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197 American Queen Steamboat Company North America River Cruise Reviews

I sailed on the first Mark Twain theme cruise on the American Queen August 23rd. I suffer from vertigo which becomes massively worse if I lie down and turn my head. This means that I must sleep sitting up, usually in a recliner. I had ... Read More
I sailed on the first Mark Twain theme cruise on the American Queen August 23rd. I suffer from vertigo which becomes massively worse if I lie down and turn my head. This means that I must sleep sitting up, usually in a recliner. I had requested this, but was very nervous that the company might not have chair that worked well for me. When I boarded the boat and the staff came with a recliner for me, I was thrilled and happy. I was also very impressed with kind and attentive care the staff gave to the few passengers with severe disabilities. As a single woman, I did not feel like an odd duck on this cruise. I was once married and went on cruises with my husband. I noticed then that traveling as a single woman on many cruises is not a very good situation. This Riverboat cruise has an atmosphere that stresses the values I believe are important—-namely, American traditions and culture, an appreciation of the heartland with its' river system and diversity in the passengers. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
We chose this cruise as part of our bucket list. The hotel in St.Louis was excellent, all service people very good. The Urban City Park was the highlight. All connections were flawless. Boarding the boat was a very good experience, the ... Read More
We chose this cruise as part of our bucket list. The hotel in St.Louis was excellent, all service people very good. The Urban City Park was the highlight. All connections were flawless. Boarding the boat was a very good experience, the greeting we received in the lobby was very warm and gracious,as we entered our room, our bags were there and a very nice fruit bowl with bottle of wine, very very nice. The dining room servers were very professional and were well trained, we looked forward to seeing James and Taylor each night for dinner, all thou they were busy they seemed to be able to chat and make you feel very welcomed,. The excursions we booked were very educational especially the Metropolitan Hotel in Paducah, Kentucky. Kris, the meet and greet member was just the best, such a nice personality and always a warm smile, a great sense of humor. The Front Porch dining was an experience, the food was good, the wait staff could not have been better, Kim was the most happiest first thing in the morning, a great way to start your day. Our cabin was checked and cleaned every day by ADAM, he also greeted us every morning with coffee and a huge smile, always wanting to do more. He was excellent in his work and the way he presented himself, we just loved having him as our attendant. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
This was our 3rd cruise with AQ. We embarked in St. Paul and returned to St. Paul. This cruise was not the best. Our stay at the Doubletree in St. Paul was not up to the other hotels we have stayed in with AQ. Our room was very dirty ... Read More
This was our 3rd cruise with AQ. We embarked in St. Paul and returned to St. Paul. This cruise was not the best. Our stay at the Doubletree in St. Paul was not up to the other hotels we have stayed in with AQ. Our room was very dirty (carpet dirty) and rust in bathroom. They charged our account $50.00 and were supposed to take it off when we checked out but did not. It has taken 3 phone calls to get this charge off our credit card and still is not done. I would not recommend St.paul cruise. There was not enough to do. Also, it appeared they catered to groups rather than individual guest. The band was excellent but the shows were lacking. Our room attendant was great as was our waiter. We had to fight for a table for 2 because I believe they gave those tables to the group.We have been charged $50.00 twice on our credit card and seems AQ knows nothing about this. Definitely would not recommend this cruise to friends or anyone. Very disappointing particularly when the other 2 cruises had been delightful, one on AQ and the other AE. The disembarkation went smoothly. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
We arrived late in the day at the Doubletree Hotel in St Paul and the AQ Desk was closed. We went up to our room which was more than adequate for an overnight stop and then went into the restaurant for a meal. I use the word restaurant ... Read More
We arrived late in the day at the Doubletree Hotel in St Paul and the AQ Desk was closed. We went up to our room which was more than adequate for an overnight stop and then went into the restaurant for a meal. I use the word restaurant with reservations. It was noisy with 'locals' performing Karaoke and we were surrounded by arcade games, definitely not the sort of place we would normally frequent, or expect to find in a hotel. Sunday was a farce because unless you chose to pay to go on the excursion around St Paul you were left to hang around the hotel for hours waiting for 3pm when we were to board the boat. The hotel reception and all other available seating which was a bit sparse looked like the waiting room of a hospital outpatients. After having to trundle our carry on luggage down a steep slope to the boat we were ushered into the lifts to our deck where upon we found our lovely stateroom, immaculately clean and very well appointed although on first sight it doesn't look that way. As our stay in America was to be much longer than the cruise we had quite a bit more luggage than we would have had for just the cruise but we found ample space for its storage (all out of the cases) and with space to spare. The bathroom was small (well what do you expect on such a vessel) but very well appointed and with nice toiletries and two lovely dressing gowns. There were double doors which opened directly onto the deck and a table and couple of chairs to sit out at our leisure. After unpacking we went of to explore the boat and get our bearings. What a magnificent and opulent boat she is. So 1800s and beautifully maintained and spotless. The JM Dining room was equally opulent and the food served exceptional and we were waited on by the most delectable young lady who attended to our every need. The entertainment was a disappointment since this was supposed to be a 50s/60s Themed Cruise but for the most part we heard nothing but Jazz and even music written in different styles was jazzed up by the piano player in the Captains Bar, who incidentally was so far up himself you couldn't speak to him. He just ignored us when asked if he could play something not jazzed up. We didn't use the pool either, as apart from the rest of the boat, we found the Sun Deck quite dirty and neglected. The pool was cloudy and had 'things' floating in it, not very inviting. There were two types of excursion provided, the usual organised type where you book and pay extra for a dedicated location or activity and which we have found in the past usually more expensive than they are worth. However none of them either appealed to us or were out of our do-able category. We therefore chose the second type, that of a Free Hop On, Hop Off Bus around each of the locations where the Boat visited. We found this to be really handy as we could go the full route making notes of where we would like to visit and then Hop off when we reached them on a subsequent circuit hopping back on to visit the next choice. These buses carried a dedicated tour guide who resided in each of the locations and who were very well informed about their respective towns. Disembarkation was a farce as not being very mobile we had to negotiate the steep slope again only this time upwards, it was only when I were half way up I was offered assistance, which was not previously offered otherwise I would have taken it, being at the point of no return I soldiered on to the waiting queue of taxis (the AQ wanted $25 per person to go by their coach to the airport,having to sit on it until it was full, but it only cost us $40 to go by private taxi, not have to wait, and a much better ride) We would have given an excellent rating, but the Sun Deck and lack of Themed Music let you down. All in all we had a lovely time and were looked after incredibly well throughout our cruise by a most wonderful crew. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
My wife and I sailed on the August 9 departure of the American Empress, a 7-night journey that began in Vancouver WA (across the river from Portland OR) and ended in Clarkston WA, about 2 hours south of Spokane. The cruise exceeded my ... Read More
