Typically, river cruise ships on the Mississippi and other American waterways follow the same design: lots of wood and brass, with traditional American furniture and decor that evokes the Mark Twain era.

American Duchess, the third vessel for American Queen Steamboat Company, breaks the mold, to a degree. While the 166-passenger ship still has the white wedding cake exterior of a traditional paddleboat -- and an added working paddlewheel that does add some speed to the vessel -- its interior is refreshingly modern and contemporary.

The airy design comes from the ship itself, which originally served as a gaming boat with lots of open space. American Duchess is wider than other ships in the AQSC fleet at 100 feet, and has ceilings on each floor that are 18.5 feet tall. When you walk into the ship, the spaciousness is immediately apparent and it's highlighted by atrium staircases that go up two floors -- 37 feet in total. Large Austrian chandeliers provide formality, while Murano glassworks add a colorful contemporary touch.

The dining room is equally dramatic, with floor-to-ceiling windows that rise two stories, letting in light and providing views. To create a public space with intimacy, the line built a mezzanine level that sits in the center of the main dining room. This room, called the Lincoln Library, has its own bar and grand piano; it's intended to serve as a gathering place for groups and as a second entertainment venue.

The open space also allowed the line to create the first loft suites on American rivers. These rooms, which are a whopping 550 square feet, have a sitting area with a sofa bed and full bath on the first floor and steps to a semi-private second floor with another full bath and queen bed. These suites, as well as two other high-end cabin categories (Owner's Suites and Deluxe Suites) have private balconies; a standard veranda cabin has access to a walkaround outdoor area.

The company hopes that the ship's more contemporary look will appeal to affinity groups, such as university alumni and Road Scholar gatherings, and younger affluent passengers, while the line's other ships -- American Queen and American Empress -- attract steamboat traditionalists. Based on our walk through before the ship's christening -- Cruise Critic was not onboard for a true sailing -- we're not sure; while American Duchess certainly looks more luxurious and contemporary, it still lacks some of the features -- such as a spa or pool -- that would draw younger baby boomer passengers. There is a decent-sized fitness center, however, and bikes are available in ports for independent exploration.

All in all, American Duchess represents something new for U.S. river cruising. If you like the idea of cruising America's rivers in a ship that resembles an airy luxury hotel instead of a traditionally nautical steamboat, give American Duchess a try.


By Chris Gray Faust
Cruise Critic Senior Editor

American Duchess Overview

Typically, river cruise ships on the Mississippi and other American waterways follow the same design: lots of wood and brass, with traditional American furniture and decor that evokes the Mark Twain era.

About American Duchess


Pro

Airy public spaces; contemporary decor; large suites, including lofts

Con

Lacks historic steamboat feel of other American river ships

Bottom Line

Lots of space and a more modern look make this a good choice for non-traditionalists

American Duchess, the third vessel for American Queen Steamboat Company, breaks the mold, to a degree. While the 166-passenger ship still has the white wedding cake exterior of a traditional paddleboat -- and an added working paddlewheel that does add some speed to the vessel -- its interior is refreshingly modern and contemporary.

The airy design comes from the ship itself, which originally served as a gaming boat with lots of open space. American Duchess is wider than other ships in the AQSC fleet at 100 feet, and has ceilings on each floor that are 18.5 feet tall. When you walk into the ship, the spaciousness is immediately apparent and it's highlighted by atrium staircases that go up two floors -- 37 feet in total. Large Austrian chandeliers provide formality, while Murano glassworks add a colorful contemporary touch.

The dining room is equally dramatic, with floor-to-ceiling windows that rise two stories, letting in light and providing views. To create a public space with intimacy, the line built a mezzanine level that sits in the center of the main dining room. This room, called the Lincoln Library, has its own bar and grand piano; it's intended to serve as a gathering place for groups and as a second entertainment venue.

The open space also allowed the line to create the first loft suites on American rivers. These rooms, which are a whopping 550 square feet, have a sitting area with a sofa bed and full bath on the first floor and steps to a semi-private second floor with another full bath and queen bed. These suites, as well as two other high-end cabin categories (Owner's Suites and Deluxe Suites) have private balconies; a standard veranda cabin has access to a walkaround outdoor area.

The company hopes that the ship's more contemporary look will appeal to affinity groups, such as university alumni and Road Scholar gatherings, and younger affluent passengers, while the line's other ships -- American Queen and American Empress -- attract steamboat traditionalists. Based on our walk through before the ship's christening -- Cruise Critic was not onboard for a true sailing -- we're not sure; while American Duchess certainly looks more luxurious and contemporary, it still lacks some of the features -- such as a spa or pool -- that would draw younger baby boomer passengers. There is a decent-sized fitness center, however, and bikes are available in ports for independent exploration.

All in all, American Duchess represents something new for U.S. river cruising. If you like the idea of cruising America's rivers in a ship that resembles an airy luxury hotel instead of a traditionally nautical steamboat, give American Duchess a try.

Fellow Passengers

American Duchess is the smallest vessel in the American Queen Steamboat Company fleet, and carries the highest fares. The line expects to draw affluent Americans and international passengers who are looking for more luxurious and spacious suites on an American riverboat than is otherwise offered. 


American Duchess Dress Code

Daytime dress on American Duchess is casual, and passengers are urged to pack for comfort. Walking shoes are essential for tours and excursions. In the evenings, the line suggests "country club casual," with a dress or dressy skirt/pants and blouse for women and collared shirt and slacks for men. Be mindful of the air conditioning in the Southern states; having a sweater along to combat the cold air on the ship or on the excursion buses might be helpful. Men may wear sport coats, but they are not required. Shorts are not allowed at dinner in the main dining room.

American Duchess Inclusions

American Duchess includes the following in its fares: a one-night hotel stay before the cruise, with breakfast, taxes and transfers to the vessel; a hop-on, hop-off bus shore excursion in every port; city tours in some ports of call; wine and beer with dinner; coffee, tea, soda, cappuccino, espresso and bottled water and Wi-Fi. Transfers to and from the airport are not included. Premium shore excursions are available for purchase in some ports.

Fares do not include gratuities. Tips of $17.50 per passenger per day will be automatically charged to your onboard account. A tip of 15 percent is levied on drinks and wine purchases in the dining room.

The currency used onboard is the U.S. dollar.



Additional American Duchess Information

American Duchess Details
  • Crew: 80
  • Launched: 2017
  • Decks: 3
  • Passengers: 166
  • Registry: USA