15 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2015
My wife and I took an American Queen Steamboat Company Cruise on The American Empress Steamboat last week, traveling up the Columbia and Snake Rivers. We have been on 30 international large cruise ships, but this was our first United ... Read More
My wife and I took an American Queen Steamboat Company Cruise on The American Empress Steamboat last week, traveling up the Columbia and Snake Rivers. We have been on 30 international large cruise ships, but this was our first United States River Cruise. The total 10 day cruise started with a Bus tour of Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon which was followed by and over night stay at the Hilton Vancouver Hotel. The next morning the steamboat embarked from Portland, Oregon, going up the Columbia River and stopping in Astoria, OR. The Dalles, WA. Stevenson, WA, Richland, WA. and Clarkson, WA. After leaving the steamboat in Clarkson, WA we took another bus tour up to Spokane, Washington where we toured the city, and then checked in at the luxurious Davenport Hotel for a two night stay. It was a great Cruise trip, as we experienced the same sense of excitement and wonder that Lewis and Clark had, as they explored the Columbia and Snake River areas of Oregon and Washington. We visited many historical, scenic and enjoyable sites on our voyage up the famous rivers. The American Empress is a beautiful steamboat and is the largest overnight riverboat west of the Mississippi River. The American Empress also has a vast collection of some of the finest historical artifacts, and artwork from the Native Alaskan, Russian, Gold Rush, and stern wheeler eras on board. The corridors of the American Empress hold nearly as much beauty and intrigue as the dramatic scenery unfolding on the river outside. Our state room with a balcony was beautiful, and the bed was so comfortable. All the Meals on the ship prepared by Executive Chef Bill Ballard and Staff, were very Delicious! Chef Ballard would walk around every night checking with all the guests on the ship making sure that everyone was totally satisfied. The up stairs more casual River Grill & Bar was fantastic every time we ate there, as Restaurant Manager Lisa was so friendly and professional, as she guided the River Grill servers every night to do a great job. Desiree and Rachel were outstanding as they served us several times.The down stairs more up scale Astoria Dining Room, was managed by Maitre D' Ann Gilbert along with the very nice Restaurant Manager Allan Baja. Derrick who served are table of four people multiple times was excellent, professional, and had a great personality. The Bar Manager Ed Jenkins was also so nice as he would hustle around the steamboat making sure his Bartenders were preparing the Beer, Wine, and Cocktails that every guest wanted. One of the most important people on the entire ship was the Riverlorian Laurence Cotton, who worked very hard everyday giving multiple historical lectures, about the Columbia and Snake Rives and the Lewis and Clark expeditions. Laurence has so much knowledge and presented it very well. My wife and I also went on a tour of the Bridge, and met the Master of the steamboat Captain Ron Gray. It was a great tour, and the Captain was so nice as he instructed us about the functions of the American Empress Steamboat. We also took another good tour of the engine department with Chief Engineer Noah Sheppard. During the day on our many ports of call, we would go on either the Hop On-Hop Off luxury Bus tour which were included in the price of the Cruise, or we picked a premium excursion tour to go on. All the tours were so educational and very well organized. At night after dinner, we would go see the nightly showtime entertainment in the show lounge. The two main headliners most of the nights were the two married Cruise Directors, Lindy and Gregory Pendzick. They were FANTASTIC! During the day the two Cruise Directors were hustling around the ship making sure they did everything to take care of all the guests on the steamboat. Lindy and Greg did a great job coordinating bingo, game shows, and craft sessions for all the guests. At Night they both put on an outstanding Singing, Dancing, and Broadway play performances, that delighted the entire audience. Both Lindy and Greg have an extended list of professional stage experiences, and did a great job every night, along with the American Empress Band. After the Showtime entertainment finish at night, most people would then go up to the Paddle wheel Lounge on Deck 2 to have a Drink which would be served by Angie, and to listen to Piano Player, Singer, and Comedian Frank Case. Everyone enjoyed the "Fun with Frank" nightly categories, where he would play everyone's favorite tunes and highlights, from all the famous singers in entertainment history. Frank Case has Phenomenal Talents! All and All, my wife and I had a great time on the Steamboat Cruise, and I was totally impressed with the way the cruise was executed by the entire staff. My wife and I would definitely go back on another American Queen Steamboat Company Cruise, maybe the Mississippi cruise would be next. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
Corrections/rebuttals of other reviews: There is a toilet on board the busses. We did not have the female Riverlorian – ours was Lawrence and he was very interesting and informative. I attended all of his lectures. I didn’t think ... Read More
