Published: February 24th 2013February 24th 2013
NEW ORLEANS FEBRUARY 22 - I flew in from Tampa via Atlanta arriving at 5:30 (CST) as scheduled. I had a nice surprise, I was upgraded from economy to first class. The mileage programs pay off! What a pleasure it was. The cloud formations were exceptionally beautiful! A shuttle to the Hilton Riverside was good, the only problem I experienced was the long lines at registration of this big hotel (they had a weekend competition for elementary and middle school age cheerleaders going on). I survived and got to my room and changed before going to dinner at Emeril’s. I walked from the hotel to the restaurant and made a stop at Gordon Biersch for a great draft beer. What an experience Emeril’s was! First class in every way. I sat at the chef’s bar and saw all the kitchen action. There were eight chefs at work not counting the assistants behind the scene. The organized chaos is fun to watch and the food was outstanding. I’ve never experienced better service. I walked back to the hotel through a light mist and was tempted to experience some night life before retiring, but I decided that the long day should come to an end so I could rest up for tomorrow.
Upon arising I went to breakfast in the hotel restaurant. I only had some yogurt, juice and coffee because I was still full from the dinner. A full buffet was included and looked good, but no room. I then registered for the ship and began a morning walk through the French Quarter. Lots of interesting architecture and restaurants, shops and bars. A vibrant section of the city. I walked over to the St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square. It was Saturday morning, so I don’t know how typical it was, but a lot of people and some sidewalk vendors. A three piece jazz band was performing for tips - they were very entertaining and welcomed people to sit by them and have friends take pictures. A stroll through Jackson Square took me to the riverfront. I had to work my way through a large number of horse drawn carriages waiting for riders and a long, long line of people waiting far a table at Café Du Monde. The view from the elevation was interesting, I could see the American Queen and two cruise ships at the dock. Be careful when crossing the tracks because the trolley system is very active. I walked some more before finding a rest room, I still don’t know why they call it a rest room, but I used it anyway. Then I headed to NOLA for lunch. Another of Emeril’s restaurants where I again had a reservation for a seat at the chef’s bar. Interesting to watch the organization and execution of orders at a fine restaurant. I was going to have another preparation of drum fish, but they had a fire in their wood burning oven (and had to evacuate the restaurant) the night before and that was essential to the preparation, so I had their daily special, cobia, instead. Very good, but no room for desert. Service excellent, food excellent. What more could I ask for? Bill paid, I headed back to the hotel through a drizzle and took a bus to the dock and checked in at the American Queen.
The American Queen is a beautiful vessel, just refurbished and with a mostly new crew. This is their inaugural voyage and there were some rough spots. My stateroom is small, especially if there were two people and my heating didn’t work (they fixed it the next morning). The biggest problem was at dinner time, the kitchen was overwhelmed and my table’s waitress tried hard but our eating time took 2 ½ hours. Good thing I had good table mates; next to me was a 90 year young lady, accompanied by her daughter, who was sharp and delightful. Everyone of the 366 passengers (capacity is 560, they were lucky that it wasn’t a full ship to iron out the bugs) seemed tolerant of the situation on day 1, but all expect improvement as the cruise goes on. After dinner I went to the Engine Room Bar where the bartender, Chuck, says he’ll remember my name. I tried a local beer, Abita, very good! They had reasonably good entertainers, but the highlight was in the showroom for an especially good performance by The Platters. No originals, of course, but true to the style. The overnight portion of the cruise went smoothly and I awoke in Oak Valley.
NOTE: NO PHOTOS THIS TIME. I DON'T KNOW IF IT'S BECAUSE OF MY CONNECTION OR A PROGRAM PROBLEM. SORRY!