1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2019
Cruised before on the American Queen. Loved the service and staff. 5 stars. Thought the Empress might be similar and it was just as good, maybe considering the scenery, better. First, the cabin. Knowing that the cabins on these boats ... Read More
Cruised before on the American Queen. Loved the service and staff. 5 stars. Thought the Empress might be similar and it was just as good, maybe considering the scenery, better. First, the cabin. Knowing that the cabins on these boats tend toward being a bit smaller and knowing that the weather would be cold and rainey, we opted for one of the biggest cabins onboard, 704. Cabin was large and comfortable, well decorated, lots of storage. Yes, you've heard that the bathrooms are small - they are, but certainly not the big deal that some reviewers thought. Not an issue for us in the least. Yes, the walls are thin and you can hear next door's TV and the toilets flush. Again, not a biggie, and not bothersome for us. You know these things going into this cruise and if you think it is a problem (it is not), well it just comes with the territory. Some of the TV bleed through could be avioded if the speakers were not inside the TV cabinet, against the wall where they would use the wall as a sounding board. But again, it did not impact upon this 5-star cruise. Food was mostly excellant. Never had a meal that was less than a 9+, and most were a "10." Had lobster 3 nights (two in the River Grill). Steaks were supurb. Wines were very good, although I thought the house red could have been better. That said, we had the drink package and had the upgraded wine list to choose from. I'm nit picking here, but if you were on the drink package and wanted the better wines, it took the staff forever to get it to our table. Again, this is nit picking. Service: It simply does not get any better. We have been on 40+ cruises, mostly on upscale lines, and American Queen and Empress are the best. Never saw anything but smiles, and they were real. Staff seemed to enjoy themselves as much as the guests. Their simply was nothing that they could not do to make your cruise even better. As an example, American Airlines as usual lost our luggage for a couple of days. The hotel manager (purser's office) actually drove back from Clarkston to Spokane in the middle of the night (a four-hour round trip) to retrieve our luggage. We actually had a similar experience on the "Queen" several years back that sold us on this company. On board entertainment was certainly not Broadway (you will need RCCL large ships for that), but considering the venue, the singers and band - supurb. If you like 50s, 60s, and 70s music, this is for you. Throughly enjoyed every evening's entertainment. Tours: First, the scenery is absolutely spectacular throughout the entire trip. Jet boat to Hell's Canyon had great staff, lovely scenery and commentary, but I though it was an hour or so too long. Still, well worth while. The trip to the nuclear plant was again great, although the guides explanation was a bit too technical for me, and I was a physics major, The lunch boxes are made in China would you believe. The Falls: again some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever viewed. Well worth while. The HOHO bus tours: The first couple of towns were really small, not much for us to see and do. Astoria, however, was well worth walking the downtown area. I've given Fitness and recreation only one star, but that really is not fair, as I knew going into this that there was not gym (thankfully). It is really as "n/a." Would I do this again? In a heartbeat! Thank you AQSSC. Frank. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
This was a 4-night "add-on" to the end of the normal cruise season. The price was irrestible, plus the convenience of being a round-trip cruise. We'd previously done the traditional 8-day, one-way trip up the Columbia on ... Read More
This was a 4-night "add-on" to the end of the normal cruise season. The price was irrestible, plus the convenience of being a round-trip cruise. We'd previously done the traditional 8-day, one-way trip up the Columbia on this boat. Earlier this year, we did a lower Mississippi cruise on the American Queen. AQSC is a "class act", and we love the company. I hope they will expand to other rivers. There is hope, as AQSC just acquired another cruise line. It helps that AQSC's parent company is in the maritime business, so this isn't just another piece of a conglomerate empire. I am trying to not sound like a company shill, so am being nit-picky about my complaints. With most cruise lines, they would be "lost in the noise" of other issues. AQSC's cruises are not cheap. Their boats are built and registered in the U.S. That means that they must meet a higher standard of health and safety regulations than foreign-flagged vessels. Also, all crewmembers must be legal to work n the U.S. Their smaller vessels do not offer the economies of scale enjoyed by lines with larger ships (Carnival, NCL, Celebrity, etc.). The smaller size, and nature of operations, preclude ancillary income opportunities, such as spas, casinos, art galleries, tourist photos, and premium restaurants. Some cruise ships have more than 20 times as many passengers as the AE. Over the years, I've spoken to many AQSC employees. Uniformly, they seem to enjoy working for the company, and feel valued and well-treated. The boat's staff, including non-public folks, such as engineering and deck divisions, seem focused on a pleasant experience for the guests. I wish that I'd been as happy during my careers (military pilot, airline pilot, and aerospace engineering analyst). I have some very minor complaints, described in the "Cabin" section. Also, the Wi-Fi is very weak, and often so slow as to be unusable. Mostly, I used my cell's hotspot. However, the desktop computers in the Paddlewheel Lounge were okay. Considering that nearly every other cruise line charges exhorbitant fees for slow Internet access, it's not much of a complaint. I did find it interesting that, when my devices connected to the AE's Internet service, the internal clocks synchronized to Central Time (company's headquarters). Because of the nature of this add-on cruise, Portland was one of the ports. Rather than the usual Hop-On, Hop-Off cruise, the AE's buses were used for a "2-hour city tour". It was interesting and done well. The only odd part was a 1/2-hour visit to Washington Park. We weren't told that we would be leaving the bus. Not everyone was prepared for a walk in the rain. Otherwise, these HOHO bus excursions are an outstanding idea, and a signature perk for AQSC. Generally, we don't take the premium excursions, because the HOHO ones are so good, and I don't want to miss in-port activities on the boat. Since this cruise was very different from others on this boat, some of the guidance was more relevant to other cruises than this one. That caused a bit of confusion, but nothing major. Again, I'm trying hard to find fault with this cruise. "It ain't easy". For the size of the vessel, entertainment was outstanding. The Cruise Director, Greg, did "double-duty" as a singer. A few of the songs weren't a good match for his very talented voice, but I would assign him an "A" grade as a singer and "A+" as Cruise Director. Jordan Gonzalez is a new addition to the staff, and was spectacular. Besides assisting Greg in both roles, she is a talented singer with a very versatile voice. The house band's main job is to support the singers. They did that very well. It's difficult to describe Laurence Cotton, the "Riverlorian". He was on our first AE cruise. Columbia River and Northwest history aren't a job or a hobby for him -- they're a passion that is infectious. I attended every one of his events, even missing some other interesting ones. I dunno about his counterpart for other cruises, but I would definitely pick a cruise on which he's working. I can't say enough good about him!!! Overall, AQSC's cruises (we've also cruised on the American Queen) are very close to "all-inclusive". Bottled water is widely available. Unlimited Northwest beers and wines are available with dinner. Cocktails are reasonably-priced. There is no pressure to purchase cocktails in the bars. The servers are equally happy to provide you with alcohol or glasses of water. We often had water, after having enough wine with dinner to last the evening. My sense is that AQSC views alcoholic drinks as a service to their guests, rather than as a source of income. Ditto for the premium excursions -- there's no pressure to sign up for them. We (traveled with another couple) signed up for dinner in the River Grille on the first night, assuming that others wouldn't. We guessed correctly, as it was nearly vacant. It is the buffet dining area for breakfast and lunch, but the alternative (reservations required) dining venue for dinner. The menu is very appealing, but constant throughout the cruise. I enjoyed a mouth-watering dinner of lobster tail. Yummy! The rest of our party enjoyed their meals. We ate other dinners in the Astoria dining room. Service there ranged from good to excellent. The cuisine was great, with many menu choices available for each meal. The buffet breakfast was comparable to that in many hotels, but included made-to-order omelets. Lunch had many choices, and was as good as a buffet can be. Soft-serve ice cream is available at any time in the River Grille. Snacks are available in the Paddlewheel Lounge from 3 to 5. Popcorn is available for a few hours more. I felt that the popcorn was too salty, though some might disagree. Even so, I would have preferred that it be available from late morning until the evening entertainment ended. Probably because of the price, the size of the vessel, and the orientation of the amenities, this isn't a cruise for children or for young adults looking for excitement. Passengers who aren't eligible for Medicare will be in a minority, though they're unlikely to feel like misfits. The entertainment is generally done by 10pm, unlike cruise ships that appeal to younger folks. Events happen at the scheduled time, which I appreciate, coming from a military and airline background. I'm frustrated by live performances ashore that seem to start a minimum of 10 minutes late. I tried hard to have more complaints to share with you, but I failed. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
We had driven through the Columbia Gorge, but wanted to see it up close at a gentle pace. Our trip started in Spokane. One night at the Historic Davenport Hotel was included in the trip. We opted for an extra night and were glad about ... Read More
