before the war and the owner brought in many artisans from the north to build this 6 story wonder. The plans are all laid out for viewing and we enter at the ground level, then called the basement. This was the only level finished inside. The war broke out and the workers just dropped their tools and headed home to the north. The roofer, having returned home, felt guilty about leaving, so he snuck back across the Confederate lines, finished the roof and than snuck back home again, and enlisted in the army. I'm sure that act is what saved this home in the condition it is in today. The family converted the downstairs into living quarters. After the war, the house was never finished. As we go up to the first floor we can look up 4 more floors to the cupola at the top. It is truly beautiful and they tell us that you can see the river from the top floor, where the observatory was planned. The grounds are gorgeous.
The second home on our tour is Magnolia Hall, this is the house I had walked by on our search for tonic water and I was intrigued by the color. It seems the owner had wanted a brownstone, but that particular building material wasn't available so he had the house painted the color of brownstone. The home is a repository of costumes used for the annual pilgrimage each year and some of the gowns are displayed upstairs.
Our last stop is Dunleith House, currently a bed and breakfast so we don't get to see the bedrooms, but the lower level is interesting, especially the color scheme, uck! The windows are double hung sash and constructed so that you can raise the lower section and step right out onto the veranda, very interesting. The people of the time were not very tall. I heard from people that took the same tour in the afternoon, they went to different houses.
Lunch is on when we return, and now I begin to feel all the little and large places on my body that hit the stairs on the way down this morning. Some of the group convince me to join them for the 'Paddle Wheel of Fortune' so I head off to the Grand Saloon. We did succeed in winning and I have a mini flashlight now to sign those bar tabs in the dark show room.
Dad and I make one last trip into town for a stop at Fat Mama's for a knock-you-naked Margarita, fantastic!
In search of some peace and quiet, I find my way to the small patio outside the Engine Room bar. From here I take in our departure from Natchez and, even with the entertainment going on inside, out here it is quiet until the Calliope goes off. From three decks up the sound carries quite well and in fact sounds real pleasant from down here.
The show tonight is "Best of Broadway" and I found it very enjoyable. One thing to mention is we didn't find any bad seats for the shows and the balcony was very comfortable. All the stage shows were performed by the same group of four, the people who also handle the afternoon games, and seem to take turns at any job as needed.
Another meal, another cheesecake, I think I'm on my fourth or fifth by now. Reggie knows if there is cheesecake for dessert he doesn't even have to ask. Some of the culinary delights that have crossed my palette in the last 6 days: Lobster tail! yum, Frogs Legs, interesting, Escargot, okay, Prime Rib, the best! (they know what very rare means) every kind of green edible ( and not so edible) thing every night with dinner comes the southern specialty vegetable, some excellent. Fried Oysters, pretty good, Deep Fried Catfish, terrific! Bar-b-q ribs that were so finger-licking good, I didn't need the wet nap they provided. The cookies are baked daily on the boat and scrumptious. The food overall was excellent, I never tried the late night buffet. As an early riser it's tough to stay up till 11:30.
Day Seven - Baton Rouge
I watched the sun rise over Baton Rouge. A Great red Ball over the "Red Stick".
I've looked forward to dancing to Cajun music for 6 months but as I can hardly walk after yesterday's fall, I give some thought to skipping the trip. As I may not get another chance to see bayou country, off I go. Our tour guide, who should be in Real Estate if she isn't, gives us the lowdown on the cost of houses in the area on the way to French Settlement and the Bayview Tavern, where the locals and bus guides entertain about 140 people at a time. The entertainment is fair; the refreshments, well I tried the hogs headcheese. I won't do that again. The Boudin Balls are really good and we get the recipe; the fried alligator tastes like chicken. Isn't it interesting how any strange animal is said to taste like chicken. Makes me wonder if they aren't just serving up chicken. My first try of Jambalaya was really good. I skip on holding the baby alligator and am ready to go.
At 3:00 PM its Mike Fink Party time. The crazy hats are on parade. and the floozies are hysterical. Then they have a drawing for the dollars and a couple in our group takes a pot worth $52.00, not bad.
So another cruise draws to a close and dinner tonight is just plain fun. Bob and Maggie
provided champagne from their winnings during the cruise and so we have a good party at our table. Time to hand out the gratuities. If you could have seen the look on Reggie's face when Dad said he really just wants to give him a hug, because money is such an inadequate way of demonstrating how we all feel about him. Was that a tear, Reggie? Of joy, of course.
One last check in at the Engine Room Bar, one last walk around the deck. Time to pack and get the suitcase out in the hall; they'll have us moving pretty fast in the morning.
The dining room and the breakfast buffet are available from 6:00 AM and all passengers are asked to be in the reception room on the wharf by 9:00 AM, so that the busses can begin boarding. They have separated us all by airline and, as Chris and I are bound for Continental and the rest of the group are heading for United, I thought we would be on different busses. But we all head to the airport together and have about 2 hours to kill before the flights start taking us to our separate homes. I have a longer flight home, including the flight change in Houston. but I manage to make it to my front door by 5:30 PM.
My cabin steward didn't introduce himself. In fact in 7 days I never saw him, and if I had wanted anything extra I would have had to call the desk. That is, until the last afternoon. As I sat on the deck filling out the obligatory cruise questionnaire, he comes up and introduces himself and asks if I had a pleasant cruise. $$ ???
I had checked the schedule of the other boats and knew that the Mississippi Queen was on the same stretch of river as we were. I heard three different rumors as to whether we were going to pass her, had passed her or were passing her. I asked the Dining Room Captain to check this out for me please, and when he did I was told we had already passed and no announcement had been made. I regret this, as I would have dearly loved to photograph or attempt to photograph the other boat in motion on the river. The timing may have been the excuse, as apparently we were in the middle of dinner when we passed each other.
Due to the size of our group, one of the cabin stewards was great and in fact kept the ice ready for lots of extra people, and was always friendly and near-by during cocktail time in the evenings.
I loved the easy access to the crew. Granted, with 400 passengers it was much easier to meet and know the crew. There was a large number of people to say farewell to.
Photos by Jeannine O'Hagan and Delta Queen Steamboat Company
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Jeannine O'Hagan hails from Greeley, Colorado and is a "single" cruiser who has taken two previous cruises - on the Song of Norway through the Panama Canal, and on the Rotterdam V up the inside passage to Alaska. Jeannine can be reached for questions or comment at email@example.com.
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