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3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
For an entire day about half the passengers were expected to sit on the boat in the middle of the inner waterway outside of Fernandina Beach, FL. We were told that we will not be taken ashore due to the outboard motor on the launch boat ... Read More
For an entire day about half the passengers were expected to sit on the boat in the middle of the inner waterway outside of Fernandina Beach, FL. We were told that we will not be taken ashore due to the outboard motor on the launch boat being unreliable to keep running. Half the passengers were taken ashore earlier today so they could go on their shore excursion tour. After they were delivered ashore, we were told the launches were cancelled for the day - - however they were running them to bring the shore excursion passengers back to the boat at the end of their tour. An entire day of our six day cruise was lost and wasted because the Captain and crew did not aggressively pursued resolving the problem. Anyone with simple problem solving skills and a little motivation would know that the problem of an unreliable outboard motor can be overcome with other solutions. Instead we are expected to just sit on the boat all day and believe that because it's a Sunday NOTHING can be done. We had no other option but to remain sitting on the boat. I discussed my dissatisfaction and voiced many suggested solutions numerous times today with the Captain, Tour Director, and several other staff. All fell on deaf ears and I was told to voice my concerns with the main office of the cruise company. I called the 800 number, spoken to customer service and was then told to voice my issue in an email, send it to customer service, and it will be taken from there. After three weeks of my continuing to follow up on my complaints, ACL has now told me that if I take another cruise with them they will give me a 20% discount. Why would I choose to waste my time and money on another cruise with this company? This was an expensive cruise, the last thing I expected was for a situation such as this to have arisen and to be dealt with in such a unsatisfactory manner. In further notes, the ship is old, worn and terribly in need of updating and refurbishing. The so-called "management" on the boat are immature, very poorly trained and not at all suited for their jobs. Messages left for "management" on the boat were never answered. The Captain and "management" chose to make any announcements during the cruise at the nightly Happy Hour. I guess they assumed that everyone on board would be their drinking and would hear their announcements. Either that or they didn't care whether the announcements were heard by all the passengers or not. At the time of booking this cruise I specifically asked about signing up for shore excursions prior to the cruise. I was told that all signing up for shore excursions are handled on the boat during the cruise. Much to our surprise, when we started the cruise we learned that this was not the case and there were indeed shore excursions that had to be signed up ahead of time online. Those excursions were all filled by those passengers that happened to be lucky enough to get the correct information. I've cruised many times before with other cruise lines and have never had problems such as I have had with American Cruise Lines. Save your money, time and frustration - - book a cruise with another company! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2018
We chose this cruise , because we have been on American Cruise Lines before and enjoy the quiet , laid back atmosphere. We also enjoy seeing beautiful, scenic areas of our own country, without the hassle of international travel . The ... Read More
We chose this cruise , because we have been on American Cruise Lines before and enjoy the quiet , laid back atmosphere. We also enjoy seeing beautiful, scenic areas of our own country, without the hassle of international travel . The food was excellent on this particular cruise. With American Cruise Lines you have complimentary cocktail hour at 5:30 each day followed by dinner at 6:30. Breakfast & lunches are also very good, with several options available. The American Star only has 100 passengers at full capacity , so it is a very nice small size group and you actually get the chance to know the other passengers. The on-board historian is another plus. We also like the fact that the passengers are mostly seniors and there are not small children running around, as is often the case, on the very large cruise ships that have thousands of passengers. The nightly entertainment is usually an area musical act. All in all it was another satisfying cruise. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
I chose this cruise because I was impressed with my previous cruise with American Cruise Lines from New Orleans to Memphis on the Mississippi in June 2016, and I wanted to travel in this part of Florida. Most of the good things from the ... Read More