We had driven through the Columbia Gorge, but wanted to see it up close at a gentle pace. Our trip started in Spokane. One night at the Historic Davenport Hotel was included in the trip. We opted for an extra night and were glad about that. The Historic Davenport Hotel is a destination in its own right. Registration was at the hotel. The next day we went by bus to Clarkston, where we boarded the Empress. We had a "deluxe veranda stateroom" which was cozy but efficient. The dining was very good to excellent. This website's review expressed disappointment that regional wines were not served with dinner. Clearly, the parent company heard that, because we had wines from a different regional winery every night. The entertainment exceeded our expectations. On a ship this size the music team has to be small (seven in all, I think), but they did a great job. The "Rock and Roll Dance Party" on the next to last night sounded corny, but it was a blast. Many crew members joined passengers on the dance floor. The Hop-on Hop-off buses worked very well. We took three premium tours, which delivered what they promised. I must comment on the friendly staff. Everyone on the ship worked hard to make our trip memorable. We were taken by how many staffers learned and remembered our names. The entertainers were friendly and approachable. The Riverlorian's lectures were always interesting. After this trip, ask me anything about Lewis and Clark! (Honestly, if you aren't interested in learning about Lewis and Clark, take a different cruise. That expedition's history permeates every port of call.) Definitely not a cruise for children, unless they were teens who are fascinated by history. The WiFi was mostly a bust. After a bit, we decided that this would be a great week to drop out of the daily news cycle anyway. Would we go again? Yes. We could do all the same day trips and take in different sites everywhere. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
I am working for two ladies in their late 80's as their caregiver on board the ship, but one of them is my employer. I work for her as an all around helper ,cook,driver and maintenance man. But before that i took care of her husband ... Read More
I am working for two ladies in their late 80's as their caregiver on board the ship, but one of them is my employer. I work for her as an all around helper ,cook,driver and maintenance man. But before that i took care of her husband for 4 years until he passed away. Fortunately she kept me on and I still work for her. Once a year she and her sister in law go on vacation for a week and take me with them as a helper. They got me my own stateroom on the boat. It's a very wonderful experience for me and hoping one day I can do it again with my wife. The crews are excellent and the boat is nice and clean. All the hop on hop off buses were so convenient and always on time. Even the tour guides at each location are locals, so they are very knowledgeable about the area. Unfortunately , I had one bad experience from other co-passengers. For I am a man with two senior ladies and some of them gave me the eye and a few questioned me about my relationship with the ladies. But on the final days of the cruise ,they seemed to understand the situation and complimented me with some nice words. All I can say that this cruise is highly recommended for more mature people and who love to learn about the past. Thanks for the excellent job ! and to Captain Ron Gray for choosing us to be invited to have dinner with him.That was very special. Keep up the good work and I will surely try other rivercruises of your company in the future. May Godbless you all ! And I want to share with you some great photos of mine on the cruise. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
My wife and I were thrilled with our trip from Clarkston to Vancouver on the Empress. Starting with our included pre-cruise stay at the incredibly restored, beautiful Historic Davenport Hotel in Spokane, WA. You can fly into Spokane and ... Read More
My wife and I were thrilled with our trip from Clarkston to Vancouver on the Empress. Starting with our included pre-cruise stay at the incredibly restored, beautiful Historic Davenport Hotel in Spokane, WA. You can fly into Spokane and arrange for a shuttle to the hotel through the Davenport. The staffs from the Captain down through all the others that operate and maintain the boat and its facilities were all extremely knowledgeable, friendly and helpful at all times. The food was incredibly well prepared and served with such grace. Our cabin and all other facilities, along with nightly entertainment, was top notch. We lucked out with perfect weather for the entire trip which made for beautiful scenery watching as we moved gently down the rivers. The Hop-on-Hop-off bus excursions are convenient and well run, all though, pretty basic. This is a must for those interested in an elegant cruise on the Snake and Columbia rivers. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2018
The trip was recommended to us by a longtime friend and we wanted a paddle boat experience. The trip was was a very enjoyable experience. The evening shows were super with some very talented performers. The food was above our general ... Read More
The trip was recommended to us by a longtime friend and we wanted a paddle boat experience. The trip was was a very enjoyable experience. The evening shows were super with some very talented performers. The food was above our general expectations. We have sailed many times on river boats and ocean liners and this was an easy match to our other cruises. There were very interesting and informative lectures throughout the trip. The entire staff was friendly and helpful, they made the trip special. We will be going on other cruises with American Queen Cruise Line in the future. The American Queen is a beautiful ship and well kept. It is very comfortable The officers of the American Queen are very friendly and managed the ship very well., But the exception is that this trip is not for everyone if you want Diamond International and a ship that contains a casino this is not a cruise line for you. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
Loved this cruise which sailed from Vancouver ,Washington to Clarkston Washington over 9 days .Not being American we didn’t really know anything about Lewis and Clark ,and mainly picked this cruise for the beautiful scenery, but ... Read More