Corrections/rebuttals of other reviews: There is a toilet on board the busses. We did not have the female Riverlorian – ours was Lawrence and he was very interesting and informative. I attended all of his lectures. I didn’t think the Internet was that slow and always worked, but I only used it in the Paddle Wheel Lounge, which was down the hall from our room. Someone said that all the cabins have balconies. You will see from the ship’s layout before booking that there are cabins without balconies. There were not a lot of people using walkers on our cruise. The elevator was fast and large enough to hold everyone. However, there were only 105 passengers aboard that week. We've done 17 non-river cruises (Holland American, etc.), but this was our first river cruise. Dining: Dinners in the Astoria Dining Room were always very good, but service was slow (for us) and it took a minimum of two hours. This is a beautiful dining venue with sparkling crystal chandeliers and an attractive blue-lit ceiling, which added to the ambiance. I don’t know why most people were having breakfast and lunch at the River Grille. I thought the buffets there were pretty mediocre. I had many breakfasts and lunches at the almost empty Astoria Dining Room and enjoyed some great entrees – eggs benedict or specialty French toast in the morning, and lunches including southern friend chicken with home made biscuits. Be careful to watch the schedule for when the restaurants open for breakfast and lunch because they aren’t open very long. One day we went to the river Grille at 1:00 p.m. and they were putting the food away – we didn’t realize that they closed then. Another couple told us they arrived at the restaurant at 9:00 a.m. and couldn’t get any food for the same reason. We ate at the River Grille for two nights and they let us order a combo of filet mignon and lobster. The lobster was really good and we ordered it the other night we dined there as well. Then the main dining room had lobster on Friday night and we had another tasty lobster. I love sweets, but the desserts were a disappointment to me in both dining rooms. Therefore most eveneings we ordered ice cream. I don’t think they had a pastry chef on board. The cookies at the River Grille lunch buffet and Paddle Wheel Lounge were the same each day. It made me think that none of the desserts/cookies were home made – maybe just picked up from a mediocre vendor for the ship –like Costco. The dessert for lunch at the buffet at the River Grille seemed to be lemon bars every day. I didn’t like the house wines in either dining venue, but our waiter found one they weren’t offering but was still free: Saint Chapelle Soft White Wine. It was very good and I was able to request it for each meal. For the best coffee, order a cappuccino or latte from the Astoria Dining Room, because they have an espresso machine. There’s a self-serve one in the River Grille as well – a real one, which easily serves espresso and also steamed milk separately. It was very good. Entertainment: A banjo player boarded our boat mid cruise. He flew in from the American Queen on the Mississippi. He was unbelievable; so we enjoyed a fantastic banjo/guitar evening, with a very good cruise band backing him up. Art Gallery in Halls: Every floor has excellent artwork on the walls of the halls. Take time to tour each floor’s paintings. The 4th floor has old photos from the Gold Rush Days. What to Wear: As one reviewer stated, the public rooms and halls can be “ice-box cold”. In the Paddle wheel Lounge, I was surprised that even the men were asking the staff why they couldn’t make the room any warmer. My husband ordinarily never gets chilled, but wished he had brought a long-sleeve shirt even though it was summer. I wish I had brought a cashmere sweater set. I was surprised at how many people were really casually dressed for dinner. I personally feel that if you bring what they suggest wearing for dinner in the brochure, you will be fine. Excursions: Bring a warm sweater or wrap on the hop on/hop off bus. It’s usually very cold no matter what the temperature is outside. The busses are okay, but I didn’t find them that comfortable for an hour or longer ride. Also, be careful to look at each day’s program sheet for which time periods there are 15 minute pickups from drop off points and which are one hour. One day we decided to relax on the boat in the morning, and take the bus in the afternoon. We found out that we had to wait an hour at each drop off point for the bus to pick us up. The bus drivers were really accommodating and helpful – I found them to be the best employees on our cruise. I think the towns we visited and site we were dropped off at were not very exciting. It would probably be better to book their premium excursion. We did not do this because with my husband’s bad back, his limit is 3 hours and the premium excursions were a minimum five hours long. I would recommend the one that goes to Mt. Hood’s Timberline Lodge, because we came in several days before the cruise and spent the night here. Also, I’ve heard that the Maryhill Museum of Art is outstanding. We met a couple that did the wine country tour and loved the scenery. Also, everyone enjoys the Hell’s Canyon Jet Boat. However, we were content to relax, and enjoy being on the river on this fine ship. We had looked