Sail Date: November 2016
American Cruise Lines has a slogan, "Small Ship Cruising Done Perfectly." Yep, they certainly did it. Everything was perfect. The food was scrumptious. I liked that they offered half portions, so I was less tempted to ... Read More
American Cruise Lines has a slogan, "Small Ship Cruising Done Perfectly." Yep, they certainly did it. Everything was perfect. The food was scrumptious. I liked that they offered half portions, so I was less tempted to overeat. There were only 60 on the Cruise, although the ship will carry 98. With open seating at meals, we got to meet so many interesting people. The Line caters to older passengers. They were always there to assist. The elevator for handicapped was most welcome. I have some mobility issues. Our state room was very comfortable and spacious, with a small private balcony. We could control our own temperature, or open the window for fresh air. The state room had so much drawer space that we could not fill it all, and a closet. :-) My husband was able to workout every morning on an elliptical on the top deck. The on-board lecturer was great about answering questions about the area, and gave several interesting talks. He came on some of the excursions, and added an additional dimension to local guides. Many of the excursions were accessible for the less mobile. I did not try any walking tours, although my husband did. The excursions were well planned and gave a good look at the area (Historic South). Do note that excursions are extra, and you are billed only for those that you attend. There was on-board entertainment nightly. Mostly it was some type of music or a lecture. One day, we played bingo, and I won the top prize - a big bag of souvenirs! Another day, the chef demonstrated how to make a bread cornucopia. His creations were on display for our fantastic Thanksgiving Dinner. There is no bar on the ship, but complimentary wine and beer was served at lunch and dinner. At 5:30 every evening, a very complete bar was set up in the lounge for complimentary cocktails, beers or wines. We did not lack for festive alcohol. Fabulous appetizers accompanied the cocktail hour. It is difficult to say enough about the remarkable service. The entire crew worked very hard; they were always up-beat and smiling. The captain was most accessible. He dined with the passengers when he could. Gratuities were included in your cruise price. This is not a cruise for children. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
We chose this cruise for a smaller ship, on board lecturer, fewer passengers. We had to miss our first port due to hurricane damage and that was understandable. We missed another port due to engine problems but nothing was said until we ... Read More
We chose this cruise for a smaller ship, on board lecturer, fewer passengers. We had to miss our first port due to hurricane damage and that was understandable. We missed another port due to engine problems but nothing was said until we had sat unmoving for several hours and then had to turn back to the previous port. No compensation provided. Embarkation/debarkation went smoothly. The ship is only 10 years old but is decorated like the 50s with plastic flowers, cheap decor. Dining service was ok but staff not only served your food but cleaned the cabins, etc. Not a good thing in my estimation. Young, not so well trained, not in uniforms or with gloves, etc. Attempt at gourmet only met unpeeled, inedible garnishes such as a tiny piece of kiwi on each plate. Food was stacked instead of side by side as other gourmet restaurants seem to do better in this effort. Entertainment brought in was local and excellent. On the missed port day the only activity provided was a Family Feud type of game, very old dvds and books to borrow. One computer provided a printer. Internet service was very poor and you had to keep your stateroom door open for minimal power. Ports were fine but missing two out of five wasn't good. Passengers were older as we are and many were repeat travelers. We asked why and many felt intimidated by larger ships and also liked that the ship was built and is staffed by Americans. This didn't matter to us at all. We would not sail with American Cruise again although they do have nice US itineraries and several folks love the line and the ship. The cruise cost more than twice what we normally pay on larger ships with same size rooms but those have many, many more amenities and activities. We felt for the cost we should at least have had quality decor and furnishings and far, far better service and housekeeping. Oh yes, the "fitness center" consists of three pieces of equipment on the windy deck and two were not working. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
We chose American Cruise Lines because we wanted to be on a small ship, we loved the itinerary, our friends who'd been on before said everyone seems like family, and the reviews were great. We were looking for a great experience ... Read More
We chose American Cruise Lines because we wanted to be on a small ship, we loved the itinerary, our friends who'd been on before said everyone seems like family, and the reviews were great. We were looking for a great experience – what we got wasn't quite enough to be even good. I was surprised that this was a fairly new ship, when we got to the dock it looked like some old ship. The dining room and lounge felt very dated, worn upholstery/carpets throughout, smallish staterooms also bland - it all felt very utilitarian. We also had a problem with our reservation as we were on for 14 days and had to change rooms midtrip because someone in booking couldn't be bothered to try to keep us in the same room. We paid a lot of money for great and we got average, worn rooms, boring décor, below average entertainment, often things felt like they were done on the cheap and disengaged staff – just disappointing. We cruise a lot on the higher end cruise lines and this one was very expensive for what you recieved. Everything was just mediocre. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