Loved this cruise which sailed from Vancouver ,Washington to Clarkston Washington over 9 days .Not being American we didn’t really know anything about Lewis and Clark ,and mainly picked this cruise for the beautiful scenery, but learning about the Lewis and Clark expeditions was a bonus ,the Riverlorian was very informative and we enjoyed his commentary .The food ,the staff and the service were exceptional .The day excursions were great and well organised .The Entertainment was most enjoyable,but the standout was Frank in the Paddlewheel lounge ,he is a true entertainer !.Our only complaint was our room # 238.The room itself was really lovely and well serviced but on a couple of nights a ? Generator started up and it was like having a jet engine going in our room,we complained and they offered us a another room to sleep in just for the night but at 10.30pm the last thing we wanted to do was change rooms just to sleep,so we resorted to earplugs and got little sleep .We thought this was a one off thing but no it happened again several nights later when in port .They could not offer us any other rooms that didn’t have the same noise or the paddle wheel noise so we reluctantly stayed in that room.If we had known the noise was bad at the back end of the boat we would never have booked a room at the back end of the boat .The Staff did all they could to help but they need to make people aware that those rooms are noisy ,we couldn’t sit on our verandah as the noise out of the external air conditioning vents on the outside of the boat near our room did not entice us to sit out there.My advice is if you don’t like noise do not pick rooms near the stern of the boat Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
We chose this cruise to see the Pacific Northwest. It was good, except for the nightmarish first day with no air conditioning and a toilet that did not work! UGH! We were moved (to a lesser room) and after that things were OK. The ... Read More
We chose this cruise to see the Pacific Northwest. It was good, except for the nightmarish first day with no air conditioning and a toilet that did not work! UGH! We were moved (to a lesser room) and after that things were OK. The company offered no compensation for this awful experience. The company is still working things out with meals, excursions, but acceptable. The waiter spilled beer all over my wife's clothing one night and she had to leave the dinner. I wrote to the CEO and never received even the courtesy of a response. Thus this review. I would be fearful of using the ship again. The Riverlorian and entertainment were very good. We are veteran travelers and not much gets our attention, but this surely did, what a way to run a business!! The Pacific Northwest is rich in nature and natural sights, but sparse in tourist destinations, most seem forced with little to offer, although they are trying. For the money, and no consideration when they screw up, the value is not there Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
The following is a post I wrote for my travel blog: Welcome aboard American Queen Steamboat Company’s second paddlewheel riverboat, the 223-passenger (and 83 crew) American Empress. She’s a beauty with her traditional black smoke ... Read More
The following is a post I wrote for my travel blog: Welcome aboard American Queen Steamboat Company’s second paddlewheel riverboat, the 223-passenger (and 83 crew) American Empress. She’s a beauty with her traditional black smoke stacks, red paddlewheel, ornate trim, and beautiful décor. Having been on the grand dame of the fleet, American Queen, and the newest addition, the upscale boutique hotel inspired American Duchess, we were curious to spend a week aboard the four-year-old American Empress and get a feel for their Washington-based riverboat. What makes this boat different from the others is that all of the staterooms are outside with balconies/ verandas. Although our stateroom was located on the walking deck, so the veranda wasn’t as private on the other decks, I loved having easy accessibility to get quickly around the boat when I wanted to check out the view from all angles for photography. It was also convenient for my deck walks (8-1/2 laps equaled a mile), since there wasn’t a gym available. As always when we cruise, we selected the least-expensive cabin, since we don’t need the extra space or spend much time inside our room. At 150 square feet, it was the same size as most inside cruise ship cabins, and it was appointed with a mini refrigerator, flat-screen TV, desk, safe, and plenty of closet space. A nice touch was the addition of a nice pair of binoculars. Just a short walk down the hall from us was the River Grill, the casual dining option for breakfast and lunch buffets, or reservation-only dinners. Although we didn’t dine there for dinner, we enjoyed all of our breakfasts and lunches either on the deck outside of the River Grill, or just inside with great views looking out. When the weather was nice, they would open the doors, so you could enjoy the comfortable temperatures inside, but still feel like you were dining alfresco. What made the convenient location dangerous for our waistlines was the 24-hour soft serve ice cream machine (with several toppings) and cookies. (Thankfully, I did so much walking during the week that I didn’t gain any weight!) The other dining option, the Astoria Dining Room was fabulous for dinner. Although we had second seating (7:45 PM), it wasn’t assigned seating, so you could choose to dine alone or share a table with other passengers. The dining room was never full for the later seating, because first seating was more in demand. The River Grill was also a popular option, so it took the pressure off the dining room. As a result, dining was relaxed, the service was excellent, the food was delicious, and we