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
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
We are back from the cruise and really enjoyed it. The suite was the largest we have been in on any cruise, river or ocean. The ship was only a little over half full, so we got a lot of great attention, but I believe if the ship had been ... Read More
We are back from the cruise and really enjoyed it. The suite was the largest we have been in on any cruise, river or ocean. The ship was only a little over half full, so we got a lot of great attention, but I believe if the ship had been full we still would have gotten the same attention. The couple that had the stateroom were told that it was our anniversary and we wanted a queen bed, and they had no problem switching with us. We decided to send them a gift basket for their trouble and talked to the hotel manager (Eric Lang) to get one sent to their suite. He was great. He went to 3 different spots to find a gift basket and card. Then afterwards he told us the company was picking up the costs. Suzanne lost her camera on the first day, which was the only negative on the trip, but since it was the first day instead of the last, it wasn’t that bad. When we were visiting the Franklin County Museum in Pasco Washington, we asked the administrator (Sherel Webb) if she knew where we could buy a digital camera and she thought the drug store next door and called to be sure they had one and we were able to purchase an inexpensive one for Suzanne to use on the rest of the trip. Suzanne had a question on a piece of embroidery that was on display and asked if she knew where we could get one for her to make. Sherel called the woman who donated the item to see if she knew where to get it, but she didn’t. Sherel then checked the internet for sites that might have it. After we got back Sherel had emailed us a couple of more sites for Suzanne to check. The woman was amazing. This trip was so great we have placed a deposit on a new cruise American Queen is offering on the Mississippi. It is 23 days from St Paul to New Orleans. Previously you would have had to book 3 separate legs to get the whole thing at a much greater cost. The hotel (Davenport Historical) we stayed at the first night was fantastic and absolutely beautiful. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
The ship was not full (which was to our advantage) but I do not understand why not...this is the best trip we have taken in ages! The American Empress leaves either out of Vancouver, Washington or Clarkston, Washington depending if the ... Read More
The ship was not full (which was to our advantage) but I do not understand why not...this is the best trip we have taken in ages! The American Empress leaves either out of Vancouver, Washington or Clarkston, Washington depending if the cruise is going east or west on the Snake River and Columbia River. It is a small vessel with four decks and 200 plus passengers. The ship is in excellent condition just having been renovated. Our cabin was similar to cruise ship cabins...small! But it was nicely furnished and decorated and comfortable with lots of storage. The balcony was comfortable and perfect for viewing the awesome scenery along the Columbia and Snake Rivers. But do not limit yourself to the view from your balcony as we were prone to going out on the front and rear of the boat so we could see both sides...white painted rocking chairs are situated on the back and front of each passenger deck for the best views in comfort. What did we like: The food was excellent...lots of local produce and fruit and wines as well as local meats and seafood (I liked the bison)...wine and beer are complimentary at dinner each night The itinerary is excellent. We started in Vancouver (the cruise starts out with a night at the Vancouver Hilton...great idea!) That gave us the opportunity to take their informative and scenic Mt. St. Helen tour before the ship embarked later that afternoon. First stop was west of Vancouver on the coast at Astoria, Oregon...a good dose of Pacific rain forest wet weather but a fascinating place as we visited sites associated with Lewis and Clark, the theme of this cruise...only we were much more comfortable than they were in 1804-1806. The story of the Expedition is perfectly suited for this river cruise...an enthralling story which is well portrayed by the boat's resident Riverlorian, Laurence Cotton. We stopped in several river towns all unique and interesting...the Dalles and the Bonneville dam...Richland and its beautiful shoreline park and the area h Museum...Stevenson and the tour to Mt. Hood...we passed through four locks on the Columbia and four locks on the Snake River. Gorgeous scenery everywhere! A Hop On, Hop Off bus follows the boat and is available for free as transporation to sites in each town we visited. If we were not on an early morning premium tour (which you pay extra for) we would board the bus and do the entire route (about an hour normally). Early morning routes include local guides to talk about their community...another great idea. The premium tours were exceptional but cover a lot of territory so be prepared to be tired at the end of the day. I liked the Mt. St. Helen tour and also the Mt Hood tour, where we had scrumptious pastries and got hot drinks in the Timberland Lodge just below the summit. This tour also included a turkey dinner at the local Grange cooked and served by its members...what a pleasant experience that was. And then there was the stop at the local winery for a taste test before going back to the boat...a full day but very lovely. Onboard the boat, the crew is very attentive and service oriented. The entertainment was very good for such a small venue...a married couple are the cruise directors who serve multiple functions and are very outgoing and talented. Solo performers from on shore visit the boat for the evening's entertainment...Cowboy Joe singing and strumming made us all smile as did the other entertaunment. There is a four piece ensemble that provided excellent accompaniment as well. We also took tours of the Bridge and met the Captain Andrea and did a tour of the engine room...an impossibilty these days on all other cruise ships but well worth doing on the Empress. Highly recommend this trip! The only difficulty is getting back to Vancouver. If you fly to Vancouver, arrangements are made at the end of the cruise in Clarkston to bus you to Spokane a couple of hours away to fly home. If you drive to Vancouver, then it is up to you to get back. Renting a car is the best option which requires a short taxi ride ($15) to the Lewiston, Idaho airport to pick up a rental car...but be aware that the Avis/Budget rental agency has limited hours on Sunday the day we disembarked the ship...they do not open until 11 am. We found the best idea was to go pick up our rental car on Saturday...the ship arrives in the a.m. and park the car near the dock...plenty of spaces behind the Quality Inn and golf range. Be sure to check the rental car office hours though...it appears to be a one man operation! I will add that picking up the car on Saturday enabled us to drive around the Lewiston, Idaho area which is very scenic...we drove up the Snake River in Hells Canyon...awesome! Before we picked up the car we did take advantage of the Hop On, Hop Off bus and stayed on the whole circuit to get a great overview of the area. We could not fit in the Jet Boat premium tour in Hells Canyon which those who did raved about. By the way, picking up our rental car on Saturday also enabled us to leave Clarkston very early on Sunday for the 300 plus mile drive back to Vancouver and return the car the same afternoon ($164 for one day). If you pick it up at the 11 am opening time on Sunday, you do not have enough time to drive it back before the car rental office at the Sears Auto Service, Vancouver Mall, closes mid afternoon. So logistics is required for those who leave a car in Vancouver and I would think vice versa if you leave it in Clarkston. So, as I said I do not know why this boat is not full every trip. It is a fantastic experience and well worth every penny we paid. 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

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