Ever since I was a young child I have dreamed of travelling on a paddle steam boat along one of the rivers in the southern states of the USA. My imagination and fascination inspired by the strange combination of owning a clockwork steamboat, the marvellous adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer and the emotional, moving and at times harrowing stories of the crew and performers of one of my favourite musicals Showboat.
So, for me the highlight of our trip of a lifetime to the state of Tennessee in the USA had to include a journey on a paddle steamer; imagine my delight when I discovered The General Jackson.
The General Jackson is a paddle steam boat, operating from the Gaylord Opry land resort, Nashville, Tennessee. The boat offers return meal cruises, lasting for about two and a half hours, along the Cumberland river to Downtown Nashville. The cruise is complete with live entertainment, twice daily during the tourist season.
The cost of a balcony seat for the show only is 45 dollars per person. There is also a cash bar available serving various cocktails and a wide variety of spirits and bottled beers.
The cost of a general ticket is 65 dollars per person, which in addition to the entertainment includes a buffet lunch of typical southern fare. Food such as pulled pork with barbeque sauce, fried chicken with buttermilk brine, sides of mac and cheese and spiced beans, various salads, bread rolls and butter are available alongside copious amounts of water, ice tea and coffee. My glass was refilled each time it was empty by very attentive staff.
The food was tasty and plentiful, and we ate at tables which sat 10 people, set with linen tablecloths and napkins in the Victorian style ball room/lounge. This was completed with a stage at one end of the vast room, the gilt decoration epitomising the splendour and glamour of the era.
The show entitled Sunday in the South (we opted for Sunday lunch tickets) is described as a “Musical journey through a typical southern Sunday”, and is divided into three sections comprising of spiritual/ gospel songs, country songs and inspirational songs of faith. Staging is simple yet effective, as various images relevant to each selection of songs are projected onto a screen behind the performers.
The small cast of performers (Lori Beth Hogan, Tom Mitchell, Anthony Manning and Kara Eknes,) are supported by three musicians including a very talented pianist Jason Coleman.
All four vocalists had exceptional voices, great chemistry, and harmonised wonderfully with each other creating a sound that perfectly suited the choice of songs, particularly in the inspirational song section.
After the show each vocalist gave a solo performance on the upper deck, in the hot Tennessee sunshine, accompanied by the very talented group of musicians.
I thoroughly enjoyed my experience on the General Jackson and would recommend this for anyone wanting to experience high quality entertainment, and quality southern food in a unique setting.