american-queenThe American Queen Steamboat billed the largest paddle-wheel riverboat ever built had stopped in Bettendorf this week. It was on its way down to St. Louis and the Quad Cities is one of the many stops along the route south for this steamship. While it was here in town I was offered an opportunity to take a tour of the boat.
They meant it when they said biggest ever built. I could see the giant smokestacks from the road. The length of the ship stretched out towering over all the little boats docked near by. I made my way up the ramp to this huge boat.

My visit started with a meal in the lower deck formal dining room. This room had tons of natural light through picture windows overlooking the river. Pressed white linens, full place settings, and fresh yellow roses on the tables calling to mind a time when dining was the event of the evening. The buffet had loads of offerings for brunch diners such as pork roast, jambalaya, crab cakes Benedict, peach pie, and dainty petite fours for desert.

After lunch finished up the tour started. I was gushing over the decorative trim, tin on the ceilings, and all of the velvety refinished woodwork in the entryway. Because of my appreciation for these details the path started in the theater. There were murals along the stage, intricately carved moldings, and either side was flanked with balconies holding private box seats. The design of the theater had a distinct opera house feel. I could only imagine what a show would be like in this beautiful venue.

Up a grand staircase the tour continued. I was led past guest room after guest room and up multiple decks.  Interestingly I noticed that whether the group was stationary or walking I could not feel the movement of the ship on the water.  It was very quiet and a good number of guests were reading or napping off in little nooks throughout the ship.

After all the deck climbing it was time to grab a coffee at the cafe. This offered cruise goers a more relaxed meal setting with a kid approved sundae shop and giant chocolate chip cookies. The cafe opened up onto a huge outdoor seating area complete with porch swing.

After coffee the tour continued. The guide snaked us to the top of the ship past the exclusive private suite deck areas. On top deck we popped in to say “hello” to the captains. After peeking at the navigation system they blew the steamboat whistle and all the steam was pushed through its throaty pipes.

Along our tour there were tons of antique furnishings, a collection of Tiffany lamps, a gentleman’s cigar room and a ladies tea parlor. The rear of the ship housed a covered gathering area, a recessed deck with pool, and a Jazz lounge. Also having opportunity to go below deck I got to peek in on the steam engines and see how the whole thing works.

To find out more information the website for the queen:  There are cruises that run up and down the Mississippi stoping at major cities along the way. Once in town there are shuttle buses that take cruise goers to attractions in that city. There are cruise options to visit longer in the cities if an afternoon isn’t quite enough exploring.

All in all it was quite entertaining learning all the (sometimes quirky) details. It left me with a sense of a hands on history lesson. I saw a lot of pride in the care and heritage of that steamboat.  After having an opportunity to check her out I was glad for the experience.


Sara Holtz is a Quad-Cities-based artist and writer. Two of her works are included in the Revive 2 art show at Davenport’s Bucktown Art Gallery. This story is a first person account of her experience being a part of that show.