I chose this cruise because I was impressed with my previous cruise with American Cruise Lines from New Orleans to Memphis on the Mississippi in June 2016, and I wanted to travel in this part of Florida. Most of the good things from the previous cruise carried over to this one. The crew and housekeeping staff were top-notch, offering efficient, attentive, and friendly service. The food, both in terms of quality and selection, was superb. One of my dietary requirements--soy milk--was cheerfully accommodated. Cocktail hour offered ample opportunity to socialize and enjoy the food and drink. My single cabin was small but serviceable, with enough space for two dressers, twin bed, small closet, two nightstands, a chair, and a luggage stand. The bathroom was clean, but my room was not always made up at the same time each day--sometimes early morning, sometimes mid-to-late morning. As for entertainment, I went to five of the seven shows and liked them very much. Two involved solo singers performing American standards. One involved a film and accompanying discussion by the ship's guest lecturer. Two involved duos who sang and played, excellently. I skipped two shows because I needed some downtime to relax from a full day of onshore touring. I did all the tours, which cost $320. I liked nearly all of them, especially Blue Springs State Park, Palatka Murals and City Tour, Tram Tour of St. Augustine, Alligator Farm and Zoological Park, the Lady Jane Shrimp Boat Tour, and the Sea Turtle Center & Jekyll Island Tram Tour. The only one I didn't care for--the only complimentary one--was the Green Cove Springs Narrated Tour. There wasn't much to see. I didn't even take any pictures there. I'd recommend deleting this tour. My only other suggestion for improvement would be to give the guest lecturer more opportunities to share his knowledge of the area. On last year's Mississippi cruise, the guest lecturers--a husband and wife team--were much more visible and active than the lecturer on this cruise. I would have preferred a lecture to the bingo game that was offered one morning. All in all, though, a very good cruise. I've already signed up for another cruise in May, 2018. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
My wife and I selected this cruise simply to relax in pleasant weather exploring a new part of Florida for us. We arrived the day before the start of our cruise with an overnight stay at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront allowing ... Read More
My wife and I selected this cruise simply to relax in pleasant weather exploring a new part of Florida for us. We arrived the day before the start of our cruise with an overnight stay at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront allowing us to enjoy the pleasant weather and St. Patrick Day activities at Jacksonville landing and good seafood at Benny’s Steak and Seafood Restaurant on the St Johns River. This also allowed for a short five minute walk to board our American Cruise Lines (ACL) ship, the American Star, for embarkation which was simply a matter of showing your photo ID and walk on to the ship. During the week the American Star cruise up the St Johns River (south as the river flows north) with stops in Palatka FL and Green Cove Springs FL returning down river (north) to pass thru Jacksonville and travel south on the intercostal waterway to St Augustine FL than north stopping at Fernandina Beach/Amelia FL than on to Brunswick GA before cruising back to Jacksonville FL for disembarkation. My favorite time onboard was spending time on the Sun Deck while cruising, enjoying the great weather (highs in the seventies with lows at night in the high fifties and no rain the entire week), watching the scenery go by and spending time with our pleasant travel companions while learning about the wildlife, history and key sites from our guide Charlie Petrocci and Captain Dennis Stokowski. Our cruise Director Jim Leary did an excellent job handling all of our shore excursions with my favorite of the trip and one of the best I’ve experienced being our Lady Jane Shrimp Boat Tour which took us trawling through the Marshes of Glynn, south of St Simons Sound (near Brunswick, GA) learning about the shrimping industry and our catch from our three, fifteen minute trawls consisting of shrimp, blue crabs, spider crabs, puffer fish, horseshoe crabs, skate, amberjack and various other sea creatures. Also memorable was the Alligator feeding at the Alligator Farm & Zoological Park in St. Augustine FL and the Carriage Tour in Green Cove Springs, FL. What made this cruise even more special was the food, as it was the best I've experienced in over thirty ocean cruises and fifteen river/coastal cruises. Food on my cruise experiences has always been overall good, with meals ranging from fair to excellent, but I was extremely pleased to find all of the meals on this cruise to be excellent. Each meal consisted of great selections, presentations and some of the best tasting meals I can recall . . . and that’s from someone from New Orleans, the home of great food. The main reason why my wife and I have moved from Ocean Cruising (completed 31) to river/coastal cruising (this is our 15th and 7th ACL cruise) is for the easier sea travel on the inland waterways to avoid my wife’s trouble with motion sickness. This cruise was extremely smooth with the Captain taking extra care by traveling at the right time and waterway taking into account winds, tides etc. well communicating his schedule the entire week. Another plus of river/coastal cruising is the smaller ships with fewer passengers. Our cruise had sixty-nine passengers comprised mostly of retired seniors that resulted in great conversations about travels, hometowns, jobs/careers, family, military service and other life experiences. We love ACL’s daily 5:30 PM Happy Hour and open seating dinning that enabled us to meet most of our fellow passengers developing a few new found friendships. The crew on this ship was simply great with the added bonus of having two Hotel, Assistant Hotel, and Housekeeping Managers as wells as three Executive Chefs and three Sous Chefs onboard to take care of our every needs. We selected a great week to cruise as more than enough care was being given with the added management onboard for training. Maybe having three Executive Chefs working as a great team resulted in the best meals ever experienced on my forty-six cruises. But it was not only management taking care of us as the college students hired to handle the dinning and housekeeping services were all friendly and couldn’t do more to provide a great onboard vacation experience. Service as meals was excellent as well as the attention given the care to our cabin. In summary, ACL provided the consistent great service and excellent cruising experience we’ve enjoyed and we are looking forward to our two future ACL cruises booked while onboard. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2017
