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Everything You Need to Know About American Queen Steamboat Co.  | Frommer's  

Everything You Need to Know About American Queen Steamboat Co.

This small-ship line has two paddle wheelers plying U.S. rivers. Are either right for your next vacation? Read on to find out.


American Queen and American Empress


American Queen plies the Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee rivers, and American Empress sails the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest.

Best For:

Lovers of Americana, older couples and groups looking to see domestic sights in comfort and with ease.

Not For:

Adventurous, independent types or families traveling with children.

We Love:

  • Regional cuisine (Southeastern and Midwestern on American Queen; Pacific Northwest on American Empress) impresses with local dishes and sourcing, focusing on seasonal highlights. American Queen's grand dining room
  • Onboard both ships you’ll find Pacific Northwest wines and beers. OnAmerican Queen, you can taste the best bourbon collection on any vessel; onAmerican Empress, you can sample the handiwork from the local artisan distillery movement in Portland.
  • Both paddle wheelers have bicycles — complete with helmets and locks — that passengers can borrow at no extra charge to explore on their own.
  • Hop-on, hop-off buses run loops through town each morning, giving passengers an opportunity to customize their day. Admission to many museums and historic sites is also included.
  • American Queen's Onboard historians, called “riverlorians,” answer questions and add depth to dialogues about local history.
  • Rocking chairs on deck give passengers a chance to sip bourbon and watch the South go by on the Mississippi, or toast with local pinot noir and search the river for sea lions in the Pacific Northwest.

We Could Live Without:

  • Onboard entertainment in the show lounge can be dated, such as “Take my wife … please!”-style comedians and musical acts in old-fashioned costumes belting out medleys of hits from the ’50s and ’60s.
  • Because of the older age of much of American Queen's clientele, even shore excursions through some of the country’s most beautiful national parks don’t include hiking, and more active adventures need to be arranged on your own.