Being seasoned cruisers on ocean sailing lines, we were interested to try out the American Cruise Line's style of cruising the inland waterway enabling us to visit seaside towns that we'd never otherwise see on a big ship. ACL ... Read More
Being seasoned cruisers on ocean sailing lines, we were interested to try out the American Cruise Line's style of cruising the inland waterway enabling us to visit seaside towns that we'd never otherwise see on a big ship. ACL charged a much higher price but offered a lot less for the money. We already were prepared for a smaller ship with less amenities but found it even more lacking in service, activities on board, and shore tours. Yes, we're used to crew from all over the world, many from countries where they rely on tips from good service to feed their families but it was downright disappointing in how lacking this all American crew was. There were a few exceptions like deckhand Sean and waiter Kevin but for the most part it was seriously lacking. There were several meals where I'd get something other than what I ordered and/or something as routine as chocolate ice cream or bagels was out of stock. Routinely we'd have slow dining service to the point that ice cream ordered for dessert sat on a tray melting into soup while our waitress chatted.
I was on this cruise with someone who'd previously sailed on ACL but when he tried to request the referral credit for use on this sailing, they couldn't figure out how to apply it. Their first solution was to give it as a credit toward another sailing but that was unacceptable since there was no way of guaranteeing we'd want to come back for another sailing. It took reaching out to a supervisor who learned that their first offer was because the computer had closed out our reservation having paid in full and no one knew how to get back in to apply the credit. We happily accepted the supervisor's offer of comping the referrer's tours for this voyage instead. First leg of the cruise, we get a bill for not only both of our tours but also for ones we never took! The hotel director cleared the charges once we showed the supervisor's confirmation. Second leg of the cruise, we get a bill for both our tours again and joined a line half the ship long only to show the hotel director the same confirmation. She cleared the new charges after that as well.
Several activities on board were either scheduled and never happened or scheduled for times when passengers were off on tours. Other days, the tours were the only thing scheduled for the bulk of the day. Yes, this was the cruise director's first time handling this itinerary but she was majorly misinformed about the ports we were visiting. Rather than tell a passenger that she'd look into the answer to their question, she'd tell them an answer only to say the opposite later on. There were days we'd be told there's no shuttle for those just wanting to head into town on our own. Then hours later she's announcing that the shuttle will be departing in 20 minutes. Upon arrival at one port, the local tour guides and our cruise director were telling us about all these places to check out on our tour. Come to find out during our tour that half of the places promised to visit are closed because they are always closed on Mondays. It'd be one thing if it was simply bad timing because the places were closed due to construction or repair but to be suggesting something every other local we talked to knew was closed on the day we'd be in port?
Yorktown - visited Williamsburg on a ship tour. Nice tour with guided building visits and then free time to explore on our own.
Norfolk - Naval Station & MacArthur Memorial. Was a group of 10 but our local guide was used to a group of 40 so every step we were rushed only to have a ton of time left at the end with nothing to do but return early to the ship. MacArthur Memorial was closed because it was Monday so a church was substituted. We listened to a local parishioner talk about the church's history and our guide made him talk even longer than he'd planned because we had extra time to fill. The Nautilus Center the cruise director and the local guides hyped up visiting when we returned to the ship was also closed on Mondays. People from the area I talked to later said right off the bat "oh too bad you were in Norfolk today. The Nautilus Center is a great place but it's always closed on Mondays." Hey ACL, you should have known that and not offered such a tour on ships that dock there on Mondays.
Kitty Hawk - Interesting visit to the Wright Brothers Museum/Memorial. A little mix up in that our guide walked us around and gave a brief history before letting us explore on our own until the ranger talk that was to give more history. Time for ranger talk kept getting pushed back until we were told by our guide that we'd have to leave right after the ranger's talk. Ranger came out and talked about staying on the marked path in the grassy areas to avoid bugs and a lecture on staying safe in riptides and that was it. Heard from other passengers who'd visited here before that there's normally a lot more to the ranger's talk. Our guide reacted well and gathered us up for a bus ride up to the plane memorial on the hill since we'd already walked around the outdoor exhibits the ranger led everyone else to after her talk.
Beaufort, N.C. - Had booked a city tour on a double decker bus for the afternoon but after taking a shuttle into town in the morning (the one that wasn't going to be supposedly) and riding that shuttle back with a full van of passengers who'd bailed on the morning city tour complaining about the lack of things to see, we cancelled.
Wilmington - Booked what we misunderstood to be a hop on/hop off trolley but it turned out to just be a shuttle into the center of town. Tried to board a true HOHO trolley we saw advertised while in town after looking up their times to stop at this intersection finding that it was about 15 minutes from our arrival. Their posted arrival time came and went so after 45 minutes of waiting after that to see if they'd show, we tried walking around the shops in town. Returned to the meeting spot to pick up the shuttle trolley and his promised return every 15 minutes was another 45 minutes of waiting.