A close friend and I wanted to enjoy a relaxing week together, and this cruise turned out to be the perfect choice. From the moment we stepped aboard we were greeted by a sea of smiling faces. We followed the luggage to our cabin and ... Read More
A close friend and I wanted to enjoy a relaxing week together, and this cruise turned out to be the perfect choice. From the moment we stepped aboard we were greeted by a sea of smiling faces. We followed the luggage to our cabin and were delighted with the space, the balcony with sliding doors providing fabulous views at all times, especially on waking, and the larger than usual bathroom on a cruise ship. Lunch followed and it was indeed delicious as was every meal we had on board. The chefs managed to combine healthy and tasty food with an abundance of choice. I only put on two pounds!! We enjoyed some of the shore excursions in old Florida especially visiting the towns of St. Augustine and Fernandina Beach. The highlight was the trip on a shrimp boat where we netted a variety of sea creatures all of which were explained to us. The crew of the American Star were a close-knit group, helping each other, and always available to please the passengers. They worked very hard indeed We enjoyed the entertainment most evenings. We found it mellow and pleasing at the end of the day. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2016
American Cruise Lines has a slogan, "Small Ship Cruising Done Perfectly." Yep, they certainly did it. Everything was perfect. The food was scrumptious. I liked that they offered half portions, so I was less tempted to ... Read More
American Cruise Lines has a slogan, "Small Ship Cruising Done Perfectly." Yep, they certainly did it. Everything was perfect. The food was scrumptious. I liked that they offered half portions, so I was less tempted to overeat. There were only 60 on the Cruise, although the ship will carry 98. With open seating at meals, we got to meet so many interesting people. The Line caters to older passengers. They were always there to assist. The elevator for handicapped was most welcome. I have some mobility issues. Our state room was very comfortable and spacious, with a small private balcony. We could control our own temperature, or open the window for fresh air. The state room had so much drawer space that we could not fill it all, and a closet. :-) My husband was able to workout every morning on an elliptical on the top deck. The on-board lecturer was great about answering questions about the area, and gave several interesting talks. He came on some of the excursions, and added an additional dimension to local guides. Many of the excursions were accessible for the less mobile. I did not try any walking tours, although my husband did. The excursions were well planned and gave a good look at the area (Historic South). Do note that excursions are extra, and you are billed only for those that you attend. There was on-board entertainment nightly. Mostly it was some type of music or a lecture. One day, we played bingo, and I won the top prize - a big bag of souvenirs! Another day, the chef demonstrated how to make a bread cornucopia. His creations were on display for our fantastic Thanksgiving Dinner. There is no bar on the ship, but complimentary wine and beer was served at lunch and dinner. At 5:30 every evening, a very complete bar was set up in the lounge for complimentary cocktails, beers or wines. We did not lack for festive alcohol. Fabulous appetizers accompanied the cocktail hour. It is difficult to say enough about the remarkable service. The entire crew worked very hard; they were always up-beat and smiling. The captain was most accessible. He dined with the passengers when he could. Gratuities were included in your cruise price. This is not a cruise for children. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
We chose this cruise for a smaller ship, on board lecturer, fewer passengers. We had to miss our first port due to hurricane damage and that was understandable. We missed another port due to engine problems but nothing was said until we ... Read More
We chose this cruise for a smaller ship, on board lecturer, fewer passengers. We had to miss our first port due to hurricane damage and that was understandable. We missed another port due to engine problems but nothing was said until we had sat unmoving for several hours and then had to turn back to the previous port. No compensation provided. Embarkation/debarkation went smoothly. The ship is only 10 years old but is decorated like the 50s with plastic flowers, cheap decor. Dining service was ok but staff not only served your food but cleaned the cabins, etc. Not a good thing in my estimation. Young, not so well trained, not in uniforms or with gloves, etc. Attempt at gourmet only met unpeeled, inedible garnishes such as a tiny piece of kiwi on each plate. Food was stacked instead of side by side as other gourmet restaurants seem to do better in this effort. Entertainment brought in was local and excellent. On the missed port day the only activity provided was a Family Feud type of game, very old dvds and books to borrow. One computer provided a printer. Internet service was very poor and you had to keep your stateroom door open for minimal power. Ports were fine but missing two out of five wasn't good. Passengers were older as we are and many were repeat travelers. We asked why and many felt intimidated by larger ships and also liked that the ship was built and is staffed by Americans. This didn't matter to us at all. We would not sail with American Cruise again although they do have nice US itineraries and several folks love the line and the ship. The cruise cost more than twice what we normally pay on larger ships with same size rooms but those have many, many more amenities and activities. We felt for the cost we should at least have had quality decor and furnishings and far, far better service and housekeeping. Oh yes, the "fitness center" consists of three pieces of equipment on the windy deck and two were not working. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
