More than anything else, it is probably the cabins that differentiate American Cruise Lines from their competition and spurs so many passengers to return. Other coastal ships bring back memories of Charles Dickens' description of his cabin on the 1840-built Britannia, about which he wrote, "Nothing smaller for sleeping in was ever made except a coffin." On the American Spirit, there is ample room for two people to stand at once or even turn around in the bathroom. With all cabins measuring around 220 square ft., they are considerably larger than standard cabins on mass market ships and only slightly smaller than most luxury ships.
Amenities include a large dresser, a functional closet, a small satellite TV getting approximately 20 channels and a chair. Beds can be pushed together to form a large queen sized bed or two singles. Simple but spacious, the comparisons to any luxury lines must end with the square footage; don't expect Egyptian cotton bed sheets here.
Perhaps the greatest distinction is that the company offers balconies with approximately half the cabins -- an astoundingly high ration for a river ship. While verandahs are narrow (with only enough room for two lightweight chairs and a plastic table), have only canvas partitions for privacy and take up space from the cabin's interior, they still provide a welcome option. The balconies are particularly appealing since the ship is always within sight of land and is cruising to scenic destinations.
Happily, even those cabins without balconies still get fresh air. The large picture windows in each cabin open, allowing you to fall asleep while listening to the gentle lapping of water on the ship's side. Delightful!
Bathrooms are similarly large with excellent water pressure. Showers are big enough to turn around in without worrying about the curtain clinging to you. Standard toiletries of soap, shampoo and conditioner are, of course, provided, along with a hairdryer.
Cabins on the second deck all the way aft do hear engine noise, but with the ship almost always alongside the dock every night, that won't affect your evening sleep. Cabins adjacent to the middle of the ship and the Midships Lounge can be noisier around 11 p.m. when the gangway is brought in.
Cabin 301 is larger and designated an Owner's Suite, but special inquiries need to be made through the office to book it. One disabled cabin is available and cabins on the Main, or lowest, deck all the way forward are slightly smaller than the norm due to the curvature of the bow.
Editor's Note: Unlike just about every cruise line, American Cruise Lines has cabins designed for singles. While the fare is still higher than the double occupancy fares and there aren't many single cabins, we think it is a great step in the right direction and wish other companies followed their lead.