All in all the cruise was a total delight and we were treated very well. Not only did the waitresses and crew make the trip pleasurable, we fit in well with the age group of the passengers. We were celebrating an early 36th wedding ... Read More
All in all the cruise was a total delight and we were treated very well. Not only did the waitresses and crew make the trip pleasurable, we fit in well with the age group of the passengers. We were celebrating an early 36th wedding anniversary. The ports were close together - every day we were at a different destination so the trip was very enjoyable and educational. Southern US up the inter-coastal waterway was picturesque for the most part. However, the meals, excursions and nighttime lectures from 7am to 9pm kept everyone busy. Excursions were informative - not learned much of this part of the South in Northern US schools. We are looking forward to the Mississippi River Cruise from St. Louis to St. Paul. Thank-you for a great trip and cruise. Will the other American Cruise Line trips be as delightful - we sure will be comparing them to the Independence. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
We are early seventies and tried our first “small ship” cruise aboard the Independence for three reasons: One, the itinerary from Amelia Island to Charleston was of significant interest. Two, with the world in questionable turmoil, we ... Read More
We are early seventies and tried our first “small ship” cruise aboard the Independence for three reasons: One, the itinerary from Amelia Island to Charleston was of significant interest. Two, with the world in questionable turmoil, we decided to avoid overseas flights and spend our money “at home.” Three, the likely demographics onboard suited our desires, fifty something to older than dirt… perfect! Bottom line: Excellent experience such that we booked again for next year, though one must evaluate the cost/value compared to the larger ships, usually Holland America in our case. That said, let’s talk some (a bit long!) detail. American Cruise Lines operates under an interesting business model. It’s all American, from the shipyard where the vessels are built to the staff… top to bottom. Most interesting is the use of young folks for stewards, deck hands and servers. They have just enough training, are in most cases only onboard for a 12-week “tour of duty” and in most cases will be using this experience as a steppingstone to bigger and better careers. The ship’s captain (most gracious and available), first mate, pilot, and senior staff are, on the other hand, very professional career folks who offer customer service beyond reproach… never have I experienced better. Back to the youngsters for a moment, if you expect error free service with a lovely foreign accent forget it. If you love to engage young folks, offer a bit of wisdom from time to time, and see the virtue of mentoring our American youth you will enjoy this experience like no other. Overall their customer service is outstanding, offered with great cheer and good intent. We flew from LAX (Los Angeles) to Jacksonville, Florida, the day before. The cab to Fernandina Beach City, Amelia Island, was simple and cost 70 dollars. Arrival at the Florida Inn, just 3 short blocks from the dock around 4:30pm, was uneventful. Review of the inn can be found elsewhere. Post checkout on Saturday we simply walked to the dock, luggage in tow. If you can stay at the Hampton Inn, across from the dock, do it. Barely in sight of the ship, red-shirted staff came running for our luggage… a great start to be continued throughout the voyage. Always dapper Chet, the “hotel manager”, was immediately available for questions, logistics and cabin availability status. Soon onboard, a breeze, we settled in, walked the ship, and sat for lunch at 12:30pm. While some reviewers find the ship’s décor to be bland in its neutral colors (it is), the glitter and glitz was immediately discovered as we met the other fascinating 92 souls. That is the essence of this experience. Entertainment was simple but satisfying, without a hint of off-Broadway shows, and effectively self-generated beginning with a hosted cocktail hour from 5:30 to 6:30, followed by dinner at 6:30. This social hour proved to be very entertaining as we all shared our life’s stories, told amazing lies when appropriate, and shared the day’s doings all while becoming fast friends. Aboard was a historian with vast knowledge, and a huge personality, adding considerable value to the cruise. At 8 o’clock the next day’s activities were discussed, often with fun banter, followed by local talent for a variety of music and song of considerable skill. An interesting fact is that the cruise line will acquire your favorite beverage if not already in the ship’s locker, in my case a preferred NA beer. Nice… Briefly on the food: Just fine overall. Plenty from which to choose with a caveat or two. The salads, soups and desserts are quite excellent. I found the main courses a bit bland for my taste but one must understand the general demographics onboard, thus bland is not all bad. The portions are huge but half portions are available. Breakfast was a treat with a wide selection available. Missing for me was a lighter fare for lunch, perhaps an interesting sandwich or two, though a burger or BLT is always available… just ask. Don’t miss the pork bellies if