Sunday, June 25, 2023

Back to Hannibal with the American Queen

The next stop for my friend Lynn and I on the American Queen Steamboat was a town I had visited before – Hannibal, Missouri. 

The last time I was in Hannibal, it was very educational and a lot of fun. I was anxious to show the town to Lynn. Hannibal was once a lumbering town and starting point of the Pony Express, but its claim to fame is as the former home of author Mark Twain.

The city displays its legacy everywhere and Tom Sawyer and Becky Thacher are celebrated throughout. It all starts at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum Complex. It was where we got off on the Hop on, Hop off bus American Queen Voyages provided at every port. 

We went through the Mark Twain Boyhood Home. I had been here before, but there is so much to learn and take in about the author and his books I felt like I learned a few things I missed the first time. There is also a lot to learn about the time period. There was a class structure as well as the ending of slavery. 


Included in this area is the Interpretive Center, Becky Thacher House, Huckleberry Finn House, J.M. Clemens Justice of the Peace Office, Grant’s Drugstore, and the Tom and Huck Statue. It would take hours to go through it all and take in all the details, but we only had four hours in total in Hanibal. 

We next went down to the Hannibal History Museum and Mark Twain Museum Gallery, which I most remembered for all the historical Norman Rockwell covers of The Saturday Evening Post. There were other pieces of art depicting Twain and his work. 

Back on the bus, we passed the Trinity Episcopal Church before heading to Cave Hollow West Winery and Mark Twain Cave. I was happy to return to the winery as I had enjoyed their wine last time I was here. They have a nice outside picnic area, but it was a bit  chilly to go outside this time. 

Before we knew it, we had to head back to the boat. We were hungry and went straight to lunch, where we had a little of everything from the buffet, followed by a delicious Nutella Mousse dessert. 


Most afternoons passengers were resting, but they usually had events such as Bingo. In keeping with the theme of the day, there was a matinee show of A Conversation with Mark Twain, with Lewis Hankins.

We got dressed up for dinner. It was preceded by the Captain’s Farewell Reception. They were serving champagne and I took a glass with me to dinner. 

They were serving Prime Rib and Lynn really enjoyed it. I was equally thrilled with my Stuffed Poblano. Dessert was bread pudding and cheesecake. 

It was my last evening to enjoy the scenery and I took advantage, going around the boat and soaking in the Mississippi River before I joined Lynn for the show. 


We enjoyed our final show on the American Queen. It was “Singing in The 70s” and featured many of the TV themes of the years. We then had our last nightcap in the Engine Room Bar to the music of Jay and Will. 

In the morning, we would be heading off the boat for the last time. 


I was hosted by American Queen on this voyage, but opinions are my own. 

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Quick Stop in Burlington & Highlights of the American Queen

My friend, Lynn, and I continued down the Mississippi River on the American Queen to our last stop in Iowa. We only had half a day in Burlington so we were up early to have a quick breakfast and get started on exploring.


President Thomas Jefferson sent Lt. Zebulon Pike to explore the Mississippi River in 1803. When saw the bluffs of Burlington, he placed an American flag above them, and recommended construction of a fort. It was easy to see why this town needed to be a stop on the river.

At one point this city was considered part of Wisconsin, but it earned its place in Iowa and downtown buildings on the National Register of Historic places. Before we got on the hop-on, hop-off bus, we had a preview of more of what the city had to offer.

 The Port of Burlington Welcome Center was by far the most advanced port we had been to on this trip. It was filled with items made in the city as well as the state of Iowa. There was even a tasting of Lindon Wines and plenty of brochures and maps of places to visit.

The bus stopped at the Des Moines Heritage Center and Mosquito Park, which gives you a good look at the bluffs Lt. Pike was intrigued by. Next was the Garrett-Phelps House Museum, a home on the hill built by an early merchant who has a ballroom on the third floor that later became the first Protestant Hospital.

 
There was a stop that I got off to only take a look. I wasn’t taking a chance on my scooter going down Snake Alley, the most crooked street in the United States!

We did spend time at the next stop to see some of the other downtown sites in Burlington, which included the grand Capitol Theater and the Art Center of Burlington, which highlighted a lot of local artisans.

Before heading back to the ship, we also made a quick visit to the Burlington Gem shop. Unfortunately, there was a lot of construction downtown and it was difficult to navigate with my scooter.


We arrived at lunch a little late and weren’t happy with the dessert choices left so we went to the Front Porch CafĂ© for lattes and ice cream. As with all other food and drinks on the boat, these were always complimentary.

It was then time to go back to our cabin to rest, shower, and get dressed for dinner. We had the routine down and it worked well for us. We were in the John Wesley Powell Junior Suite. Powell was a soldier and a geologist. He was also a professor at nearby Illinois Wesleyan University.

 

It was not your usual cruise suite. It was smaller than suites I’ve had and decorated differently. The American Queen reflects the steamboat period, with antique furnishings. Only the bathroom was modern (and very big).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the food on the American Queen is the best I’ve ever had on a cruise ship, and I’ve been on dozens. Nearly every single dish was done carefully to perfection and presented beautifully.

 After dinner, I did what had become another habit, I went out to the deck to watch the sunset over the Mississippi. It was different every night. I always find sunsets to be very relaxing.

I met Lynn outside the balcony entrance to the show. It was pianist Gary Peterson performing a variety of music. We then finished the night at the Engine Room Bar with a nightcap before heading back to the cabin.

 We would be heading to a place I’d been to and loved, Hannibal, Missouri, the next day.

 

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I was hosted by American Queen on this voyage, but opinions are my own.