forward to it and it met our expectations. Post-Voyage Travel Days: We took the train from San Diego to L.A., and then the Coastal Starlight Amtrak train from L.A. to Portland (left Tues 10:10 a.m., arrived Wed. 3:32 p.m.). We had a deluxe sleeping room and the scenery was very good as well as the dining car meals. They have an old fashioned, restored parlor car for use by those passengers with sleeping rooms. Upon arriving in Portland, we had to wait an hour for a taxi ride a mile to our Hilton Hotel. We picked up a Hertz rental car and drove to the Timberline Lodge in Mt. Hood. We loved the lodge. The great food alone is worth the trip. Then we took the “fruit loop” and spent a night on the Columbia River Gorge at the Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, WA with beautiful views of the river. The bus ride after our cruise, to Spokane, took three hours but was a beautiful drive. We stayed at the old Davenport Hotel for 2 nights. It is beautifully restored, but I didn’t like how high the bed was – you had to use a step to get into it. I usually love staying in historic hotels, but this time I think I would have liked their more modern hotel across the street. The price for a wash/blow dry in their spa was reasonable and gave me use of their relaxing “quiet room”, etc The Davenport’s food was just so-so. We rented a car from Enterprise and the hotel’s shuttle gave us a ride there and the rental car co. gave us a return ride back to the hotel. We drove to the Coeur d’Alene Resort in Idaho and had a 5-star lunch facing the lake. We didn’t stay over night here because of the $400 per night room rate. We had a nice breakfast down the street from our hotel at The Post Street Ale, and walked to dinner at the Europa Restaurant – dinner was mediocre but the desserts were incredible. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2015
A good friend and myself took the first cruise of the season on the American Empress. We were greeted at the dock by a very friendly petite woman (Lyndie) offering to help with our bags. We checked into a lush 2 bed room. Very ... Read More
A good friend and myself took the first cruise of the season on the American Empress. We were greeted at the dock by a very friendly petite woman (Lyndie) offering to help with our bags. We checked into a lush 2 bed room. Very comfortable size, beautiful attention to detail. The beds and bedding were amazing with a private veranda. You'll find extra comfort in your complimentary robes and slippers. Having a room close to the paddle wheel, hummed us to sleep at night. The crew is amazing! The food and wine is top notch! Seriously, I have never liked lamb chops until I tried them on this cruise and omg, delicious! Throughout the cruise the chef showed his talent, all the food was amazing. After having the lamb, I stepped out of my usual and tried a few new things including duck and oysters. There were no disappointments out of the galley. The wait staff was obviously well groomed, very friendly and attentive. My friend and I knew people in a couple of different ports and were asked if we would like to have company for lunch. What a treat for our friends. The American Empress has now gained some future guests due to their impeccable hospitality. The American Empress is the only cruise on the Columbia River that offers a Hop on Hop off tour, providing 3 buses, stopping at different points in town leisurely moving you around town at your will, stopping every 15 minutes. I loved that I could get the feel of the towns and people in them as we visited. Going beyond the tours they offer. The crew kept us entertained on board. Nightly shows and piano in the lounge on top of daily games and movies. We found a lot of joy in riding the bikes they offer around town. One of the things we were enthusiastic about was all the locks we went through. We were enthralled by the industrial end of things running back and forth at most locks (I fell asleep watching as we were going through the John Day Lock) taking photos. We loved Astoria, Or. and The Dalles, Or. with their community welcome at the dock as we disembarked. Stevenson, Wa. had a #GORGEous view all around with shopping a hop, skip and a jump away. In Richland, Wa. we pulled up to a lovely park with shopping only a block away. On the flip side, I did not enjoy our end point in Clarkston Wa. Also I tried to get a good martini on three different occasions and was disappointed with each. Though I must say with my first one the bar tender read me from across the room and offered to take it off my bill. Again impeccable hospitality. This could also be due to having limited space to keep specialty items/mixes. For 2 busy mom's with their careers (me being in hospitality and tourism) and families in full swing, it was just what the Doctor ordered. At first we were apprehensive to be away from it all for a full week but it was really just what we needed. A week of being treated like Empresses. A big Thank you to Captain Andrea and crew. Read Less
American Empress Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.4
Dining 4.5 4.5
Entertainment 4.5 4.5
Public Rooms 4.5 4.4
Fitness Recreation 3.5 3.0
Family 1.0 3.0
Shore Excursion 4.5 4.4
Enrichment 5.0 4.5
Service 5.0 4.7
Value For Money 4.0 4.2
Rates 4.0 N/A

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click
Compare and book excursions for your next cruise