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Would really like some advice about which steamboat and trip to choose. How would you decide which of the DQ, MQ and AQ is best for you? I love the sound of the Delta Queen...small, quiet, time to watch the scenery. But it is hard to choose from the short descriptions on the web.
And trips...this would be a birthday gift for my husband who loves history and studying the civil war, so I want it to be special for him...but I'm not sure I can take 7 whole days of war history!! Do you know of a trip that has a mixture of civil war history, and other things?
Thatīs a tough question ! All three boats are different and have their own charme. My first and all time love is the DQ (but travelling with a kid we would need two staterooms and thatīs too expensive for us). The DQ is the smallest of the three boats with 174 passengers. There arenīt too many public spaces (Texas Bar, Forward Cabin Lounge, Betty Blake Lounge) but you soon will find some new friends (passengers and crew) and itīs more like a family like atmosphere. The DQ has the highest rate of repeat passengers (and some even stay on for a month or more). Thereīs no pool, no exercice room (there are one or two exercice bikes outside), no TV, no outside bar. All rooms open to the outside except on the Cabin Deck (although those rooms are a bit spacier I wouldnīt recommend them as you will be woken up by the cabin attendent on the Texas Deck pushing his cart along the deck early in the morning). My favorite deck is the Texas Deck (same deck as the bar ). You still have some shelter if itīs raining. On the Sun Deck it can be quite hot in summer.
The MQ is a great boat for groups and families. Both MQ and AQ have a bit more than 400 passengers. The atmosphere is a bit less family like. But there are more amenities like a small pool, outside bar, fitness room, cinema theater, beauty salon, washer/dryer, TV (only in public spaces) and some comfy places where you can watch the river (o.k. my favorites are still the rocking chairs). The Grand Saloon is a great place to listen to the Riverlorian (river historian) and my favorite place on the MQ is the Chart Room. The design of the boat is a bit ... o.k. itīs not steamboaty but 1970ies.
The AQ is the Grand Lady of the Rivers, the fullfillment of a steamboaters dream in design and decoration. Due to the schedule of the last years (3 and 4 night cruises out of New Orleans) the AQ might have the lowest repeat passenger rate. Unfortunately our cruise on the AQ this year has been cancelled so weīre back on the MQ again. Crew on the MQ told me that the dress code is a bit more formal on the AQ (not necessary but I assume that most of the first timers were not sure how to dress and packed a bit more formal).
Both, the MQ and AQ do have inside rooms. No problem at all, as you do not spend much time in your cabin.
You will find descriptions of the boats and fact sheets (including schedules) on our website www.rivers-rails.com and we have lots of photos of all boats on our steamboat website www.steamboats.org .
Itinerary: First, all boats do have a river historian, called Riverlorian, and you can learn lots about river history, steamboating history and river navigation on each cruise. There are some themed cruises dedicated to Civil War (mainly on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers) which you might have seen on the DQSCīs website. A good combination of Civil War and - letīs say other interests - might be a cruise on the Lower Mississippi River (like our New Orleans roundtrip Thanksgiving 2004, see my MQ review linked in my signature) which takes you up to Vicksburg and Natchez. Itīs a good combination of Civil War (Vicksburg battlefield) and Antebellum Homes.
I have booked my first riverboat trip this year. For me the decision was fairly easy - I am a major Mark Twain fan - just get me on the river and into Hannibal and I would be happy. I took that information to a local travel agent and she was able to guide me the rest of the way. We spent a bit of time talking about me and what I wanted out of the vacation - she made recomendations about time of year and itinerary.
Like steamboats I was originaly booked on the American Queen and had to change my reservation to the Mississippi Queen.
My advice as a first timer would be - take what you want for sure to a travel agent you trust and have them help you through the final choices. Once you have your trip booked come back here to Cruise Critic. I have been collecting lots of advice for what to do and see on my trip. Steamboats in particular is a fabulous source of information and web links to help with planning.
And I forgot: the MQīs Paddlewheel Lounge is the best bar on the rivers! Two stories (upper level balcony like), great view on the paddlewheel. The MQ is a great indoor boat (winter and summer) but doesnīt offer much outside space. In fact thereīs only one deck you can walk - more or less - around the boat. The AQ has much more outside space. Advantage of the MQ: if you prefer a private balcony the MQ has lots of them.
As far as Iīve heard from my steamboating friends most of them got stuck on the boat they rode first. Some have tried the others but they always returned to their "first love".
The DQ is the only really historic boat. The AQ is a beauty but some say sheīs not a steamboat at all (as her steam engine hasnīt enough power to propell the boat and she needs the Z-drives to move herself).
If you like a small group of passengers and donīt mind if thereīs no pool, hairdresser... then the DQ is your choice. The DQ - being the smallest boat of the fleet - has more varieties in her schedule. The AQ - because of her size - is mainly limited to the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. The DQ can go up smaller rivers too. The MQ can usually do the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers but not the smaller ones.
If you fall in love with a certain itinerary take the boat which is doing this. Thereīs no good or bad one. All are great and all have their advantages and disadvantages.
PS: As tgoīs mentioned, we have some kind of travel guide for steamboaters on our www.steamboats.org website (see travel and steamboat traveller). You can check it online and thereīs also a printed version available.
Thank you so much for all the information. As you suggest, I'll explore your website, then chat with a travel agent before choosing which steamboat and trip. And come back here with any questions! thanks again!
If you have any interest in the Civil War, the Delta Queen is perfect, especially if Bud Robertson is the lecturer. His knowledge of the experiences of those who were in the war are superb. We just returned from the Nashville - Chattanooga trip and recommend it highly. Ship has some drawbacks, small cabins and lots of swtairs, but listening to Bud makes the trip an experience for anyone interested in that period
Themed cruises may have additional lectures and sometimes special shore tours. As far as I can see most of the April cruises in 2007 do not have a special theme. The first one is themed "Spring Pilgrimage", the last one "Jazz Fest" referring to the New Orleans Jazz Fest. There are no Garden themed cruises anymore. On the Spring Pilgrimage cruise you may have special shore tours to visit antebellum homes which only open for this occasion.
Read my review about our Thanksgiving cruise on the MQ in 2004 to get an overview over offered shore excursions. I also wrote how to explore the towns on your own. Shore excursions change evey year but some are kept up for years. Youīll find my review linked in my signature.
I canīt answer your question in the other thread about the location of the landing in New Orleans. DQSC boats did have their own landing facilities at Robin Street Wharf. DQSC gave up these facilites this year. They might dock at the cruise terminal at Julia Street Wharf which is located next to Robin Street Wharf. Hereīs a map of the port facilities