offered… the best ever. Can’t really say much about the cabin service, it just happened as it should, without intrusion on us at all. Towels were replaced as we desired, beds made, cleaning done, all good. In terms of excursions, do want sounds good as offered by the ship. They are all quite good, fairly priced, and the transportation is a breeze in quality coaches. As I don’t walk well the transportation was always close by, much appreciated. The ship offers wheel chairs and electric carts if needed, together with that cheerful staff… all top-notch. Just the scenic cruising alone is quite remarkable, but we particularly enjoyed the Sea Turtle Center and follow-on tour, the Lady Jane Shrimp Boat Tour (most informative), the Sapelo Island tour (a must!), and the Citadel Parade. Oh, you don’t see the Citadel Parade listed as a ship’s offered tour, do you! Pre-cruise, I discovered this event occurs most Friday afternoons at the Citadel in Charleston at 3:45pm. Being a fan of everything military or patriotic, I had an interest in attending. The ship arrives Charleston around 2pm so I bugged Chet to arrange transportation to same for 6 of us. His response was as expected: “Give me something difficult next time.” So we 6 attended, sat in the viewing bleachers, and watched a thousand plus cadets, of both genders, clad in dress whites, march theirs hearts out on bright green grass. Around town, when encountering these uniformed men and women, it was always yes sir and no sir… a breath of fresh air, as it should be I thought. … just one problem with all of this, the huge spectacular band is led by about (lump in throat) 20 bagpipes. When the colors were presented and the Star Spangled Banner played I got all teary-eyed… very damn emotional… actually not a bad thing at all for a sometimes grumpy old vet. Just do it. You won’t be sorry. So this longwinded story comes to an end with disembarking the ship, same as climbing aboard, a breeze thanks to the wonderful crew… taxi cab waiting thanks to Chet again. Two more days in Charleston, staying at the wonderful Indigo Inn, completed our trip. Life is good… Read Less
Sail Date: April 2013
American Cruise Lines offers a product not like any other cruise line I have been on. From the boarding procedure (which took about 30 seconds) to disembarkation (which was equally easy) the crew makes it known that they are there for one ... Read More
American Cruise Lines offers a product not like any other cruise line I have been on. From the boarding procedure (which took about 30 seconds) to disembarkation (which was equally easy) the crew makes it known that they are there for one reason only - to care for the passengers. No request large or small was unattended to. Want a certain brand of drink? No problem. We'll pick it up in the next port. Want a special item for breakfast or lunch? No problem. Just ask one of the staff members and you will have it. The entire week was like that. Upon boarding, my wife was overjoyed by the larger than average cabin, and especially by the bathroom that would actually accommodate two people at one time. Everything on the boat was spotless, although the decor was a lot more subdued than most ships and boats. But one has to consider the type of clientele on the boat. I felt young at 74. But I must quickly add that everyone was very active. Age was not relevant. While at first I found the food to be a little less upscale than I had expected, as the week wore on it got better every day. There is no complaint of the quality of the food, but the service was a little spotty at times since the same people who were serving our meals were the same ones who cleaned our cabins and vacuumed the corridors. Very busy people. Overall we found the cruise to be beyond our expectations and we are planning on cruising with ACL several more times. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2013
The American Cruise Line ship Independence is a very comfortable ship to cruise on. The cabin was very comfortable, water pressure good, and the shared spaces were very nice. The ship was clean and in good order. Our captain and crew ... Read More
The American Cruise Line ship Independence is a very comfortable ship to cruise on. The cabin was very comfortable, water pressure good, and the shared spaces were very nice. The ship was clean and in good order. Our captain and crew were pleasant and helpful. Food throughout the cruise was excellent. The tours we took were all very good. My only nit picky issue is that the lecturer on board was very much a generalist and did not provide enough depth. This was a wonderful relaxing cruise up the inter-coastal waterway. The small ship atmosphere gives you the chance to really meet your fellow vacationers. You get a much better feel for local culture on a small ship cruise. Our ship docked on islands a big ship just can't get into and many of our tours would not have been possible with large groups. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2013
I've had the privilege of cruising 39 times on various cruise lines, mainly on the west and east coast of the USA, the Caribbean, Alaska, Mexico, Canada/NewEngland, and Bermuda. Amtrak delivered me to the embarkation port of ... Read More