weren’t rushed out of the dining room at the end of the evening. Baja, the Maitre D’ also made sure the wine was always flowing. The highlight of our dining experience was being invited to have dinner with Captain Andrea Mickelson. As turned out, my previous three cruises (two with Bruce and one I took my mother on) totaled more cruising days with the company than any other passenger, so that is why we were invited! We were quite impressed with the captain’s eight-year rise in the ranks from housekeeper to earning her USCG Captains license in 2002. She has been on the rivers ever since, and her passion is evident. Thanks to Baja seating me next to Captain Andrea, I was able to ask her a lot of questions and get to know her a bit. Baja, along with Adam (bartender/ cocktail waiter), Evan (waiter), and Gail (Excursions Manager), were all working aboard the American Duchess when we were on in January, so it was fun seeing them again and getting to know them better. Adam remembered the dates we would be on, because it was his birthday during our cruise, and Baja scheduled us in his phone; so, we had a very warm welcome from them both on the first day! In between the show and dinner, and then again after dinner each evening, we made our way to the Paddlewheel Lounge to hear Frank play piano and sing. What a hoot! His quirky sense of humor added even more enjoyment to his wonderful singing and phenomenal piano playing. He had us thoroughly entertained! And, when he wasn’t playing, we enjoyed the great views of the scenery out the side windows and the turning red paddlewheel out the back. Off to the side, there was a small library with comfortable couches, and four computers to access the free WiFi. In the show lounge, Lawrence gave informative lectures during the day (We particularly enjoyed his two-part talk on Lewis & Clark). At night, there were excellent shows various combinations of the four talented staff singers accompanied by a fabulous four-piece band. Sammy and Daniel were so much fun and friendly, and they seemed to truly enjoy performing together. Greg (Cruise Director), and his wife, Lindy (Hotel Manager) reminded us so much of husband and wife team, Max and Darcy, the cruise director and assistant cruise director/ entertainers aboard the American Duchess. Not only did they all remember our names after the first time we met, but they were very personable, friendly, and amazingly talented. “Lindy on a High Note” was Lindy’s fantastic cabaret, which highlighted her operatic training while singing selections from Broadway musicals. Greg followed up with his own one-man show of Broadway musicals, complete with on-stage costume/character changes for each one. From Fiddler on the Roof to Don Quixote to Phantom of the Opera, we were totally captivated by his versatility and talent! The dining and entertainment on all three boats is truly top-notch quality, and the best we have experienced on the water, including the many ocean cruises we worked on as Arts & Crafts instructors with two major mid-level cruise lines. What makes American Queen Steamboat Company’s cruises unique, though, is the included hop on-hop off buses that follow the boat throughout the itinerary. They make frequent stops at several of each town’s highlight attractions, and admission to those attractions are included as well. Premium excursions are also available, and we scheduled our first one for this cruise. (More on that in a later post.) The most enjoyable aspect of each cruise we have taken with American Queen Steamboat Company, however, has been the staff, from the captain all the way down to our stateroom attendant. As personable and friendly as they are, it appears as if they wisely hire for personality and train the skills needed to perform the job. The company also does a great job promoting from within. Lindy was originally hired as an entertainer when the American Empress first started; however, she was asked by the owner of the company, John Waggoner, to become Hotel Manager. After initial protest by Lindy (I’m not a hotel manager; I’m an entertainer!), she agreed under the condition that she would still be able to perform her cabaret. Mr. Waggoner agreed, and she now pulls double duty and seems very happy. The staff also goes out of their way to make sure their guests are happy and having a good time. I witnessed one man at the River Grill looking at the selection of ice cream toppings and asking where the nuts were. Edward, the River Grill chef promised he would get some for him the next day. Sure enough, the next morning, he poured out a bag of mixed bar nuts on his workstation, so he could pick out the peanuts for this passenger’s ice cream. Then, he spent his work break going into town to buy a can of peanuts to keep this passenger happy the remainder of the cruise! That’s going above and beyond, don’t you think? Knowing I liked the chocolate chip cookies, Evan surprised me one night at dinner with a wrapped plate of the treats to take back to our cabin. I hadn’t asked for them, but he thought to do it anyway. In addition to seating me next to the captain, Baja brought us out lobster tails on the last night of the cruise, because he knew how much we had enjoyed them the night before. It is all of these reasons that we will continue cruising with American Queen Steamboat Company. We already have one booked for next summer! Read Less
American Empress Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 4.5 0.0
Entertainment 4.5 0.0
Public Rooms 4.5 0.0
Fitness Recreation 3.5 0.0
Family 1.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.5 0.0
Enrichment 5.0 0.0
Service 5.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 4.0 N/A

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