Close to Home: American Harmony's Dining and Accommodations

Sailing the Mississippi River, the new Modern Riverboat-class American Harmony differs sizably in design from the traditional paddlewheels sailing the river, typically with Victorian interior styling and a Mark Twain-era aura. In contrast, the 190-passenger American Harmony has a five-deck glass atrium and a modern interior look. 

Photo by Susan J. Young

Part One of this three-part series examined the ship's "Lower Mississippi" seven-night shoreside product and itinerary options. Part Two featured a look at American Harmony's onboard activities and entertainment. In this final chapter of our three-part series, we talk about dining, beverages and the all-balcony accommodations.

Dining and Beverages

So, what's the line's beverage policy? Water, lemonade, sodas, juices, coffee and tea are complimentary and available in the lounges throughout the day and evening. In addition, wine and beer are complimentary for lunch and dinner. Plus, the line offers complimentary cocktails each day, generally between 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Magnolia Lounge.

Guests are advised to see the hotel manager for a copy of the line's premium wine list or to purchase an alcoholic beverage outside of the service times noted.

Pre-dinner cocktail time in Magnolia Lounge was the hot spot of the ship most days. Guests gathered  for conversation, light piano music (or something more energetic such as a Tina Turner Impersonator) and hors d'oeuvres.

Bar service was prompt with three expert bartenders working the full-service bar; among them was the hotel director, doing double duty to help the flow of the drinks. The atmosphere was cheery, convivial and service-focused, with crew members circulating to offer plates of hors d'oeuvres or, on one evening, serving from a table brimming with cold seafood appetizers.  

Starting the Day

One thing is certain. Guests will never go hungry on this ship. The day starts with three options for breakfast. The first is an Early Riser’s Breakfast is at 6:30 a.m. in the River & Sky Lounges, both with river views. 

We loved the look of the onboard lounges with its comfortable seating areas and guitar decor on the walls.

Photo by Susan J. Young

Room service breakfast is also available, with deliveries starting at 7:30 a.m. and ending around 9 a.m. Guests fill out a paper menu in their stateroom or suite and leave it in the Dining Salon before 5 p.m. the previous day.

Available to order via room service are juices, coffee, tea, assorted cereals, two eggs (or egg beaters) done a variety of ways, Western, cheese or veggie omelets, toast, bagels, English muffins and sides of fresh fruit, waffles, bacon, Canadian bacon, sausage and breakfast potatoes.

Open seating breakfast is also served in the ship's Dining Salon between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. Guests can expect table service by friendly dining room crew members and a menu with a changing “feature of the day,” such as stuffed French toast with mixed berry compote. Dining Salon menus typically offered omelets with choices of meats (bacon, sausage, ham), cheeses (cheddar and American), vegetables (onions, peppers, mushrooms, tomato or spinach). Eggs were also available cooked to order, over easy, over medium, over hard, scrambled or sunny side up.

Many guests at our table enjoyed the tasty quiche with caramelized onions, sausage and Swiss cheese. Side orders included pancakes, French toast, waffles and oatmeal, grits, corned beef hash, bacon, sausage and breakfast potatoes. 

The back of the paper breakfast menu is a form; guests check off selections of what they desire to eat for lunch and dinner and leave the form on the table. This is a small ship, so that information is helpful for the chef and galley crew to plan for what menu choices are likely to be most ordered at meals. 

Personally, we're not into "structure" and don't always know early in the day what we may prefer later for lunch, let alone dinner. That said, what's important here is guests are free to change their minds. It simply helps the planning and preparation by the chef and galley crew. It's also voluntary; some guests filled out the form daily, others never did. 

Cookies and Snacks 

Best part of the day for some guests were the mid-morning and mid-afternoon "Cookie Times." At 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., yummy, freshly made, warm cookies were available onboard in lounges, plus crew members circulated. One server offered a tray of the sweet treats to us as we sat outside on deck.

We also sauntered into the Sky Lounge one afternoon and discovered a nice display that included complimentary granola bars and chips, items that are at times coveted by cruisers who just desire a crunchy snack. 

The Sky Lounge // Photo courtesy of American Cruise Lines 

Dining on the River

American Harmony has two lunchtime and dinner options. For light fare, head for the Back Porch Café, which is open from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from late afternoon through 7:30 p.m. This is essentially a walk-up spot for ordering and receiving food, and guests can sit and dine on the porch outdoors or in comfort inside at that adjacent Sky Lounge. 

On the menu are fresh baked pizza (pepperoni or four cheese), hamburgers, veggie burgers, grilled hot dogs, chicken salad wraps, tortilla chips and salsa, nachos, fruit cups, coleslaw and a soup of the day, plus cookies and ice cream. 

The main Dining Salon is on Deck 1, the ship's lowest passenger level. Here guests can expect excellent table service (there always seemed to be plenty of crew members on hand to assist guests), to bring drinks or answer questions. The crew seemed like family after a few days. 

River views on both sides and significant space between the tables—more so than we've seen recently on any vessel, river or ocean—were pluses of dining here. It's open from noon to 1:30 p.m. for lunch and and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. for dinner.

A good piece of advice, though, is for clients to arrive by 6:30 p.m. so they can enjoy a leisurely dinner and also catch the nightly show in Magnolia Lounge at 8:15 p.m. 