I've had the privilege of cruising 39 times on various cruise lines, mainly on the west and east coast of the USA, the Caribbean, Alaska, Mexico, Canada/NewEngland, and Bermuda. Amtrak delivered me to the embarkation port of Fernandina Beach, Florida for my cruise. The train ride was fun, and with the comfort of a private bedroom, it was actually luxury as far as today's train service goes. It took a few days, but who cares when one is on vacation! The train stop for Fernandina Beach is Jacksonville, FL, and I had a limo take me from there to Fernandina Beach. I stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites Amelia Island - Historic Harbor Front, which was extremely comfortable, clean and quiet. The front desk staff there were wonderful in every aspect. I walked through this historic seaport town the day before the cruise, and enjoyed the lovely architecture and friendly people. Walking through the marina was also a delight, as friendly pelicans and other sea birds approach, hoping for a snack from visitors, and the boats moored in the marina are gorgeous. It definitely put me in the mood for a cruise! Great seafood available in town and the marina area. I could walk to the Independence the next morning at my leisure - with wheeled luggage, it's very easy and took me 10 minutes. You can see the cruise boat easily from the hotel. Embarkation was wonderful and fast compared to megaliners. Just appear, and the deck crew at the gangway checks your name off and takes your bag on board, and you walk onto the ship. The Independence looks like a yacht, and being quite new to American Cruise Lines, it was still fresh and very attractive with its white paint. It has three passenger decks and the top of the ship is a flat sun deck. There are several main lounges and a dining room. There is an elevator. Not much in the way of fitness equipment. The lounges have soft, comfortable seating and there are books and DVDs and computer terminals available. The Independence has stabilizers. The decor is very peaceful and calm, with muted natural colors and soft fabrics. My cabin originally was to be a single - American Cruise Lines does offer single-occupancy cabins at a slight lower price than the bigger doubles. I had requested a double bed in mine, which the cruise line has provided on earlier trips, but when I got to the cabin, it had what appeared to be a twin bed. I asked the hotel manager, who was very young, if they could put a double bed in the room, and he was not able to do this. I can't sleep in a twin bed, despite being small - this size bed is just too small for me. Fortunately the ship was not full, and I was given a big double cabin with a private balcony and a king-size bed. So far, so good. There are single cabins available with balconies, and most of the cabins offer the nice private balconies. Again, muted colors and soft fabrics and neutral wood colors in the cabins, which are spacious and have a small closet, plenty of dresser and night stand drawer storage, nice new flat screen TV, chairs, sofa. The windows actually open in these cabins, but don't have screens - beware of the bugs flying in depending on your itinerary. There is AC, but it was heavenly when I could keep the window open at night and have the fresh air and smell the water. The bathroom had a full-size shower stall with curtain, and there were very nice high-end toiletries provided. Towels were OK, but some were a bit ragged. The faucets were polished brass and the sink top appeared to be faux granite but very elegant. There was the usual printed information in the cabin, but nothing in the way of bottled water, flowers, fruit, or anything else. For what the fare rates are, the ship could have done more. No phone in the cabin, and internet access was spotty and slow, except in the lounges most of the time, and then right next to the router. Activities are limited on this ship, basically Bingo on one night, port lectures, and socialization. The average age appears to be above 70. This is an ideal cruise line for those who are "mature" in age and who don't need a lot of physical activity or entertainment. Many passengers know others from prior cruises, and enjoy just sitting and visiting. There is a "free" bar included in the fare, and this social hour was very lively with drinks, snacks, and conversation every night before dinner. Some of the passengers fell asleep after dinner, or slept through the minimal evening entertainment, obviously contented and comfortable enough to do this. This is not a cruise line for people who want a lot of action and late evening entertainment. Dining hours were a bit late for me personally, and were open seating within a set framework three times per day. The menus are handed out the day before, and you chose what you want and portion size. The food was some odd "gourmet" combinations at times, and seemed to focus on a lot of red pepper, odd salads, meat, and poultry. The fish I did have was very good. Deserts are again a bit "gourmet", and ice cream is always available. Again, for the very high fare charged, they could have done better with the food. It wasn't bad food, just a bit peculiar in the way ingredients were combined, and the results were not always good. For those not eating meat or poultry, it is a challenge to get what you need. The chef is very accommodating when it comes to making something special, however, but I mainly had a chef salad two times per day and an awful lot of ice cream. This probably kept me from gaining weight on this cruise, but a lot of people loved it all, ate it all, and were even bigger when they disembarked than is healthy. Good wine available free at lunch and dinner, and other usual beverages. Some of the breakfast buffet items were not hot or cold as they should have been, and there was almost no danish or pastry available. Big round tables in the dining room encourage socialization. Service was pleasant, but could be slow. This is definitely not a child-friendly cruise line, as there is nothing to entertain kids, and they would be bored very quickly. This is not cashless cruising, but things are signed up for and charged to the room - no actual money is handed out. Tips can be charged to the