My wife and I sailed on the August 9 departure of the American Empress, a 7-night journey that began in Vancouver WA (across the river from Portland OR) and ended in Clarkston WA, about 2 hours south of Spokane. The cruise exceeded my expectations and would be enjoyed by just about anyone above age 60 or perhaps younger people traveling with their family. For the record, we are a 65-year old retired couple from California. The ship carries about 200 passengers, most in cabins with a balcony. One quirk is that the more expensive cabins/suites are on deck 4, the promenade deck. These cabins have an outside seating area with a short "fence" cordoning it off from the promenade walkway so there is less privacy in these cabins. Those in window cabins can still enjoy the river views and there are several comfortable outdoor seating venues on different decks. Our category C balcony cabin on deck 2 was a bit small but completely adequate and comfortable. It included a refrigerator, flat screen TV and a safe. Wi-Fi generally worked well in our cabin. The speed was about what you would expect on an ocean cruise, faster than dial-up but far slower than on your home cable modem. The dining experience was very good to excellent. For breakfast and lunch there are two venues, a sit-down meal in the main dining room and a buffet on the top deck. In both cases the offerings were not as numerous as you would find on a sea cruise but there was enough variety to please me. We ate all of our breakfasts at the buffet; I was very impressed with the summertime fruit selection. A 'made to order' omelet station was also available. We ate most lunches in the sit-down venue. There were a few choices from a 2-course menu with optional dessert. Service was prompt. The buffet lunch also featured a grill offering hamburgers and hot dogs. For dinner the buffet area was converted to an alternative restaurant with tablecloths; advance reservations are required with a limit of 2 visits per voyage. The River Grill featured a fixed menu that included entrees like lamb chops, filet, and lobster. Service was attentive. Tables for 2 are very small so it is useful to share a table with others. Dinner in the main dining room offered open seating at two times, 5:30 and 7:45. The menu generally consisted of a choice of 2 appetizers, a soup, a salad and a choice of about 4 or 5 entrees, one being vegetarian. Wine is offered each evening with dinner, one white and one red. The reds were generally pretty good or better. However on two evenings the white wine offered was off-dry to sweet, not a good choice for dinner. Wine service was very attentive with generous pours. Many evenings I requested a final glass of wine to take to the show. I was pleasantly surprised by the on-board entertainment. Each evening there was a 45-minute show in the show lounge featuring a 4-piece band. The cruise directors, a husband and wife team, provided excellent singing and dancing most evenings. A guest banjo/guitarist, Will Kiefer, gave excellent performances on two evenings. The shows were augmented with a humorous piano-bar entertainer in the main bar. My only criticism of the entertainment was that the song selection was a bit stodgy, more "Lawrence Welk" than 'Woodstock". As I pointed out in my on-board ship review, those of us that are now 65 are part of the "Woodstock Generation" and we will begin to represent a greater portion of their passenger demographic. Another key aspect of the entertainment was a series of talks provided by the Riverlorian, Lawrence Cotton for this voyage. A highlight was his two-part depiction of the Lewis and Clark journey from the early 1800s. He managed to bring this adventure to life. He was also frequently on deck chatting with passengers. On occasion he would take to the PA system to narrate scenery or lock transits. Shore excursions were very well designed and executed. Each port featured a no-cost "Hop-on Hop-off" bus service that visited several attractions. A good map with the bus timetable was provided for each port. Generally you could also purchase a premium excursion for more in-depth exploration. The optional shore excursions were priced similar to sea cruise excursions. The full-day Columbia Gorge excursion was a highlight. We also very much enjoyed the half-day wine excursion. Of the Ho-Ho trips, we enjoyed Astoria the most. Suggestions: --Cruise direction of travel: I recommend the westbound itinerary for a few reasons. Eastern Washington is dry and dusty. I would have preferred to end the trip with the more lush scenery of the Columbia Gorge and western Oregon. Flights out of Spokane are more limited than from Portland; it is good to get the more difficult flight out of the way initially by flying into Spokane. --the no cost Ho-Ho bus tickets are required for the first few departures. This is to avoid crowding. The tickets and map are available the evening before; it is prudent to get them early so that you can secure your desired departure time. --Make reservations for the River Grill dinner shortly after embarking the boat. Try to pick evenings where the ship is traveling rather than docked; this provides better views while dining. And generally you can secure a third night if you also ask for dinner the night of boarding; this doesn't count against your two-night quota. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
I recently did a week long cruise on the upper Mississippi on the American Queen. Gliding up the river on this paddle wheel boat was a great way to experience our mid west. The overall experience was excellent. The food was great (10/10) ... Read More
I recently did a week long cruise on the upper Mississippi on the American Queen. Gliding up the river on this paddle wheel boat was a great way to experience our mid west. The overall experience was excellent. The food was great (10/10) and featured local cuisine. After recently doing a river cruise in Europe, I though I might be a bit let down. Actually, I enjoyed this cruise more. The staff was friendly and very helpful. Since the boat has only 200 cabins, there was a more intimate feel to the experience. I was amazed at how many people were repeat sailors on this cruise which says a lot. I really enjoyed the stop in Hannibal, MO to experience the home of Mark Twain. The entertainment was beyond my expectations featuring some great young talent. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone and hope to do another trip on this boat in the future. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
This was my fourth AQ trip - Columbia/Snake River, Ohio River, lower Mississippi and this one on the upper Mississippi from St Louis to Minneapolis/St Paul, MN. As always AQ trips start with an overnight in the embarkation port - this ... Read More
This was my fourth AQ trip - Columbia/Snake River, Ohio River, lower Mississippi and this one on the upper Mississippi from St Louis to Minneapolis/St Paul, MN. As always AQ trips start with an overnight in the embarkation port - this time St Louis where we were put up at the Hilton Ballpark, just across the street from the Cardinal's Stadium where they played both that night and the next day, which made for a "busy" hotel. After breakfast (on AQ) and check in for the voyage, most of us took an extra cost Premium Tour of St Louis and then were delivered to the "boat" in Alton IL as the boat could not tie up in downtown St Louis due to high water and construction. Remember - a cruise ship is called a "ship", but a river cruise ship is called a "boat". Our luggage, picked up from our hotel rooms, was on the bed in our cabins. So nice to not have X Ray and other inspections as on other lines going on the high seas. Underway for Hannibal MO, a day "Riverboating, Clinton IA, Dubuque IA, La Crosse WI, Red Wing MN. We usually arrived in these towns about noon for a 5 hour stay. As always AQ's three "Hop On/Hop Off" busses accompanied us and provided tours at each stop. In addition there was usually one or more extra cost "Premium Tours available. Food on AQ is outstanding at all meals but is a little "spicy" reflecting their New Orleans origins. New this year is "room service" for those desiring at all meals. Food is also available at a simpler buffet called the Front Porch, and snacks are available at all times. Additionally bottled water, sodas, various coffees and ice cream, are always available, and complimentary beer/wine are served at dinner. Food quality and service are outstanding. Both a menu and a buffet are offered at breakfast and lunch in the Dining Room, and a menu in the evening for dinner. Dress is "resort elegant" - in other words collared shirts for men, but ties and coats not needed AQ offers a quality product, but as it is American owned and crewed (with US wages etc), their fares are significantly higher than on foreign owned, ocean going cruises averaging $450 per pers/per day I cannot rate AQ high enough and am very surprised that the Queen's rating here on CC is only 66% favorable. Only recently has AQ introduced "single fares, as opposed to their double fare for singles in the past. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
Our third cruise on the American Queen...what a pleasure, again. We went from Cincinnati to St. Louis. You've never been on a realistic river cruise until you've been on the American Queen steaming the waters of the Ohio or ... Read More