We chose American Cruise Lines because we wanted to be on a small ship, we loved the itinerary, our friends who'd been on before said everyone seems like family, and the reviews were great. We were looking for a great experience ... Read More
We chose American Cruise Lines because we wanted to be on a small ship, we loved the itinerary, our friends who'd been on before said everyone seems like family, and the reviews were great. We were looking for a great experience – what we got wasn't quite enough to be even good. I was surprised that this was a fairly new ship, when we got to the dock it looked like some old ship. The dining room and lounge felt very dated, worn upholstery/carpets throughout, smallish staterooms also bland - it all felt very utilitarian. We also had a problem with our reservation as we were on for 14 days and had to change rooms midtrip because someone in booking couldn't be bothered to try to keep us in the same room. We paid a lot of money for great and we got average, worn rooms, boring décor, below average entertainment, often things felt like they were done on the cheap and disengaged staff – just disappointing. We cruise a lot on the higher end cruise lines and this one was very expensive for what you recieved. Everything was just mediocre. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
All in all the cruise was a total delight and we were treated very well. Not only did the waitresses and crew make the trip pleasurable, we fit in well with the age group of the passengers. We were celebrating an early 36th wedding ... Read More
All in all the cruise was a total delight and we were treated very well. Not only did the waitresses and crew make the trip pleasurable, we fit in well with the age group of the passengers. We were celebrating an early 36th wedding anniversary. The ports were close together - every day we were at a different destination so the trip was very enjoyable and educational. Southern US up the inter-coastal waterway was picturesque for the most part. However, the meals, excursions and nighttime lectures from 7am to 9pm kept everyone busy. Excursions were informative - not learned much of this part of the South in Northern US schools. We are looking forward to the Mississippi River Cruise from St. Louis to St. Paul. Thank-you for a great trip and cruise. Will the other American Cruise Line trips be as delightful - we sure will be comparing them to the Independence. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
We are early seventies and tried our first “small ship” cruise aboard the Independence for three reasons: One, the itinerary from Amelia Island to Charleston was of significant interest. Two, with the world in questionable turmoil, we ... Read More
We are early seventies and tried our first “small ship” cruise aboard the Independence for three reasons: One, the itinerary from Amelia Island to Charleston was of significant interest. Two, with the world in questionable turmoil, we decided to avoid overseas flights and spend our money “at home.” Three, the likely demographics onboard suited our desires, fifty something to older than dirt… perfect! Bottom line: Excellent experience such that we booked again for next year, though one must evaluate the cost/value compared to the larger ships, usually Holland America in our case. That said, let’s talk some (a bit long!) detail. American Cruise Lines operates under an interesting business model. It’s all American, from the shipyard where the vessels are built to the staff… top to bottom. Most interesting is the use of young folks for stewards, deck hands and servers. They have just enough training, are in most cases only onboard for a 12-week “tour of duty” and in most cases will be using this experience as a steppingstone to bigger and better careers. The ship’s captain (most gracious and available), first mate, pilot, and senior staff are, on the other hand, very professional career folks who offer customer service beyond reproach… never have I experienced better. Back to the youngsters for a moment, if you expect error free service with a lovely foreign accent forget it. If you love to engage young folks, offer a bit of wisdom from time to time, and see the virtue of mentoring our American youth you will enjoy this experience like no other. Overall their customer service is outstanding, offered with great cheer and good intent. We flew from LAX (Los Angeles) to Jacksonville, Florida, the day before. The cab to Fernandina Beach City, Amelia Island, was simple and cost 70 dollars. Arrival at the Florida Inn, just 3 short blocks from the dock around 4:30pm, was uneventful. Review of the inn can be found elsewhere. Post checkout on Saturday we simply walked to the dock, luggage in tow. If you can stay at the Hampton Inn, across from the dock, do it. Barely in sight of the ship, red-shirted staff came running for our luggage… a great start to be continued throughout the voyage. Always dapper Chet, the “hotel manager”, was immediately available for questions, logistics and cabin availability status. Soon onboard, a breeze, we settled in, walked the ship, and sat for lunch at 12:30pm. While some reviewers find the ship’s décor to be bland in its neutral colors (it is), the glitter and glitz was immediately discovered as we met the other fascinating 92 souls. That is the essence of this experience. Entertainment