room account and/or credit card. Entertainment was minimal in the evenings. There was an on-board port expert who gave some lengthy but good lectures after dinner, but a lot of people fell asleep during his talks. He also spoke during the daytime if there was an opportunity, and was available for questions. In a few ports, local entertainers came aboard with local music and folk type entertainment, and they were very good. There was a Bingo night, which I overheard somebody comment that this cruise was a floating nursing home. At least the Bingo kept us all awake. People enjoyed reading and talking, and that was about it for entertainment, as well as using personal or onboard computers. Ice cream floats were served about 45 minutes after dinner ended, during the evening entertainment, which most people consumed on top of their dinners. The ports visited on this cruise were Brunswick, GA, Sapelo Island, GA, Savannah, GA, Hilton Head, SC, Beaufort, SC, Charleston, SC. There were good shore excursions offered for each port - sign-up sheet is posted on the ship bulletin board near the dining room for tours. Cost is about what any cruise ship would charge. I really enjoyed a tour on a working shrimp boat on a quiet waterway, and the crew taught about the sea life in the southern waterways as well as letting people get their hands on what came up in each net - also available were fresh-cooked shrimp, right on board, and they were delicious. I also enjoyed a tour of the Gullah region in South Carolina, with a wonderful guide who really got into the spirit of the area. I took the tour of the alligator and wild life preserve on Hilton Head Island, SC - the quiet electric small boat takes visitors within feet of the alligators, turtles, and other wildlife there. I had walking maps of Savannah, Beaufort, and Charleston, and enjoyed going at my own pace and seeing what interested me on foot. Well worth it for the gorgeous historical Southern architecture, but be prepared for heat and humidity. Walking through Brunswick, GA on Easter morning was very nice, with local people in their holiday outfits. All the churches were open, and had welcome committees out front - I really felt welcome and it was a great way to start the cruise with the warm Southern hospitality. I'm not a big fan of organized long bus tours on cruises, and enjoyed walking on my own the most. Service on the ship was mixed. The young American crew are from all over the country, and enjoy visiting with passengers when their time and duties permit. There is always somebody on watch at the gangway 24/7. I remember the captain and first mate from previous trips, and they are very professional and pleasant. Be aware that some of the crew does double duty, both as cabin stewards and dining room stewards. They are busy all the time, and the service suffers a bit from this. Most of the dining room service I had was very good, but it could be slow at times. The cabin was not always done properly, and some things had to be cleaned again. I wondered if the bed linens were changed more than once, as well, but the towels and bath supplies were kept stocked properly. Things were satisfactory in the cabin, but the young lady cleaning it appeared very rushed, as indeed she was - she had to do cabin service and then rush to change to work in the dining room. I wasn't impressed at all with either the cruise director or the hotel manager. Both seem to go through the motions of their jobs, but they were too young to really understand the much older passenger majority. This has been the case with other crews I've had on prior ACL cruises. There is one lady who takes care of the dining service, and she is a real pro, very glad to see her aboard after sailing with her before. There is no doctor or medical center on this small boat but as it is close to shore and the Coast Guard or other emergency services, help can be summoned in an emergency. Someone on board is reputedly first-aid trained. Disembarkation is as easy as embarkation. Breakfast is served, and people need to be off the ship by a decent hour in the morning. Transportation can be arranged, either to airports, train stations, or by taxi, as needed. It was quick and simple. The cruise line sends a survey by email, but to date I've never received a reply to my very detailed and often letter-supplemented comments, suggestions, or issues. On my cruise, I took care of several injured elderly passengers and never got a word of thanks from the cruise line. The fares charged for the cruises are grossly too expensive for the quality of the food and the lack of on-board amenities. The itineraries are excellent, however, as many of the ports visited can only be reached by small boat for maximum accessibility and enjoyment. The Independence is one of the few boats equipped with stabilizers, but on the one occasion we should have used them, we were told they were "broken". These small boats appear to be miniature cruise ships, but for those with motion sickness problems, be prepared - out in the open ocean, or in moderate sea conditions, they can pitch and roll very impressively and make you miserable very quickly, especially without stabilization. On the inland waterways and rivers, however, the boat glides along and is extremely comfortable and stable. I would not take this cruise line again unless they sharply reduced their fares - they are really over-priced for what they deliver. Their itineraries, however, are excellent. Passengers tend to be in their 70s on average, and appear very well-to-do financially. Some take back to back cruises on this line, and stay on the small boats for months. Read Less
Independence Ratings
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