Our third cruise on the American Queen...what a pleasure, again. We went from Cincinnati to St. Louis. You've never been on a realistic river cruise until you've been on the American Queen steaming the waters of the Ohio or Mississippi. A very easy and relaxing way to cruise. Can't beat the food quality and selection, service, entertainment and the hop on hop off shore program. Be sure not to miss Jerry Hay's riverlorian talks...very informative, interesting and entertaining. Our cabin on the 4th deck was very comfortable and we loved the fact we could go right outside and sit and visit on the open deck. Ivie was one of the best cabin stewards we have ever experienced...thanks for being so nice and accommodating. The front porch of America forward on the 3rd deck was nice with swings, rockers and both inside and outside seating for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We seemed to migrate to the open deck on the 4th deck forward to sit in a rocker and watch the river go by. The theater is awesome and the entertainment as good if not better than the ocean going ships'. Very good band and singers and most of the songs you know and could sing along with. The Mark Twain and the Dixieland shows were very good as well. The food in the main restaurant and front porch was excellent...prime rib, beef brisket, catfish, quail, duck, salmon, etc. and of course, free beer and wine selections at dinner. All employees were friendly and seemed to be truly interested in making sure all of your needs were taken care of. There were a few kids on board (all well behaved I might add), but I would say most passengers are between 50 and 80. Ship is small, 6 decks, so its very easy to get around and you get to know your fellow passengers. Overall, this is a great boat and the owners have done a great job keeping this piece of American history alive and well. Why would you go all the way to Europe to do a riverboat cruise when the American Queen is right here in America...easy to travel to and from embarkation/disembarkation ports and being able to experience the "highways" our ancestors traveled during our westward expansion. Best kept secret in America...we can't wait to cruise again on the American Queen. Met the owner, John Waggoner, on this cruise. What a gentleman and we were very impressed with how available he made himself to both crew and passengers alike. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
Everything was beyond what I expected. Larger cabin, comfortable bed, excellent food. And the service - bar manager, cruise directors, Carmen the Maitre D', the housekeepers, Anton in Astoria Room, Richard and Jill and Shade and ... Read More
Everything was beyond what I expected. Larger cabin, comfortable bed, excellent food. And the service - bar manager, cruise directors, Carmen the Maitre D', the housekeepers, Anton in Astoria Room, Richard and Jill and Shade and Michael in the River Grill - all were wonderful and treated everyone like they were royalty. Food was locally sourced and inspired, and of course delicious. Weather was great that week, and the locks and dams provided great views. Last day in Astoria offered a nice 'Lewis and Clark Experience' excursion that I would recommend. Would also recommend travelling east to west, following the L&C passage. Davenport Hotel in Spokane is beautiful, and the check-in easy as could be. Unlike a previous reviewer, my (very comfortable) bus had wi-fi and a bathroom. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
I am not a professional reviewer, and this is just my opinion. Two years ago my wife and I cruised down the Mississippi River from Memphis to New Orleans and we returned enchanted by our voyage. So much so that we decided this years to ... Read More
I am not a professional reviewer, and this is just my opinion. Two years ago my wife and I cruised down the Mississippi River from Memphis to New Orleans and we returned enchanted by our voyage. So much so that we decided this years to go the opposite direction and sail from Memphis to CIncinnati - and we convinced six of our friends to come long. American Queen never even acknowledged that, let alone give us any credit. Well, what a difference two years make..! Structurally there have been changes in the boat, because every time it rained the "squeegee brigade" was hard at work trying to get rid of accumulated water on the deck outside walkways. Other things have not changed, such as nice staterooms, and a generally terrific crew. I say generally, because in the dining room, especially at breakfast, some of the personnel clearly showed by their demeanor that they wished they were somewhere else, and others wandered aimlessly around the dining room, empty-handed and ignoring soiled plates accumulating on the tables. Entertainment during the first week was excellent, but on the second week it was all different. The musicians and singers were all different and the shows turned out to be rather mediocre. Compared to two years earlier, the food was quite a letdown. It seems that Regina Charbonneau is no longer supervising the cuisine, and it showed. Buffets (breakfast and lunch) were generally fine, except for cloying, unimaginative desserts, but anything that came from the menus at lunch and dinner were a disaster. It should also be noted that the menus did not change from week to week so we had the exact same stuff served during the two weeks we cruised. Our impression was that anything which was baked, roaste, sautéed, or fried had been prepared hours earlier and kept warm under infrared lights, because it was all overcooked, limp, or lukewarm. Portions of some items were ridiculously small. Compared again to two years earlier, the kitchen failed in the execution of most dishes. The excursion system was still mostly adequate, with a big BUT. Our second week's theme was "Bourbon" and the boat had arranged for excursions to a number of distilleries. As it turned out, our entire group (two buses) was turned away from the interesting part of the Four Roses distillery because, according to the distillery reception, we had "missed our appointment" so three hours or so in the bus turned out for naught. The following day, the same group - more or less - again trekked for hours in a bus to go visit the Buffalo Trace distillery. Again we were denied a visit of the fermentation and distillation facilities because of "summer leaning". As it turned out, one of the distillery employees told me in confidence that it was the boat, and not the distillery, who had nixed visit of these facilities, because the passengers would not have been able to negotiate all the stairs to access them (and that person offered me a VIP tour on my next visit). So we ended up with a quick look at one of the ageing warehouses, a small bottling plant and a small tasting. But the "best" was yet to come. Upon arrival at our destination in Cincinnati, we embarked on a bus tour of the city prior to getting to our hotel, the luxurious Hilton Netherland Plaza. The entire city was a zoo, owing to the MLB All-Star Week which attracted 100,000 people and probably more. At the reception, we were informed that our name was not on their list, even though the hotel stay was an integral part of the cruise. Of course there was not a single room left at the hotel or anywhere in Cincinnati for that matter. American Queen representatives had left, so we were on our own... After much anxious time and many phone calls, we were lucky enough to secure a room - at the Airport, 20 miles away. Upon our return to San Francisco I got in touch with the company excursion supervisor, who said she would investigate the matter. A few days later after I called again, she blithely told me that "we messed up because something happened in IT", offered a rather insincere apology and said that the company would reimburse us for the hotel night we spent, and no more. When asked about giving us some credit to a future cruise, she said no and that was it. Needless to say, there is a very small chance of us cruising with American Queen ever again. Read Less
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
Sail Date June 2015
This was an impulse trip that my husband wanted to do. I thought going on this trip might be a little boring. Boy was I wrong. First of all the boat is beautiful. Fully renovated in the true style of the time. Our room had a veranda and it ... Read More
This was an impulse trip that my husband wanted to do. I thought going on this trip might be a little boring. Boy was I wrong. First of all the boat is beautiful. Fully renovated in the true style of the time. Our room had a veranda and it was great having coffee service bought to the room each morning and sitting out there watching the river roll by. The beds are as comfortable as any five star hotel. The crew is outstanding, always smiling and ready to help you. Most of the time they were coming over just to see if you need something. They have the formal dinning room which is beautiful and the food was wonderful. Great selections everyday. If you want more casual dinning, go to the front porch and enjoy the open air dinning. The shows are spectacular, a seven piece orchestra and great performers. Something unique each night. The ports that we stopped at are historical and very interesting. You have the option to do tours that are included in the price or premium tours that they offer. We did about half and half. One of the great things about the cruise is because this is not a huge cruise ship, you get to know the people on board. We made some lifelong friendships this week. All in all it was a great trip and we will definitely go again. They are several different routes you can take. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
