On Memorial Day, I joined my family for an evening Jazz Dinner Cruise up the Mississippi River on The Paddlewheeler Creole Queen and thought it would be nice to share my experience with y’all.
Before I start, let me remind you that I was born and raised in New Orleans, and my perception of touristy activities may be a bit bias and not in the wrong way. I may rave on and on about an experience but never bad-mouth any establishment. If something weren’t to my expectations, I would recommend how to make yours more pleasurable. So, please do not hang on to my every word as this is a review in the eyes of a local. I’m living the best life being a tourist in my beloved city, New Orleans!
The the Paddlewheeler Creole Queen is said to have a lot to offer when it comes to experiencing New Orleans, but it didn’t have the wow factor I was expecting as far as glitz and glamour. The boat itself is magnificent, but once you step onboard, it has an old-timey feel. Let’s just say it’s worthy of a makeover; new curtains and carpet may do the trick. Still, it’s a beautiful Paddleboat.
On the river
The boat ride was a relaxing two-hour ride; if I i was on a date, I might say romantic especially being on deck as the sunset. As a local, the cruise enabled me to appreciate the city’s beauty from a different viewpoint. On the other hand, it was a night cruise, and there was no narration or information about where you are on the river or what you see, especially once it got dark. There was light but not enough to make out things. An informational flyer would have been nice, at least for the tourist. The quote “Ships passing in the night” is how I felt admiring the magnificent ships in the distance, not knowing a thing about it, only it was a big ole ship floating by…
Living here, you are bound to know someone who works on the river, and that night, i had a cousin on board who was able to show us where he worked finally and the giant crane he operated for ten hours a day.
The food was good, seasoned well, and served buffet-style. Per COVID-19 precautions Guest would tell the waiter what they wanted, and a gloved server would prepare the plate and bring it to your table. The tables were covered with white table cloths and were set, adding some elegance to the main dining room. The menu consisted of New Orleans favorites such as Jambalaya, Shrimp Pasta, Gumbo, Red Beans & Rice, Cajun Baked Chicken, Roast Beef Debris, ith the dessert option being Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce. I enjoyed the Jambalaya. It was perfect and full of flavor. It tastes like someone’s Great Auntie made it. My favorite was the Bread Pudding. It’s something how stale bread, milk, eggs, sugar, and liquor can taste so delicious! It didn’t have any raisins or anything in it, but it rich, not too dense. It was the Whiskey Cream sauce for me, so good.
Drinks are NOT included in the meal. For $84, one would expect a beverage to accompany their meal, if only a cold drink. If by chance, you brought the “Cruise Only” ticket for $52, you have the option to buy dinner “Al la carte” for $8 per food item. For example, $8 for a bowl of Jambalaya, $8 Shrimp Pasta, and $8 Bread Pudding. The downside to the Al La Carte is that you can not dine in the main dining room with its lovely white tablecloths. No, you are to purchase a ticket from the bar bring it upstairs to the drabby-looking dining room where you are served cafeteria-style and to sit at an unclothed table. Drinks were pricey but not weak, to say the least, but a five-ounce cup of wine was $8, and a cocktail was $12+.
The staff and the band were the highlights of the cruise. The staff was very hospitable and engaging. The band was entertaining, played wonderfully, and had adults and children dancing.
I had a lovely time on the Paddlewheeler Creole Queen, but with a name like that, and for the price, I was expecting a Creole Queen New Orleans experience. It feels as if You are paying for the novelty of being on a Paddleboat.
It was beautiful to connect with my family and atmosphere along the mighty Mississippi River, but it felt as if we rented a venue that didn’t use the space. It seemed as if everyone on the boat spent most of the time taking pictures and roaming the boat like little kids. Other than that, we stood along the rails or sat on the deck enjoying the night air. I found myself meditating, which could have been a good thing but once again, not for the price. I can reflect on the levee anytime or day for FREE, lol. Something was missing.
Honestly, I would recommend the cruise to both locals and tourists but highly recommend only purchasing the cruise option. Have dinner at a restaurant before or after the cruise. If you are solo, hanging out with the girls or the kids, please go on the Day Cruise. During the day, you will have a tour guide to educate you on what’s happening along the route and explore the historic Chalmette Battlefield, part of the Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve. The Night Cruise is for couples or a group. Singles do not think you can go on the Night Cruise to mingle; it’s not happening.
My last piece of advice is that you look for deals like on Groupon before booking. There may be blackout dates, but you will save a few dollars.