At lunch, one menu offered chicken tortilla soup, mixed green salad and an entree choice of pan seared catfish, New Orleans Cobb salad or a Reuben sandwich. Another Dining Salon lunch menu included Italian wedding soup, mixed green salad and a choice of Albacore tuna salad, a bacon Angus cheese burger or, southern pulled pork macaroni and cheese with fresh veggies on top.

We tried the pulled pork dish, a regional specialty. Let's just say it was melt-in-your-mouth and quite tasty. 

Photo by Susan J. Young

In general, we'd describe the dining room fare as a mix of American favorites, including steak, beef and chicken dishes, as well as southern specialties with a good offering of seafood and fresh fish. Both food quality and the selection of dishes were good.

One lunch, we ordered the New Orleans barbecue shrimp with a southern biscuit, creole rice and parsley stew. It was perfectly cooked and quite tasty, a realistic description of just about every dish we tasted on this voyage. 

Photo by Susan J. Young

Dinner menus? On one night, guests enjoyed corn chowder soup, spinach and arugula salad, seafood ravioli, and a choice between three entrees: Roasted beef pot roast, pan seared duck breast or garlic parmesan-crusted salmon. Dessert choices included caramel cake or pumpkin spice mousse.

On another night, guests could order loaded potato soup; almond strawberry salad with shaved red onions, goat cheese and white balsamic; a fried green tomato with bacon marinade and pimento cheese; and a choice between three entrees: New Orleans creole pasta, BBQ pork shank or BBQ swordfish.

Desserts were exceptional with such choices as peanut butter pie, triple chocolate cheesecake, tres leches, key lime pie and much more.

Photo by Susan J. Young

Staterooms and Suites

American Harmony has five passenger decks and two elevators mid-ship, so it was easy to get from accommodations to public spaces and dining areas. All accommodations have private balconies accessible via sliding glass doors and with chairs and a small table outside.

Each suite or stateroom has plenty of living space, complimentary Wi-Fi, individually controlled air conditioning and full-size bathrooms.

Most spacious are the Grand Suites at 800 square feet. Each has a separate bedroom/living area; a marble bathroom with a double-sink vanity; two walls of floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding doors opening to a wraparound balcony. The veranda is also fitted with a separate dining area

Next in size are the Owner’s Suites at 445 square feet, plus many Veranda Suites at 405 square feet. Other balcony suites are in the 304- to 328-square foot range, plus there is wheelchair accessible option, Veranda Suite (No. 238).

The Veranda Suite // Photo courtesy of American Cruise Lines

Solo travelers can choose from seven 250-square-foot staterooms with no single supplement. By river or ocean standards, that's very spacious.    

Owner’s Suite No. 307

Travel Agent stayed in Owner’s Suite, No. 307, which was incredibly spacious. The living room area had floor-to-ceiling windows sliding open to a long private balcony with a table and two chairs. Staying in this suite had all the comforts of home with a comfortable sofa, two upholstered chairs, end tables, a cocktail table and wall-mounted large HDTV with local/satellite channels.  

The living area also had a separate desk/vanity area with mirror. Here, the guests will find a mini-fridge and coffee machine. Crew members kept the minibar stocked with the guest’s preferences.

In-suite/stateroom telephones can be used by guests to call other staterooms or to reach the ship’s office, room service or housekeeping via three speed-dial buttons.To call outside the ship, guests should use their personal cell phone or contact the hotel manager. 

Photo by Susan J. Young

The Owner’s Suite’s separate bedroom had a large king bed (which can be split into two twins) and two end tables with lamps and drawers for storageUpon arrival, I also discovered a nice tote bag from the line gracing the bed. Guests can also store luggage under the bed. 

On the opposite side of this bedroom was a large wall-mounted HDTV screen and a large dresser with ample drawer space for storing all one's clothes and purchases made ashore. Twice daily stateroom service kept the suite freshened, plus sweet treats delivered daily to this suite were a plus.  

We very much liked the suite's hotel-sized bathroom, which is entered from the living room.

Photo courtesy of American Cruise Lines

The top feature for us was the large, double-wide glass shower. The bathroom vanity had a double sink, large mirror and lots of storage space underneath and on the counter.There was no tub. Guests have a nice selection of Judith Jackson bath amenities.

Overall, we loved staying in this suite, which was well-appointed and had such features as individual climate control, a digital clock/alarm and a medical emergency button, which was a nice safety feature. Could be improved? The suite’s closet, positioned immediately next to the living room door, was fully open to the room without any closet door or curtain. As this suite is nicely sized for entertaining, we'd personally have liked to see a closet "covering" of some sort. 

Parting Thoughts

As the year progresses, it's expected that river lines will begin sailing once again. Travel advisors tell Travel Agent that close-to-home options, including the Mississippi River and other U.S. rivers and coastal waterways could prove attractive to consumers as the travel world works to regain momentum. 

To protect guests with existing bookings or for those considering the potential of booking a cruise this summer and beyond, American Cruise Lines has introduced a Cruise with Comfort program. Just last week, the line extended that program to cover all cruises departing through October 31, 2020. Guests may cancel for any reason up to 24 hours before the start of their cruise and receive cruise vouchers for 100 percent of the amounts paid. In addition, travel advisors' commissions affected by Cruise with Comfort or by suspended cruise operations are 100 percent protected for cruise vouchers issued. 

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