was simple but satisfying, without a hint of off-Broadway shows, and effectively self-generated beginning with a hosted cocktail hour from 5:30 to 6:30, followed by dinner at 6:30. This social hour proved to be very entertaining as we all shared our life’s stories, told amazing lies when appropriate, and shared the day’s doings all while becoming fast friends. Aboard was a historian with vast knowledge, and a huge personality, adding considerable value to the cruise. At 8 o’clock the next day’s activities were discussed, often with fun banter, followed by local talent for a variety of music and song of considerable skill. An interesting fact is that the cruise line will acquire your favorite beverage if not already in the ship’s locker, in my case a preferred NA beer. Nice… Briefly on the food: Just fine overall. Plenty from which to choose with a caveat or two. The salads, soups and desserts are quite excellent. I found the main courses a bit bland for my taste but one must understand the general demographics onboard, thus bland is not all bad. The portions are huge but half portions are available. Breakfast was a treat with a wide selection available. Missing for me was a lighter fare for lunch, perhaps an interesting sandwich or two, though a burger or BLT is always available… just ask. Don’t miss the pork bellies if offered… the best ever. Can’t really say much about the cabin service, it just happened as it should, without intrusion on us at all. Towels were replaced as we desired, beds made, cleaning done, all good. In terms of excursions, do want sounds good as offered by the ship. They are all quite good, fairly priced, and the transportation is a breeze in quality coaches. As I don’t walk well the transportation was always close by, much appreciated. The ship offers wheel chairs and electric carts if needed, together with that cheerful staff… all top-notch. Just the scenic cruising alone is quite remarkable, but we particularly enjoyed the Sea Turtle Center and follow-on tour, the Lady Jane Shrimp Boat Tour (most informative), the Sapelo Island tour (a must!), and the Citadel Parade. Oh, you don’t see the Citadel Parade listed as a ship’s offered tour, do you! Pre-cruise, I discovered this event occurs most Friday afternoons at the Citadel in Charleston at 3:45pm. Being a fan of everything military or patriotic, I had an interest in attending. The ship arrives Charleston around 2pm so I bugged Chet to arrange transportation to same for 6 of us. His response was as expected: “Give me something difficult next time.” So we 6 attended, sat in the viewing bleachers, and watched a thousand plus cadets, of both genders, clad in dress whites, march theirs hearts out on bright green grass. Around town, when encountering these uniformed men and women, it was always yes sir and no sir… a breath of fresh air, as it should be I thought. … just one problem with all of this, the huge spectacular band is led by about (lump in throat) 20 bagpipes. When the colors were presented and the Star Spangled Banner played I got all teary-eyed… very damn emotional… actually not a bad thing at all for a sometimes grumpy old vet. Just do it. You won’t be sorry. So this longwinded story comes to an end with disembarking the ship, same as climbing aboard, a breeze thanks to the wonderful crew… taxi cab waiting thanks to Chet again. Two more days in Charleston, staying at the wonderful Indigo Inn, completed our trip. Life is good… Read Less
Sail Date: April 2013
American Cruise Lines offers a product not like any other cruise line I have been on. From the boarding procedure (which took about 30 seconds) to disembarkation (which was equally easy) the crew makes it known that they are there for one ... Read More
American Cruise Lines offers a product not like any other cruise line I have been on. From the boarding procedure (which took about 30 seconds) to disembarkation (which was equally easy) the crew makes it known that they are there for one reason only - to care for the passengers. No request large or small was unattended to. Want a certain brand of drink? No problem. We'll pick it up in the next port. Want a special item for breakfast or lunch? No problem. Just ask one of the staff members and you will have it. The entire week was like that. Upon boarding, my wife was overjoyed by the larger than average cabin, and especially by the bathroom that would actually accommodate two people at one time. Everything on the boat was spotless, although the decor was a lot more subdued than most ships and boats. But one has to consider the type of clientele on the boat. I felt young at 74. But I must quickly add that everyone was very active. Age was not relevant. While at first I found the food to be a little less upscale than I had expected, as the week wore on it got better every day. There is no complaint of the quality of the food, but the service was a little spotty at times since the same people who were serving our meals were the same ones who cleaned our cabins and vacuumed the corridors. Very busy people. Overall we found the cruise to be beyond our expectations and we are planning on cruising with ACL several more times. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2013
The American Cruise Line ship Independence is a very comfortable ship to cruise on. The cabin was very comfortable, water pressure good, and the shared spaces were very nice. The ship was clean and in good order. Our captain and crew ... Read More
