With the debut of American Countess sailing voyages along the Mississippi River and Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, American Queen Steamboat Company now boasts four sleek paddlewheelers that transport cruisers to a bygone era of steamship travel.
American Countess, however, features a distinctive design that churns U.S. riverboat travel into the 21st century.
We were onboard for the inaugural cruise from New Orleans to Memphis. The riverboat’s inaugural season sails weekly voyages between these two cities on the Lower Mississippi.
Let’s have a look at what the exciting new American Countess has to offer for cruisers looking for an immersive voyage on the American rivers.
American Countess is a reimagined former casino boat. American Queen Steamboat Company purchased the former Kanesville Queen in 2016 and proceeded to turn it into a beautiful new riverboat, joining three others in the AQSC fleet.
As part of the refurbishment, the boat was cut in half, and a 60-foot section was inserted to add staterooms and greatly expand the public space, most of which is filled by a large theater and the main bar and lounge.
The vessel is 318 feet long and 79 feet width with four decks. American Countess has 123 staterooms and can carry up to 245 people. (The boat is sailing with a reduced capacity of 166, however, to allow for social distancing during the pandemic.)
The Grand Lobby is the main gathering space on American Countess. This massive lounge features the guest services desk, a small gift shop nook and a long bar. The space is filled with natural light emanating from the nearly floor-to-ceiling windows and is the spot where passengers gather for afternoon cocktails, bourbon tasting sessions and to listen to the ship’s American Countess Show Band (a piano, bass, drums and woodwinds quartet) play at happy hour and late into the night.
Adjacent to the Grand Lobby is the Theater, where guests enjoy morning riverlorian talks, afternoon activities like movies and cookie demonstrations and nightly entertainment, such as variety shows.
The Library is a large sanctuary with wonderful views at the front of the riverboat. The shelves are filled with a variety of books, and the room features chairs and a couch and warm decor.
The boat also has a Chart Room and Card Room. The Chart Room has documents and maps so you can monitor the route of your voyage, and the Card Room features chess and checkers tables, as well as a large selection of games available to use during your cruise.
American Countess has a small fitness center that has a treadmill, two bikes and an elliptical machine. It was well used during our sailing.
My favorite spaces were outside on the top sun deck and the bow areas of the ship, where you can sit in the classic white rocking chairs and soak in the views as you sail on the river. It was fantastic to sit on the rockers or up top on the lounge chairs to enjoy the fresh air and sunny days of cruising. The ship also carries a fleet of bikes that cruisers can use for on-your-own exploration in the towns.
Staterooms are located on Decks 2 and 3. These cabins are available in four styles, including inside staterooms, balcony cabins and rooms located at the aft of the ship on Deck 3 that overlook the riverboat’s iconic big red paddlewheel. The boat also offers accessible staterooms.
I stayed in a Deck 2 balcony stateroom, which is a spacious 226 square feet, with a comfy bed and large living room space with a couch. Amenities include a desk with a coffee machine and a mini fridge tucked in beneath and an incredibly spacious bathroom with a walk-in shower and plenty of organization space for toiletries. AQSC provides guests with comfy bathrobes, slippers, a supply of toiletries (soap, body wash, shampoo and conditioners) and stainless steel water bottles (yours to keep). There are water filling stations located throughout the boat.
The balcony cabins on Deck 3 open to the promenade and measure 192 square feet.
The boat’s interior cabins measure about 150 square feet.
The food is a highlight of a Mississippi River cruise on American Countess, and the boat offers two restaurants. The Grand Dining Room is the large formal eatery, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner.
This is a large space with gorgeous window views and chandeliers, and the menu offers delicious Southern culinary favorites. There is an a la carte buffet offered at breakfast and lunch, and servers will deliver your choices.
The second eatery, The River Grill, a more casual cafe situated at the aft of the ship on Deck 2. The restaurant offers breakfasts, lunches and dinners. You can sit inside or on the deck outside right by the red paddlewheel.
Perks is the riverboat’s cafe and features an ice cream station, popcorn machine and fresh-baked cookies in addition to a selection of coffees and teas.
The Grand Lobby and Theater on American Countess serve as host venues for a variety of enriching and energetic chats, shows and demonstrations. The American Countess Ensemble performs a range of musical song and dance numbers, including Broadway-inspired shows. Passengers on our voyage gathered after dinner for the Southern Celebration,” “Singing the 70s” and “Guitar Time Machine” productions.
The entertainment also included the “Rag, Jazz and Razzamatazz” show from veteran steamboat entertainer Steve Spracklen, an amazing ragtime piano man and storyteller.
The American Countess Show Band quartet entertains cruisers nightly in the Grandy Lobby for cocktail hour and with swinging tunes late into the night.
The Theater is also home to movies, cooking shows and riverlorian talks about the history of the Mississippi River, its towns and steamboating history. One of our favorite activities during our time onboard was the bourbon tasting at the bar in the Grand Lobby.
American Countess’s inaugural season sails weekly trips back and forth between New Orleans and Memphis, with stops at Natchez, Vicksburg and Nottoway Mansion.
The boat also will sail on the Upper Mississippi, with voyages that visit Memphis, St. Louis, towns in Iowa and Wisconsin and all the way up to Red Wing, Minnesota. On the Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, American Countess cruisers will enjoy exploring vibrant cities like Louisville, St. Louis, Nashville, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.