First, a caveat: I am not an aficionado of cruise ships, and furthermore the only two cruises I have previously taken were by Crystal Cruises and Oceania, so I not only may not know what serious cruisers like, I also probably have ... Read More
First, a caveat: I am not an aficionado of cruise ships, and furthermore the only two cruises I have previously taken were by Crystal Cruises and Oceania, so I not only may not know what serious cruisers like, I also probably have unrealistically high expectations for food, facilities and service. Having said all that, I did enjoy our cruise on the American Empress down the Snake and Colombia Rivers, and can generally recommend it, with a few cautions. The short version: If you don't require polished 5 star service, perfectly consistent cuisine, always fascinating ports of call, youthful fellow passengers, and a deep roster of onboard entertainment, but do enjoy watching a variety of rugged scenery slip by your balcony, lazy days of reading and lounging, watching wildlife, day trips to view natural splendor, and learning the history of the land and the early explorers, this could be the trip for you. The longer version, divided by topic: The ship: This is a small ship with only four public decks and approximately 115 cabins, not one of the behemoths that sail the seas, but it has to be svelte in order to fit through the many locks that line the river. And it's a reasonably faithful replica of a paddle wheel steamer of Mark Twain's day, though with modern diesel engines. The boat is historically appropriate in that a century ago, luxury paddle wheelers were common on the Columbia River. Compared to a top tier ocean liner, it doesn't dazzle with wall to wall polished brass and crystal, but the public areas are nicely appointed, usually in period style, clean and well maintained. The cabins are likewise clean and feature the amenities you would expect in a modern cruise ship, but if you travel with a number of electronic gizmos requiring regular charging, you will want to bring some sort of outlet multiplier, though they do provide an iPod/radio dock with a modern iPhone jack, a USB port, and a mini audio cable. There is ship-wide free WiFi, though it can be a bit intermittent and is never what you would call fast. The bed is quite comfortable, but the feather pillows a bit slab like. As a nice bonus, all cabins feature balconies, though the cheaper fourth deck cabins (where we stayed) don't have private balconies, since the promenade deck for walking or running goes on the outside of these balconies' railings. There is a main formal dining room on the first deck, along with a theater/lecture hall and a tiny shop; on the second aft deck is the bar/library/lounge, featuring comfy chairs, a small performance stage, and a cool view of the giant paddle wheel turning through the aft window; and on the fourth deck is the more casual grill restaurant, which also features patio seating on the aft deck. That's basically it – there's no gym, spa, guest laundry, pool, etc. From the outside, the boat is pure photographer eye candy, and predictably drew a throng of gawkers wherever we berthed. One minor facilities complaint: the public areas tend to be cooled to walk-in freezer temperature levels, which was welcome when we were sweltering in 100+ degrees outside at the beginning of the voyage, but not so much when we got to the chilly coast. Hardest to understand was the fourth deck grill, where on a chilly day in Astoria they had all the exterior deck doors open at lunch hour and when we pointed this out, the waitress shrugged and apologized but did nothing. Realizing there was a reason the only people in there was one bundled up group of diners, we took our plates to the cabin and cranked the heat up. The crew/staff: Those in senior positions (officers, bar manager, maitre'd, purser, head of housekeeping) were pleasant, professional, articulate, and helpful. Many of the rest of the line staff were...unpolished. Not rude, not disrespectful, not incompetent, not unhelpful, just kind of young, well meaning and uncouth. So be warned: if you are a connoisseur of high end international cruise lines where they train their staff like they worked in a 5 star European hotel, you may occasionally get your fur rubbed the wrong way. If you don't rank your specialness too highly, you'll do just fine. In terms of handling logistics, everything seemed well organized and efficient. The entertainment: Sorry, can't help much here, since this isn't our scene, but as stated above, this is a small boat, with very limited space, so you are not going to see a wide variety of options. The "Riverlorean", the resident historian and local expert who gave periodic lectures on contextual history as well as spontaneous commentary as we sailed past various landmarks, was knowledgeable, articulate and interesting. Much of the entertainment that we skipped seemed aimed at the post-retirement crowd, which brings me to: Fellow passengers: I'm 50. Until a family with teens joined us mid-cruise, I was probably the youngest person on board, though there may have been 3-4 other passengers who might possibly have held that title, but only by a year or two. Between this handful of us and the rest there was a big leap of about a decade. I would guess the median passenger age was 70, with a large contingent in walkers or other assistive devices (which frequently made boarding and exiting buses a very leisurely affair). I have no idea if this was a demographic fluke or the norm for this cruise, but if your idea of a perfect cruise is being around an active posse of your peers, and your peer group is not a retirement home, this may not be for you. Although it was a little odd for us – our two previous cruises, though geared towards mature adults, at least had all age demographics somewhat represented – we are two introverts who mostly don't go on these trips to socialize and meet people, so it wasn't a deal breaker. And the cruise served as a good reminder to check our ageism at the door, since several folks we met were bright, interesting and engaging. The cuisine: As noted above, there are two restaurants on the boat. The semi-formal main dining room was a pleasant surprise: cuisine that would stand up well in a sophisticated foodie city like San Francisco or New York, with delicate favors, artistic presentation, and light portions that lend themselves to a multi course meal that won't leave you feeling bloated. The cuisine emphasizes seafood, but always included a vegetarian option and usually some sort of red meat entree. The fourth deck grill is another affair. Food there is served cafeteria style for breakfast and lunch, and anything served in a stainless steel food warmer is best avoided (a coagulated grey goo with occasional fragments of shrimp billed as "bow tie pasta with shrimp" comes to mind, as do ice cold barbecue ribs). On the positive side, their lunch hot dog/hamburger grilled to order items were excellent, and if you avoid the aforementioned stainless steel food warmers at breakfast, you can put together a satisfying and healthy continental breakfast. At night this space transforms into their specialty bistro style, reservation-only restaurant. We ate there only one night, and found the menu not terribly different from that of the main dining room, the service slower, the preparation more hit or miss (tough and chewy lobster tail), and the late afternoon light more glaring, and opted not to dine there again. Beer and wine are included at dinner, and are extra cost at other times, as are cocktails. They feature northwest coastal wineries and breweries, with mostly quite good selections, though for dinner there is only one red and one white offered each night, so if you don't like their selections you are out of luck. We attended a local beer tasting and a local whiskey tasting another night (both extra), and were pleased by both. The bar doesn't have a particularly deep roster of spirits, and their mixed drinks trend fruity and a bit sweet, and at least one traditional cocktail was done all wrong (a Sazerac with too much simple syrup, no discernible absinthe flavor, shaken, and served in a martini glass = fail). The itinerary/attractions: We started in the eastern end with a pre-cruise hotel night in Spokane and went west, ending in Portland (or more technically, in Vancouver, Washington, Portland's sister city across the Columbia River). The hotel in Spokane was a delight -- see my separate review of the historic Davenport Hotel on Trip Advisor for details. You are then bussed a few hours drive south to the embarkation port, driving through the lush green rolling hills of the beautiful Palouse district. The boat actually zigs and zags back and forth along the river, sometimes doubling back a whole day's journey, presumably in order to make this a full week's cruise, but the scenery is so attractive it's not a problem. Eastern Washington and Oregon may come as a surprise to those whose image of the Pacific Northwest is based on the Oregon coast and Seattle. Mostly it is a treeless desert, with craggy basalt cliffs lining the river, and a hot dry climate -- temps were over 100 our first couple of days. By about halfway through the cruise, when you enter the Columbia Gorge, the terrain begins to change dramatically to what most think of a more typical of the area, with towering cliffs covered in fir trees, and beautiful Mount Hood as a backdrop. The weather also changes, with temperatures dropping and also sometimes major winds, since the Columbia Gorge is a bit of a wind tunnel. One fun feature of the trip is to be on deck when you go through one of the many locks that line the river. Particularly dramatic were the Bonneville Dam and the John Day Dam. With the exception of one day of cruising only, each day included a full day stop at a different port. Let's be honest: the small Idaho, Washington, and Oregon towns that make up most of the ports are not Venice. They are not Barcelona. They are not even Sitka. They are mostly smallish industrial towns, some of which clearly are economically depressed and still waiting for the economic recovery to reach them, with many empty storefronts, and extremely eager members of the town council waiting to greet the boat and point out their attractions. They usually have a historic downtown a few blocks long, usually have a historic museum in some old courthouse, and sometimes have a recently built history and/or natural history museum on the outskirts of town. If you don't know anything about Lewis and Clark, you will by the end of the trip, because the cruise retraces their journey, and every stop features historical sites related to it. It's not until you get to Astoria on the coast that you find a town with any shopping district to speak of. The town of Richland has a very pretty waterfront park that is perfect for walking or jogging. Each stop includes an included hop on, hop off bus service from the boat with stops at the main points of interest, most of which have their admission fees covered by the cruise company. A local guide is on the bus providing narration, which is either a nice feature or an intrusive annoyance, depending on the guide; one in particular in Richland sounded like she was giving an aggressive and endless sales pitch from the local Chamber of Commerce, while others were more interesting. To access much more of an attraction than historical sites and museums, you need to get on one of the premium excursions, which are usually half day affairs around $60 a head. We'd only did three: the Spokane city tour, because we didn't know what we would do with ourselves while waiting for the bus to the boat (at 3.5 hours the tour was a little long, but a nice way to see the lovely parks and historic mansions of the town), the half day Multnomah Falls tour, which also hits several other spectacular viewpoints and falls (highly recommended), and the half day Maryhill Museum/wine tasting/Stonehenge replica tour (also recommended). There were some fun sounding and more active excursions such as zip lining and jet boating, but we weren't physically up to these, as well as excursions focused on wine tasting, antiques, etc. The cruise runs both directions of the route, but I would probably recommend the direction we took, in that although the eastern desert has its own surreal beauty, the quality of both the scenery and the communities improve as you proceed west, and to do the cruise the other direction might feel like a journey with diminishing returns. Read Less
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
Sail Date June 2015
American Empress May 30 to June 7, 2015 First a little about us. We have sailed on 39 ocean cruises and one European river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest. This is our first riverboat cruise. My husband is a retired Air Force Colonel ... Read More
American Empress May 30 to June 7, 2015 First a little about us. We have sailed on 39 ocean cruises and one European river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest. This is our first riverboat cruise. My husband is a retired Air Force Colonel and I am a tour guide. We are in our mid 50's living in Georgia. I've written this from notes I made each day of our trip and hope it will be helpful to others. Happy to answer any questions. Sat May 30- Pre-Cruise overnight in Vancouver, Washington Flight on Delta from ATL to Portland was smooth. Airport was easy to navigate and finding Blue Star shuttle was right outside on Island 2 as indicated on our paperwork. Our ride across the Columbia River to Vancouver, Washington to our Hilton Hotel only took about 10 minutes. We were checked in within minutes and ready to explore. (Ask for a room overlooking the park for the best rooms). An overnight stay is included with every sailing for the night before your trip begins. The Hilton was a great hotel to start our journey Lucky for us there was a farmers market and free family day at the Ester Short Park across the street. We spent the afternoon exploring by foot and constantly in awe of the beautiful flowers. Many vendors were making bouquets for sale. I really wanted to purchase one for our balcony, but we were not going directly to our ship, but on a city tour tomorrow and I wasn’t sure how I would be able to maintain it’s beauty until we boarded. Too bad because they were gorgeous (for $10 the bouquets were over a foot in diameter). I will be on the lookout for flowers in Astoria, our first port stop. We chose to eat dinner in the hotel and adjust to the three hour time change. Watching a little TV we were lucky to catch the night parade for the Rose Festival which happens to begin this weekend. Lucky for us to be here during the rose blooming season. Portland is known as the Rose City and our tour tomorrow will take us into the city and allow us to see how Portland got their nickname. Sunday. May 31 – Portland City Tour and Embarkation Day Our luggage had to be ready for pickup by 8:00am inside our room. An included breakfast buffet at the hotel was delicious. Afterwards we went to check in at a conference room here in the hotel and received our boarding passes- we are official now and ready to board. You can also book reservations for the River Grill, the free Empress Specialty restaurant. You may select two nights for dinner here. (Later we learned during the cruise you may be able to eat there more times depending on other reservations.) Nice that is done here at the hotel before getting to the ship. We met the Riverlorean, Laurence, and several other crew members. Some passengers left at 7:45 this morning for a Mt St. Helens tour and will go directly to the ship upon their return and be checked in at that time. All very orderly process I'm observing so far. An orientation meeting was held at 10:30 am with the shore excursions staff. Very good overview of life on board and shore excursions offered during the stops and how the Free hop-on-off sight-seeing process works. Again, impressed. Room was full. We are for certain among the younger in the group. But they look very mobile. The ship is sailing at capacity (200), so we will see how they manage the people. Lezlie, our shore excursion representative is full of energy and helpful. She seemed to be everywhere all week and works very hard to make sure everyone is having a good time and seeing all that’s offered at our stops. She is a wealth of information. She works on board the Empress and also on board the Queen. At 12:30 we set off with about 50 of our fellow passengers on a tour of Portland and Vancouver. Our first stop was the old Vancouver Fort which is the original start for the Hudson Bay Company, the original fur trading company. One of our stops is at the test garden for roses. Oldest public rose garden in the nation. Since 1917. Over 35 varieties. It was in its prime. The fragrance was heavenly. Roses before 1867 were called Old Roses, those new types after 1867 are known as Modern Roses. I have never seen roses more beautiful in every color imaginable. What a treat to be here for this event. Upon leaving the Rose Park we received Portlans’d famous Voodoo donuts. This venue is very popular with people standing in long lines to purchase. Their size was quite large, but I’d rather have Krispy Kreme – sorry Portland. Our last stop was at the Lam Su Chinese Gardens within the city of Portland. What a beautiful serene place within the city. A tranquil garden unexpected to find in this area of the city. We arrived at the American Empress a little past 4pm. We