Jacksonville to Charleston 12/21/18
I really, really hate being critical or complaining. But a realistic review of this cruise is important for others to read. I should have picked up on the lack of CC reviews of the ... Read More
Jacksonville to Charleston 12/21/18
I really, really hate being critical or complaining. But a realistic review of this cruise is important for others to read. I should have picked up on the lack of CC reviews of the Independence, but the timing and itinerary was perfect for us. This cruise was beyond disappointing. ACL advertises "perfect cruising". This cruise was not an example of perfect cruising; it was more an example of “annoyed cruising”. As the primary travel planner in our family, I was so upset and disappointed the first night hat I couldn’t even sleep. We are experienced cruisers on river boats and small ships. This cruise was more expensive than anything we’ve ever booked. It was a lower-middle-class cruise at upper-class prices. I contacted ACL in January with a more detailed review. I was offered a 25% reduction on a future cruise with a very short time limit. It was insulting.
PRE-CRUISE COMMUNICATION Most basic gap was communication. There is little detailed information on the website. When you call with questions, the agents don't know answers, don't offer to find out, or just give you wrong answers. The ship’s smoking policy changed, but nobody told the Captain! In numerous phone calls, my travel agent and I were both told that all information would be available on the ship. Nothing could be further from the truth.
EMBARKATION When we arrived at the boarding point, the ship was not there. No signage, no communication. We spent about an hour looking for her and finally asked at the Hyatt. They directed us; we should drive down a one-way street the wrong way. Really?? We were greeted enthusiastically and our luggage whisked away. We were escorted to our cabin; it was a very warm welcome. We were not informed about the time of the safety muster and missed it returning a rental car. I find this very disturbing.
SHORE EXCURSIONS Most river and small-ship cruises have at least one included shore excursions each day. After booking, I contacted ACL three times with no response. With a couple of exceptions, we paid extra for our shore excursions. The ACL brochure is misleading about prices, it is very clear that ACL is minimizing the fact that we'll pay extra. There are no details about excursion timing ... morning or afternoon or all-day. It only got worse after we sailed. The first evening, we were given a list of all shore excursions with prices. We were expected to complete these lists for the entire cruise and turn them in a few hours later. Unacceptable.
CRUISE DIRECTOR LILLY Lilly is a lovely girl, enthusiastic and energetic, but lacks proper training for a Cruise Director's position. She was absolutely clueless. She blasted announcements in our cabin many times each day. The worst part of this cruise. Very little information was available, customary evening port talks were not held. I attended the first one where Lilly read us the ship’s newsletter. When the printed schedule changed, nothing was posted, with no phone in the room we had to track someone down to ask our questions. The “office” was often vacant. At evening meetings, Lilly would take questions from the audience and not repeat them, giving the answers with the rest of us now knowing the question. Being sure your audience understands is the most basic protocol of public speaking. At games in the lounge, Lilly was great. We had a great deal of fun with a gift exchange
SHIP Clean and bright, comfortable lounges on each deck. Captain Dennis did good job of explaining minor deviations, tides, weather and his planned timing. Everyone appreciated his joining us at meals when his schedule allowed. There were festive holiday decorations up everywhere. Internet worked in the lounge, not in our cabin; Captain explained the reason after I spent two hours banging around on my new laptop and inquired. The ship looks worn and is without style, like your grandmother’s house back in the 70’s. Very nice coffee and goodies set up in lounge every morning at 630. There was an espresso machine with no directions. I tried twice and gave up.
CREW Other than the dining room, most seemed inexperienced and scrambling for information but did a decent job. They were friendly, welcoming, good at their jobs. A real plus for this cruise. The "visiting lecturer" Rachel was a superb speaker, but her information was about the history and other aspects of the area, not about what the actual plans were for each port. Captain Dennis was very personable and created a very positive image of American Cruise Lines. Senior crew were obviously trying to make up for an incompetent cruise director, they were great.
MEALS A real highlight of the trip: great service, fabulous food, attractive and spacious dining salon. We loved the small portions. We booked a cruise with room service breakfast, but after embarkation we were told it was not available, by then we were resigned to mediocrity. Both dinner and lunch are served in courses, we’d prefer a buffet lunch. Nightly canapes at cocktail time were excellent, lovely to have servers passing them in the lounge.
CABIN Our cabin on the top deck was spacious with a nicely furnished balcony. Good shower, two large nightstands with large lamps that should be hung on the wall. The rest of the cabin was dismal. Window blinds don’t close properly and light shines in all night. No coat hooks at entry, and the television takes up most of the room on the dresser. Hard to believe that it’s not hung on the wall. Only other horizontal space is a good-sized desk. Closet is tiny, no shelves. No surprise that electrical outlets were behind furniture at floor level. Two over-sized armchairs were squeezed together, I guess this is ACL’s idea of a suite. Bath has an 8" vanity and no shelves, one robe hook on door. I wrapped my makeup in a dinner napkin and stowed it in a drawer.
ACL has wonderful itineraries, and we would love to cruise with them every year. Their prices are so astronomical that it would take a 75% discount for me to even consider them again. A real shame. Lots of people say they love ACL, but they have never sailed on a small ship in Europe. Read Less