First, let me say that this was our third cruise on the American Star, and that we have already booked two more with American Cruise Lines--on the Mississippi and then in Maine. Previously we toured the New England Islands and the Intracoastal waterway from South Carolina to Florida. Although we have traveled a lot on Regent and Seabourn ships,, the far more casual atmosphere of ACL is very appealing. The food is quite good, though admittedly the selection is far more limited than on the ocean-going ships, and the service is not as professional (these are, after all, young American kids). But there's something rather nice about having them around instead of waiters who dress more formally than the guests. And the fact that there are only 100 passengers means that the staff actually knows your name in short order (the fact that you wear name tags does help everyone become acquainted in short order). Also, there is a cocktail hour every evening aboard ACL vessels, with good brands being poured, and rather freely. Furthermore, although you can order half portions at all meals, food is constantly being handed to you--cookies in the morning, if you are aboard, hors d'oeuvres at cocktail time, and then popcorn and root beer floats or sundaes in the evening with some sort of fairly casual entertainment brought aboard from a nearby town.
Oh, and, of course, you are free to bring your own alcohol aboard with you as well.
Now let me say something about the cruise itself. The Hudson is a very interesting river for a couple of reasons: its history, including the long-term efforts to clean it from the pollution generated by chemical dumping by corporations at a time no one was much aware of its carcinogenic potential, and the fact that the river is tidal, which means that the water flows both north and south. The foliage was gorgeous, though more subdued than one would find in the Berkshires or Vermont. One stop was Olana, the home of one of the Hudson River School painters, Frederick Church, and one can easily see why he was drawn to the location. Others stops were Albany (much more interesting a city than we had anticipated, probably because we had a most enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide, West Point and Hyde Park, which need no comments, since they stand on their own as interesting destinations, Kingston, which was made more enjoyable because it is the town where the ship's resident expert, Sandy Balla, actually lives, and tours of the homes of both robber baron Jay Gould and Washington Irving near Sleepy Hollow. The contrast between the ostentation of Mr. Gould and homey feel of the residence of Ichabod Crane's creator was worth the visit.
All in all, the trip was worth every penny and the fact that we live within driving distance means that we shall definitely return on our own. The only negatives we have to say about our experience is that driving to Chelsea Pier in Manhattan is not exactly a pleasant thing to do, but mitigated by the fact that parking is available very close to the pier. The other is that mobility is an issue to take into consideration for some folks, since there are distances to walk to some of the sites, and some stairs to climb. Those of us without that issue also had to be patient getting on and especially off buses (some were not) as those who were physically challenged slowly made their way down the aisle. Not everyone was elderly, but some were.