The American Cruise Line ship Independence is a very comfortable ship to cruise on. The cabin was very comfortable, water pressure good, and the shared spaces were very nice. The ship was clean and in good order. Our captain and crew were pleasant and helpful. Food throughout the cruise was excellent. The tours we took were all very good. My only nit picky issue is that the lecturer on board was very much a generalist and did not provide enough depth. This was a wonderful relaxing cruise up the inter-coastal waterway. The small ship atmosphere gives you the chance to really meet your fellow vacationers. You get a much better feel for local culture on a small ship cruise. Our ship docked on islands a big ship just can't get into and many of our tours would not have been possible with large groups. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2013
I've had the privilege of cruising 39 times on various cruise lines, mainly on the west and east coast of the USA, the Caribbean, Alaska, Mexico, Canada/NewEngland, and Bermuda. Amtrak delivered me to the embarkation port of ... Read More
I've had the privilege of cruising 39 times on various cruise lines, mainly on the west and east coast of the USA, the Caribbean, Alaska, Mexico, Canada/NewEngland, and Bermuda. Amtrak delivered me to the embarkation port of Fernandina Beach, Florida for my cruise. The train ride was fun, and with the comfort of a private bedroom, it was actually luxury as far as today's train service goes. It took a few days, but who cares when one is on vacation! The train stop for Fernandina Beach is Jacksonville, FL, and I had a limo take me from there to Fernandina Beach. I stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites Amelia Island - Historic Harbor Front, which was extremely comfortable, clean and quiet. The front desk staff there were wonderful in every aspect. I walked through this historic seaport town the day before the cruise, and enjoyed the lovely architecture and friendly people. Walking through the marina was also a delight, as friendly pelicans and other sea birds approach, hoping for a snack from visitors, and the boats moored in the marina are gorgeous. It definitely put me in the mood for a cruise! Great seafood available in town and the marina area. I could walk to the Independence the next morning at my leisure - with wheeled luggage, it's very easy and took me 10 minutes. You can see the cruise boat easily from the hotel. Embarkation was wonderful and fast compared to megaliners. Just appear, and the deck crew at the gangway checks your name off and takes your bag on board, and you walk onto the ship. The Independence looks like a yacht, and being quite new to American Cruise Lines, it was still fresh and very attractive with its white paint. It has three passenger decks and the top of the ship is a flat sun deck. There are several main lounges and a dining room. There is an elevator. Not much in the way of fitness equipment. The lounges have soft, comfortable seating and there are books and DVDs and computer terminals available. The Independence has stabilizers. The decor is very peaceful and calm, with muted natural colors and soft fabrics. My cabin originally was to be a single - American Cruise Lines does offer single-occupancy cabins at a slight lower price than the bigger doubles. I had requested a double bed in mine, which the cruise line has provided on earlier trips, but when I got to the cabin, it had what appeared to be a twin bed. I asked the hotel manager, who was very young, if they could put a double bed in the room, and he was not able to do this. I can't sleep in a twin bed, despite being small - this size bed is just too small for me. Fortunately the ship was not full, and I was given a big double cabin with a private balcony and a king-size bed. So far, so good. There are single cabins available with balconies, and most of the cabins offer the nice private balconies. Again, muted colors and soft fabrics and neutral wood colors in the cabins, which are spacious and have a small closet, plenty of dresser and night stand drawer storage, nice new flat screen TV, chairs, sofa. The windows actually open in these cabins, but don't have screens - beware of the bugs flying in depending on your itinerary. There is AC, but it was heavenly when I could keep the window open at night and have the fresh air and smell the water. The bathroom had a full-size shower stall with curtain, and there were very nice high-end toiletries provided. Towels were OK, but some were a bit ragged. The faucets were polished brass and the sink top appeared to be faux granite but very elegant. There was the usual printed information in the cabin, but nothing in the way of bottled water, flowers, fruit, or anything else. For what the fare rates are, the ship could have done more. No phone in the cabin, and internet access was spotty and slow, except in the lounges most of the time, and then right next to the router. Activities are limited on this ship, basically Bingo on one night, port lectures, and socialization. The average age appears to be above 70. This is an ideal cruise line for those who are "mature" in age and who don't need a lot of physical activity or entertainment. Many passengers know others from prior cruises, and enjoy just sitting and visiting. There is a "free" bar included in the fare, and this social hour was very lively with drinks, snacks, and conversation every night before dinner. Some of the passengers fell asleep after dinner, or slept through the minimal evening entertainment, obviously contented and comfortable enough to do this. This is not a cruise line for people who want a lot of action and late evening entertainment. Dining hours were a bit late for me personally, and were open seating within a set framework three times per day. The menus are handed out the day before, and you chose what you want and portion size. The food was some odd "gourmet" combinations at times, and seemed to focus on a lot of red pepper, odd salads, meat, and poultry. The fish I did have was very good. Deserts are again a bit "gourmet", and ice cream is always available. Again, for the very high fare charged, they could have done better with the food. It wasn't bad food, just a bit peculiar in