Charleston, SC - Overnight stay and also the port where those only doing the second leg boarded. First day we took the ship excursion to visit Fort Sumter. Lucky to have ended up with the nice shuttle driver because dinner mates in the next shuttle told us they feared for their safety given how he peeled off despite being told to wait and follow our driver. Then proceeded to drive erratically and dangerously to the Fort. Our guide at the Fort told us that she was going to get the ferry tickets and to wait for her by the stairs. We got worried when the ferry started boarding and she hadn't returned to the stairs so we got in line expecting to have to explain our lack of tickets. Once we reached the front of the line, we spotted our guide who'd instead come down from the ticket office and went straight to the ferry ramp. When we asked about being told to wait for her by the stairs (not in sight of the ramp until we were at the front of the line), she said "well I told people they could follow me if they needed a restroom." When I continued to question it, she said "Well, you're here now so you didn't miss anything."
Charleston, SC - 2nd day in port - took advantage of the shuttle into town in hopes of finding a local tour to pick up on the spot. Turns out it was the same drivers as yesterday and we ended up with the rude driver who insisted we had to be back within 2 hours because he was stopping the runs at 11:30AM even though they were contracted until noon. We asked for directions to the nearest drugstore/grocery store and he insisted there was nothing nearby. We toured the shops over several blocks including the famed City Market. We passed an opportunity to book a carriage ride but opted against it since we had one planned through the ship later. Back waiting for the shuttle and this time it was the nicer driver who told us "What do you mean there's nothing? There's a grocery store 5 minutes away!" He went out of his way to detour and drop us at the grocery store after we promised to be able to get what we needed (eye drops) and be back out in the 15 minutes it would take for him to drop everyone else back at port. When he came back (later than planned because a parade redirected traffic), we were the only ones left to shuttle so he took us on an impromptu tour of the city when we mentioned being unable to see anything with the short time frame given by the other driver despite not having to be back onboard until 3PM.
Beaufort, SC - Tours offered by the ship that required multiple sessions like today's carriage ride were arranged in shift groups by the cruise director. We were assigned to the last ride of the day and it was actually a blessing in disguise. Toured the shops in town during the morning and enjoyed lunch in a local restaurant that had service above and beyond our ship experience. The last carriage ride of the day was so nice and peaceful with the setting sun and a great guide named Charlotte.
Hilton Head, SC - our one tender port though if you asked our cruise director a few others were to be tender ports but then weren't. We booked a dolphin tour and again had to be given shifts. It was delightful to see such dolphin activity even from the ship and it only continued during the tour itself. After the tour I climbed the Hilton Head lighthouse, a passion of mine whenever there's a lighthouse in a port.
Savannah, GA - Took the morning trolley tour which was a full city tour and visit to the Massey School. Having formerly worked with children in the classroom, seeing the first public school in the area was very informative. Taking this tour also gave me a free pass to ride the HOHO trolley system the rest of the day so after lunch on the ship I used the trolley to move all over the city checking out the local charm and famous landmarks.
Brunswick, GA - Sea Turtle Rehab Center and Jekyll Island ship tour. Jekyll Island felt like touring a ghost town or abandoned movie set but the Sea Turtle Center was fascinating for an animal lover like myself.
Fernandina Beach FL - missed due to storm and being unable to anchor so we sailed into Jacksonville early.
The first half of the trip there was an art teacher on board who ran a class every day. I only got to attend the first two classes because of the tour scheduling and was berated by both the teacher (for my lack of art skills) and her husband (to anyone who chose to watch from their seat when she demonstrated or left their brush sitting in the water cup). Second half of the trip, the cruise director ran one art class and organized a couple bingo sessions for the entire 7 days. The first bingo session no one showed because it was during tours. I would have happily offered to run a class or teach a craft if I knew ahead of time and could have gotten materials.
Highlight of the trip was visiting the pilothouse (or bridge on the big ships) as this was a much more common thing to offer on the smaller ships. First time we missed because it was scheduled same time as tour. Second time we got the guide to rush us back early to make it only for it to get cancelled due to unfinished maintenance. Third time we finally got to see it.
Our cabin steward Emma started out great and we were glad to see our room being tended to so quickly each morning. Especially since there wasn't much else to do after breakfast but return to the room. As the cruise went on, we started noticing how our room was suddenly not getting done until the early afternoon. A much more pressing annoyance when your cabin is the only available bathroom! When we asked Emma about the delay, she said that passengers on deck 2 complained that their cabins weren't getting done first so she has to do their cabins first now. There's no priority in cabins on this ship. Why is deck 2 getting special service? Read Less