walked directly on board using our boarding card given to us at check in ealier that day at the hotel. We were greeted by crew members on each floor happy to assist with directions to staterooms. A nice treat for everyone were cookies immediately as we got on board. Our stateroom #210 was quite charming-a queen bed with night stands on each side. Desk with chair, two other chairs, a double closet with ample hangers and three drawers. Lots of space. A shower only in our bathroom which isn't huge but adequate enough space. We have a balcony with two nice chairs and a nice size table. Will be nice for outdoor dining. Room service is available from 6am to 11 pm with the same lunch and dinner menu from the Astoria dining room available when they are open. We will certainly be having some of our evening meals in our room for convenience and to enjoy the scenery from our balcony. There is a clock radio with a docking station to charge your iPhone. Two outlets in the room and one in the bathroom. Lots of hangers. TV is local network channels out of Los Angeles ??? Surprised by that, but clear reception. WiFi is free but sometimes slow. A Keurig coffee maker with several flavor coffee choices, bottled water replinshed and found everywhere on board at any time, robes, and slippers are nice amenities found in our stateroom. The muster drill consisted of everyone taking their life jackets into the hall with our room stewards giving us directions on how to put them on, the captain ( which is female) spoke briefly about safety and it was over-10 minutes max. We had dinner in the complimentary specialty restaurant, The River Grill, this evening. You can make reservations here two times during the week so we chose tonight and will dine there again on Friday. We chose the salmon and filet mignon. Both were very good. Wine and beer is included with your lunch and dinner. The weather could not be better. Walking outside is very pleasant. Some are enjoying the views sitting in the many rocking chairs scattered among the outside decks. We went to the entertainment show introducing the crew and giving a highlight of the upcoming weeks entertainment. Champagne was given to everyone attending. Monday, June 1-on our way Astoria, Oregon Beds were very comfortable. My body is still on east coast time, so woke earlier than I would have preferred but rested well. We docked sometime in the night and didn't even know. You can't tell if the boat is moving or not. It's very smooth. Breakfast buffet in the River Grill was very good. It opens at 6:30 and the Astoria opens at 7 if you would like to be served. You can get made to order omelet’s in the grill and we enjoyed the Beautiful room with glass windows allowing for great views. Unfortunately it's a drizzly morning in the high 50's which isn't the pretty day we had hoped. We dressed in layers and put on our rain gear to get on the first hop on hop off bus leaving at 8:30. Their system for complimentary tours is easy to use. Each evening before the next day's stop, different color passes with departure times are outside the guest service’s office for you to go by and select a time you would like to depart on the next days tour. You take the number of passes needed with you and pick up a map. Be at your departure time pick up spot 15 minutes before departing with your passes with your ticket and off you go. Guides are on board for the first four hours as the special wrapped American Empress motor coaches make continuous loops throughout the day. The full loop on today's Astoria Hop on Hop off takes about 50 minutes. A Lewis and Clark Discovery Center tour including a trip to Cape Disappointment was offered in the afternoon along with a zip line your. It's a very nice small town that feels a little like frozen in time. A most enjoyable day even with the weather not so beautiful. Activities on board for the afternoon included Trivia, a beer tasting of the local beers, and a lecture by the on board Riverlorean on the area and what we will see over the next days of our journey. We chose to have dinner in our cabin this evening. A nice benefit of the American Empress is they allow you to Order from the main dining rooms lunch and dinner menu and have it delivered to your cabin as well as the normal in room dining menu. It is very relaxing to have a meal on your balcony as you watch the scenery sailing by. I'm very happy to be on this trip. Tuesday, June 2, The Dalles A 5:45 am sail by of Multnomah Falls as we make our way into The Dalles. Our Riverlorean lectures beginning at 7am as we are sailing into this region. An interesting fact about the area is one of Googles Data Centers is located here. I think it was a chosen location because of their green environment. This morning our journey takes us between beautiful green mountains on both sides of the Columbia River. The spectacular waterfalls were on the starboard (right) side. The air is clean and quite cool at 49 degrees. The trees are tall and majestic. Such a beautiful place. We entered our first of 8 locks this morning. The Columbia River falls two feet every mile in comparison to the Mississippi which falls 2 inches per mile. Thus the 14 hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River. Very nice to have our Riverlorean giving commentary as we sail along. Easy to hear in your stateroom or sitting in the very comfortable rocking chairs on the outside decks. Sailing thru the Columbia River Gorge was very picturesque. Many fishing boats were fishing for salmon. As we approached The Dalles, the terrain turned from green forests with waterfalls falling from mountain cliffs to smooth top grassy hills-a quick changing stark contrast. Very, very windy as we anchored at The Dalles. The clouds are gone and sunshine is abundant at 68 degrees but the wind still makes a light jacket feel good. Five stops on the hop on hop off tour will take about 40 minutes to do the entire loop. Nice Discovery Museum will take most of your time to explore history of the area and other Lewis and Clark info. Very well done in a beautiful scenic location. Boat docks close to an easy walk into town. Many may enjoy dinner or cocktails there tonight as we will stay docked until about 3am before making our way back down River to Stevenson. Not really sure why we come here and then back track but gives us an opportunity to see this area again tomorrow as we will continue our journey eastward. Wednesday, June 3-Stevenson We backtracked downriver this morning, unsure why the itinerary calls for a backtrack, but gives us a chance to see the waterfalls and lush green trees of the Gorge once more. We are 20+ miles from Portland and have been gone 4 days-LoL. This is not a fast paced journey – very relaxing and time to enjoy the beauty as you pass along. This morning the clouds are low and a little cool around 56 degrees. I'm grateful I brought some clothes to layer. It has felt good having two sleeves and my rain jacket. After today I think we will see the temperatures rise. We are off to see the Bonneville Dam and a tour of the town on our morning Hop on Hop Off tour. Our premium excursion (extra $$) this afternoon will be to go to Multnomah Falls. A very busy day. We enjoyed our Bonneville Dam tour and seeing how the fish ladders are provided for the salmon to make their way upstream. Fascinating viewing area below the water line to watch the fish. The falls excursion did not disappoint. Such lush forests and spectacular waterfalls, not just Multnomah, which happens to be the most photographed in Oregon, but many of the others were just as breathtaking. The trip up to Vista House is worth it to see this magnificent structure and take in the views. WOW!! A great trip. A great day! This evening at 5pm we begin our journey again eastward as we leave Stephenson leaving the lush green forests and rugged Cascade mountains behind to a much more flat and dryer terrain. We pass thru The Dalles lock at dusk and will pass thru John Day lock in the night rising further elevation with each lock exit. Excited to see what lies ahead. Thursday, June 4-Cruising to Richland It was very nice to have a leisurely morning to enjoy the views from our balcony. The sun is shining and the temperature has risen considerably. We will be in the 80's today. By 8am we are passing thru our final lock on the Columbia River, McNary. Once thru the lock we stop and disembark those who are taking the day’s premium excursion on the Wild West tour. We will pick them up once docked in Richland. Our arrival time will be 1pm where we will overnight departing on Friday at 5pm. The Riverlorian gave another talk on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, there was a Zumba class, future cruise talk and a disembarkation talk in the morning as we make our way up the river to Richland. Today we will leave the Columbia and join the Snake River, the Columbia's largest tributary. Our views today are a starkly different to what we've enjoyed these past days. There are no trees. Brown mostly flat dry land. Lunch on our balcony was very pleasant today. The water is as smooth as glass today. Lots