the way ingredients were combined, and the results were not always good. For those not eating meat or poultry, it is a challenge to get what you need. The chef is very accommodating when it comes to making something special, however, but I mainly had a chef salad two times per day and an awful lot of ice cream. This probably kept me from gaining weight on this cruise, but a lot of people loved it all, ate it all, and were even bigger when they disembarked than is healthy. Good wine available free at lunch and dinner, and other usual beverages. Some of the breakfast buffet items were not hot or cold as they should have been, and there was almost no danish or pastry available. Big round tables in the dining room encourage socialization. Service was pleasant, but could be slow. This is definitely not a child-friendly cruise line, as there is nothing to entertain kids, and they would be bored very quickly. This is not cashless cruising, but things are signed up for and charged to the room - no actual money is handed out. Tips can be charged to the room account and/or credit card. Entertainment was minimal in the evenings. There was an on-board port expert who gave some lengthy but good lectures after dinner, but a lot of people fell asleep during his talks. He also spoke during the daytime if there was an opportunity, and was available for questions. In a few ports, local entertainers came aboard with local music and folk type entertainment, and they were very good. There was a Bingo night, which I overheard somebody comment that this cruise was a floating nursing home. At least the Bingo kept us all awake. People enjoyed reading and talking, and that was about it for entertainment, as well as using personal or onboard computers. Ice cream floats were served about 45 minutes after dinner ended, during the evening entertainment, which most people consumed on top of their dinners. The ports visited on this cruise were Brunswick, GA, Sapelo Island, GA, Savannah, GA, Hilton Head, SC, Beaufort, SC, Charleston, SC. There were good shore excursions offered for each port - sign-up sheet is posted on the ship bulletin board near the dining room for tours. Cost is about what any cruise ship would charge. I really enjoyed a tour on a working shrimp boat on a quiet waterway, and the crew taught about the sea life in the southern waterways as well as letting people get their hands on what came up in each net - also available were fresh-cooked shrimp, right on board, and they were delicious. I also enjoyed a tour of the Gullah region in South Carolina, with a wonderful guide who really got into the spirit of the area. I took the tour of the alligator and wild life preserve on Hilton Head Island, SC - the quiet electric small boat takes visitors within feet of the alligators, turtles, and other wildlife there. I had walking maps of Savannah, Beaufort, and Charleston, and enjoyed going at my own pace and seeing what interested me on foot. Well worth it for the gorgeous historical Southern architecture, but be prepared for heat and humidity. Walking through Brunswick, GA on Easter morning was very nice, with local people in their holiday outfits. All the churches were open, and had welcome committees out front - I really felt welcome and it was a great way to start the cruise with the warm Southern hospitality. I'm not a big fan of organized long bus tours on cruises, and enjoyed walking on my own the most. Service on the ship was mixed. The young American crew are from all over the country, and enjoy visiting with passengers when their time and duties permit. There is always somebody on watch at the gangway 24/7. I remember the captain and first mate from previous trips, and they are very professional and pleasant. Be aware that some of the crew does double duty, both as cabin stewards and dining room stewards. They are busy all the time, and the service suffers a bit from this. Most of the dining room service I had was very good, but it could be slow at times. The cabin was not always done properly, and some things had to be cleaned again. I wondered if the bed linens were changed more than once, as well, but the towels and bath supplies were kept stocked properly. Things were satisfactory in the cabin, but the young lady cleaning it appeared very rushed, as indeed she was - she had to do cabin service and then rush to change to work in the dining room. I wasn't impressed at all with either the cruise director or the hotel manager. Both seem to go through the motions of their jobs, but they were too young to really understand the much older passenger majority. This has been the case with other crews I've had on prior ACL cruises. There is one lady who takes care of the dining service, and she is a real pro, very glad to see her aboard after sailing with her before. There is no doctor or medical center on this small boat but as it is close to shore and the Coast Guard or other emergency services, help can be summoned in an emergency. Someone on board is reputedly first-aid trained. Disembarkation is as easy as embarkation. Breakfast is served, and people need to be off the ship by a decent hour in the morning. Transportation can be arranged, either to airports, train stations, or by taxi, as needed. It was quick and simple. The cruise line sends a survey by email, but to date I've never received a reply to my very detailed and often letter-supplemented comments, suggestions, or issues. On my cruise, I took care of several injured elderly passengers and never got a word of thanks from the cruise line. The fares charged for the cruises are grossly too expensive for the quality of the food and the lack of on-board amenities. The itineraries are excellent, however, as many of the ports visited can only be reached by small boat for maximum accessibility and enjoyment. The Independence is one of the few boats equipped with stabilizers, but on the one occasion we should have used them, we were told they were "broken". These small boats appear to be miniature cruise ships, but for those with motion sickness problems, be prepared - out in the open ocean, or in moderate sea conditions, they can pitch and roll very impressively and make you miserable very quickly, especially without stabilization. On the inland waterways and rivers, however, the boat glides along and is extremely comfortable and stable. I would not take this cruise line again unless they sharply reduced their fares - they are really over-priced for what they deliver. Their itineraries, however, are excellent. Passengers tend to be in their 70s on average, and appear very well-to-do financially. Some take back to back cruises on this line, and stay on the small boats for months. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2012
All I can say is WOW! My husband and I took our first 7 day cruise along the southern part of the Eastern shore of the United States. We left from Jacksonville, Florida. We were greeted on the ship by a friendly, warm staff, served a ... Read More
All I can say is WOW! My husband and I took our first 7 day cruise along the southern part of the Eastern shore of the United States. We left from Jacksonville, Florida. We were greeted on the ship by a friendly, warm staff, served a delicious, meet and greet lunch, afterwards we settled into our cabins and a little later on the staff had a Tour Briefing in one of the scenic lounges, which included an introduction to the historian who would be traveling with us from port to port. During the week we visited six ports; each port had different excursions available. You had several choices at many of the ports. The excursions my husband and I took were informative and fun. We especially enjoyed Savannah, Ga. and Charleston, SC. We plan to go back to Charleston in the near future. The people on the ship were lovely, and during the week you got the opportunity to dine with almost everyone. Cocktail hour was also a great time to meet fellow travelers. Delicious appetizers and your choice of cocktails were provided each evening. This was followed by amazing dinners. Each night offered different menu choices which you selected at breakfast each day. Light lunches were also available every day if you choose to partake. Entertainment was provided each evening. The entertainment ranged from a husband and wife band, movies, lectures or demonstrations by local artists. A few minor incidents, such as non-flushing toilets, were immediately repaired. The staff was attentive and very willing to please. It is a cruise I highly recommend. It provides an opportunity to see the Eastern shore under the relaxed guidance of a beautiful ship, a great captain and staff while relaxing and taking in the sights. Thanks!!! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
We recently returned from the Historic Antebellum South cruise on the American Spirit, one of the larger ships operated by American Cruise Lines.  My first impression of the ship was good - we had a spacious room with a fair-sized private ... Read More
We recently returned from the Historic Antebellum South cruise on the American Spirit, one of the larger ships operated by American Cruise Lines.  My first impression of the ship was good - we had a spacious room with a fair-sized private veranda.  Unfortunately, things went downhill from there.  The first meal served on the ship was lunch, and we were somewhat disappointed with the service in the dining room.  The staff seemed very young and inexperienced.  Drinks were never refilled unless you were able to flag down a server.  While visiting with other passengers after eating, while waiting for dessert, the tables were being cleared of the condiments, placemats, etc.  The staff would reach right across us and grab what they needed, with never an "excuse me" muttered.  Very unprofessional, in my opinion.The service did not get any better throughout the cruise.  The hotel manager was a less-than-friendly young woman who seemed very put-out when asked questions.  Instead of asking her questions about our destinations, I just used the internet instead - it was nicer!  Our rooms were kept clean, but linens were not changed during the entire trip.  I dropped a piece of chocolate on one of my pillowcases the first night, and the chocolate spot was still with me at the end of the cruise.  I purposefully left the pillow on top of my bed several days, with the spot showing, just to see if it was changed. The food was (sorry, chef!) awful most nights.  This was a sentiment voiced by a significant number of passengers I talked with as well.  Little flavor, strange pairings, not always hot when served..just not good.The stops made on the cruise were okay, but I felt like we really had a lot of downtime.  Our first port was Brunswick, GA, which apparently closes down evenings and weekends.  There was absolutely nothing to do while sitting in this port, aside from the two excursions (which were over by 5 p.m.).  Thankfully, the other ports had more to offer!Overall, we did get to visit some fun places, and a few of the excursions were decent.  I would highly recommend doing research and setting up your own tours though.  The prices for most of the tours were much more expensive than if we had self-scheculed them.  I would definitely not book another American Cruise Line trip, but I am sure that it works for some.  There were several repeat passengers on our cruise who were ready to sign up for more.  I have been on two other smaller cruises (Delta Queen and Queen of the West), and the American Cruise Line doesn't hold a candle to the service offered on the others.  The staff of the American Spirit could really use a lesson in customer service! Read Less
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