of birds to watch. Arrival into the Tri-City area is more alive with trees and life. We took the tour out to the REACH which was interesting showing how a secret mission contributing to the build of the atomic bomb for WWII was carried out here in the area, a part of the Manhattan project. Do not miss this. Very interesting history. We took a nice stroll around town and enjoyed the town's evening park festivities with a live band and food. They have this in the park every Thursday during the summer months. Fun times. We ordered room service and enjoyed Bison ribeye on our balcony. What a wonderful day. Friday, June 5, Richland Our side of the boat faces the river while docked in Richland, and what a beautiful view we have this morning. The water is as smooth as glass. The sun is shining brightly. It will be a leisurely day for us as we are here until 5pm. We had breakfast in the River Grill, which seems to be our favorite spot for the beautiful views it allows and the many choices from the buffet or made to order grill. We spoke to some passengers at breakfast who are going Kayaking, one couple has rented a car, and some of us will be walking downtown to the Friday morning flea market. The Hop On Hop Off tours are being offered today and a winery premium option tour in the afternoon. Not to mention the on board lectures by the Riverlorian and engine room and pilot house tours. Choices you make to be as busy as you like or just relax. It was nice to have a relaxing day to sit and watch the river sitting on our balcony. I'm very happy we are on the port side at each port to see the water when we've docked. I've contemplated all day which route direction would be the favored. I have to say they both are good for different preferences. If you prefer to have lots of full days with many activities at the beginning of your trip, I'd choose the Portland to Clarkston route. If you'd prefer more upfront relaxing days, choose the Clarkston to Portland route. With either route you will not be disappointed. We departed Richland at 5pm this afternoon. Phone coverage soon departed us as well. WiFi was not really present and pretty slow. We left the Columbia River and began our journey up the Snake River passing lots of farm land. Soon we were passing through our first of 4 locks we will traverse on our way to Clarkston. After passing through this lock within an hour we found the river to flow between high banked rock ledges - again such a drastic change to the topography. I look forward to seeing what the area surrounding the Clarkston/ Lewiston area will look like. I'm excited to go tomorrow on the jet boat ride through Hells Canyon, the deepest gorge in America. Unfortunately tomorrow will be the last day of this wonderful trip. Saturday, June 6 Clarkston I understand why they told us no cellphone coverage. We continued to sail through deep rock canyons all through the night. I wished for daylight so I could see their majestic beauty. By morning the rocky sides have softened somewhat and appear to have a short greenish brown grass covering. It is very baron but has its own beauty. I could enjoy this peace forever. Several activities are offered on board this morning while we make our way to our noon docking time. I don't want to think about how soon this wonderful trip will be ending. We docked in Clarkston around 10am. When we docked I was confused why we were stopping so early until realizing we are here. It's certainly not as scenic as I was hoping, but it's got a serene rolling hill view from our balcony. I can see cows on the hillside and several boats with fishermen dot the water. I'm curious in which direction we will go for our Hells Canyon jet boat trip. For our jet boat ride down Hells Canyon the boat picked us up right at the boat dock. I have to say this was certainly a great highlight to end our week with. So much beautiful scenery. Pictures do not do it justice. We saw sheep, Rams, coyotes, eagles on their nests, turkeys and deer plus one walked right to where we stopped for cookies and a drink. We traveled about two hours deep into the canyon where three state’s borders connect-Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Very happy we chose this excursion. Fun, very fun afternoon! I would recommend you definitely do not miss this. Suggest you not wear hats as it gets breezy especially if you sit in the back. Upon returning to the boat it was sad to see our suitcase tarp spread across our bed for us to use packing our suitcases for our departure in the morning. I wish we were staying on for the return trip back westward to Portland. If we were, I would want to change rooms to the other side of the boat. Our room 210 was on the perfect side going eastward being shady in the afternoon. I would want the same thing returning Westward. Plus not sure it always works this way, but we docked with a river view in each port. On the last night you are given a survey to complete and a letter detailing your instructions for departure. You are given luggage tags with numbers corresponding to what you are doing after you leave the ship. We purchased a transfer from the ship going directly to the airport, so our departure time is at 7:45. Gratuities are added to your account or you may do as we did and prepay them with your cruise purchase. You may also pre-purchase your shore excursions before leaving. We did this and I was happy it was done ahead of time since a couple of the excursions sold out. Sunday, June 7 to Airport We awoke and left our cabin by 7am. Breakfast was available beginning at 6am. Passengers are called to depart the boat by their luggage tags. We had a two hour ride to Spokane Airport. Beautiful farmland along the way. Small airport. Easy to navigate. We looked at getting an earlier flight than our 1:17 departure but only standby and first class available, so we settled in for our booked flight to Salt Lake City and then into Atlanta by 11pm. This has truly been a very enjoyable and pleasant trip. I would recommend if you are looking to see beautiful scenery with little to no hassles, this is the trip for you. The staff was always attentive and helpful and kept the Empress spotless. A few things about the trip: it is very casual; teens would likely be bored but small children might be amused by the boat and various activities but entertainment is limited, therefore be warned if you plan to bring children. I think you have to be somewhat older to appreciate how wonderful it is. I would return to this trip any time. Read Less
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
Sail Date May 2015
In 1995, we took our first trip on the Grand American Queen (and a number of trips since then) so I had to be on board for her 20th birthday celebration. I booked back to back trips to be on board during her launch anniversary as well as ... Read More
In 1995, we took our first trip on the Grand American Queen (and a number of trips since then) so I had to be on board for her 20th birthday celebration. I booked back to back trips to be on board during her launch anniversary as well as being on board the following week to celebrate the anniversary of her first passenger voyage. The pre-cruise hotel, the Sheraton Memphis Downtown, was lovely. Although the desk clerk and meal tickets indicated that breakfast was in the hotel's dining room, it was actually on a banquet room on another floor. Transportation to the boat from the hotel is on "steamcoaches". I did not use this because friends in Memphis provided my transportation to the boat. My cabin was a D category on the Texas Deck--my favorite since it is on the same deck as the Front Porch Café for morning coffee. This location also serves a buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner with cookies, popcorn and soft serve ice cream as well as juices, coffee, tea and soft drinks available all day. The J.M. White dining room also serves three meals with breakfast and lunch offering both buffet and menu options. At dinner there are 2 appetizer selections, two salad or soup offerings and several entrees from which to select. A vegetarian selection is available at each dinner. I usually don't get wine with dinner but when I did, I found the selections very enjoyable. A daily "River Chat" by the Riverlorian gave both informative and entertaining lectures. Other enrichment lecturers' topics regarding the area we were traveling and the boat's history were very interesting. Nightly entertainment in the Grand Saloon--designed like Ford's Theatre--is something not to be missed. It can include a 4-person ensemble backed by a band or a solo performance by one of the entertainers. Two shows per evening allow attendance by both first and second dining. After the last show there is a piano player on the main deck lounge and a guitar and a piano player in the Engine Room Bar. It was a great two weeks and I look forward to returning. This was my 20 and 21 trip on the American Queen since she returned to the rivers under current ownership in 2012. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
Definitely a cruise for older folk. My family and I plus friends took this cruise because we thought it would be a pace good for our special needs girls.....and it was. If you are looking for a cruise jammed pack with activity, this is ... Read More
Definitely a cruise for older folk. My family and I plus friends took this cruise because we thought it would be a pace good for our special needs girls.....and it was. If you are looking for a cruise jammed pack with activity, this is not it. Tours were in the morning and we would sail by 1 PM. 2 afternoons had Bingo....otherwise lots of lectures. Paid for 2 optional excursions which were a lot of money and not worth it ( Cotton Plantation and the Delta Blues tours) Food was good. Rooms were just OK.....I had a suite with a broken deck door and a water drip over one of the sinks. During a rainstorm one night, water came right into the room and soaked our carpet. It was too much to fix while cruising so needless to say, the room was not worth the money. All told we made our own good time and it was an experience. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
OK, just recently returned from a weeklong cruise aboard the American Queen (Memphis to New Orleans), and wanted to give a detailed review for others who might be considering a riverboat cruise too. As a first-timer (I've never been ... Read More
OK, just recently returned from a weeklong cruise aboard the American Queen (Memphis to New Orleans), and wanted to give a detailed review for others who might be considering a riverboat cruise too. As a first-timer (I've never been on any other cruises before, neither ocean nor river), all I can say is: wow, I'm hooked! We're already planning another trip ASAP! I'm SO glad we chose the American Queen too. We met another group of four travelers aboard the Queen who were originally traveling on the American Eagle (another, smaller boat also traveling down the Mississippi) and they actually took all of their bags, left the Eagle, and booked a room on the American Queen mid-journey at one of the ports. I don't blame them! Everything they told us about the Eagle sounded horrible—paper plates in the dining room, no evening entertainment, average age of guests was like 80+ years old… I'm so glad we chose the American Queen for our trip. As for our trip, I don't even know where to begin—we were blown away by everything! The boat was absolutely beautiful, the crew was incredibly friendly and accommodating, the dining and entertainment were excellent. The whole trip was so enjoyable, we really had no complaints. Really, the only problem we had the entire week was some confusion at our initial hotel in Memphis (the Downtown Sheraton) due to the hotel staff. We ended up taking a taxi to the boat rather than the free AQ shuttle bus (the cost was only about $10 for the taxi and the pursers on board the AQ actually credited the amount back to our account, which was very nice of them). Other than the hotel confusion, the rest of the trip was smooth-sailing (no pun intended)! All of the ports and included shore excursions were nice. We made use of the free AQ bikes at most of ports, but one thing that was really nice about the hop on/hop off tours was that you can download a free American Queen app to your phone that shows a map of each port, including live tracking of all the AQ shuttle buses. You could literally see where all the buses were along the routes in live time, and how soon they would arrive. It was really great, very convenient. I also want to mention some of the crew who went above and beyond and made our trip extra special: our room attendant Adam (he's the best!), Cassandra, Jada, and Mr. Galphyn in the dining room, everyone at the pursers desk, Pam in the front porch cafe, and Captain Brent (who was kind enough to give us a tour of the pilot house). Everyone was so nice, but those particular crew members really went above and beyond so I wanted to mention them by name. I could go on and on about what a great time we had—the incredible detail and design of the boat, the great staff, and seriously some of the best coffee I've ever had, no exaggeration. But I'll just wrap it up by saying to anyone considering a riverboat cruise: I highly recommend the American Queen. Wow! Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
I enjoyed the cruise as I just retired and it was very relaxing. It wasn't what I expected for sure. Just turned 60 and would be one of the youngest onboard. We played bingo which turned out to be quite fun. Ha! The staff were very ... Read More
I enjoyed the cruise as I just retired and it was very relaxing. It wasn't what I expected for sure. Just turned 60 and would be one of the youngest onboard. We played bingo which turned out to be quite fun. Ha! The staff were very accommodating. I had two requests for changes and they were both changed within the day. The meals were very good also. We started in New Orleans and ended up in Memphis. Stayed an extra night at both ends but it would have been nice to have stayed a few extra days. If there was more time I would have checked out different restaurants and listened to more live music. I expected to see more along the river but it was mostly just bush and tree lined. Rather disappointing. A camera would not be necessary. The little town stops along the way we're deserted. Almost eerie. The Louisiana prison 'Angola' was very interesting and worth seeing. I heard the swamp tour was also another excursion that was worthwhile. The engine room bar was the only happening place at night and the music was good. It was fun as we met up with other ladies our age and danced. I would definitely recommend this cruise but not for younger people looking for an action packed adventure. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
Have been on numerous cruises & on several river cruises previously. Thought I would try the "Mighty Mississippi", so I booked on the biggest steamboat ever to sail that river. Trip was New Orleans round-trip, New Years Eve ... Read More
Have been on numerous cruises & on several river cruises previously. Thought I would try the "Mighty Mississippi", so I booked on the biggest steamboat ever to sail that river. Trip was New Orleans round-trip, New Years Eve (week). The "free night" before is a ploy to attempt to sell you add-on tours to make-up for the usually pitiful included tours at each port. Oak Alley & Natchez included tours were good, but the others were a joke. They pride themselves on their own fleet of tour buses. The drivers were very pleasant, but some of the local tour guides must have been the only folks they could find for the job - let's just say they were "very local". We took two add-on tours - one was v. bad, the other "not a good value". We booked another cruise with Alex, their on-board salesperson. Put up a deposit & received confirmation & room assignment. Several months later, they defaulted on their agreement, and had sold our cabin to another party at a higher fare. We're considering legal action. Many of the reviews I've seen (after our cruise) talk about how the food is disappointing, but I thought it was one of their finer points. The wine however tasted like turpentine - if and when you could finally get a glass. The champagne I'm convinced was. Rarely do I leave/waste a glass of wine, but this time it seemed appropriate. They allow you to go to the engine room viewing area at will. The engineers are very knowledgeable and friendly, if not proud of the equipment. Very interesting. The common areas are exceptionally well done, and quite spacious for a river cruise. Entertainment was good. The "riverlorean" was very good, but bridge tours were only allowed while at port when you were off on a tour. You had to miss a tour if you wanted to see the bridge. The cruise was not really that bad, but over-priced, and I have a big problem with anybody/company that defaults on their end of a deal. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
I had been on big ship cruises but not a boat cruise so this was a first. We went over Christmas when they had a 2 for 1 rate. Otherwise it is too expensive for an 8 day cruise. I wanted to see the plantations and Vicksburg. They ... Read More
I had been on big ship cruises but not a boat cruise so this was a first. We went over Christmas when they had a 2 for 1 rate. Otherwise it is too expensive for an 8 day cruise. I wanted to see the plantations and Vicksburg. They had a hop on and off bus to see the local ports and very reasonably prices extra excursions which were very informative and the extra excursions I took esp. the ones about the Battle of Vicksburg and the cotton plantation were educational with outstanding explanations. The tour of New Orleans before the cruise was delightful. We did not plan an extra day to see other parts of New Orleans which we should have done. we had early dining and delightful dinner companions. The cabin was very crowded and difficult for two people in the room at the same time was too small. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
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