80 American Queen Steamboat Company American Empress Cruise Reviews

Embarking from the port of Clarkston, Washington and disembarking in Portland, Washington aboard the American Queen Steamboat Company Empress. The staff went out of their way to assure that passengers had an enjoyable & smooth ... Read More
Embarking from the port of Clarkston, Washington and disembarking in Portland, Washington aboard the American Queen Steamboat Company Empress. The staff went out of their way to assure that passengers had an enjoyable & smooth experience. The food was spectacular, tasty and service in high fashion! The lunch buffet was equally delicious....daily ethnic options were a pleasant experience and the sandwich options from the grill were made to order. Excursions were often greater than expected. Our cruise was void of ANY CHILDREN, certainly a real plus and another pleasant experience is that there were NO photographers on board other than passengers. This cruise line does not seek to exploit passengers by taking pictures at the most inopportune times and selling them for overinflated prices. The only possible negative comment would be that several ports lacked shopping options. That certainly is not the fault of the cruise line, but certainly a financial mis-opportunity for the local economy. The ship's staff from top to bottom all had perpetual smiles and friendly personalities. This did not appear fake, but a testiment to happ employees. We ditched the nightly entertainment for the spectacular evening views from the top deck of the ship....truly spectacular. Read Less
Sail Date August 2019
What a wonderful week we had as we sailed down the Snake and Columbia Rivers aboard the American Empress! This was our first cruise with the American Steamboat Company and there was so much about the cruise that didn’t disappoint. We ... Read More
What a wonderful week we had as we sailed down the Snake and Columbia Rivers aboard the American Empress! This was our first cruise with the American Steamboat Company and there was so much about the cruise that didn’t disappoint. We have sailed many larger cruise ships but never a riverboat. The crew was the most friendly crew we have experienced. The Captain was visible and friendly too. The accommodations were excellent. Our room steward Gina was superb and quick to respond when we had questions or concerns. The ship was chilly and a large majority or passengers wore light jackets, sweatshirts or sweaters while on board. We did have two problems with our cabin while on board. On the second day our safe would not open. They responded quickly, opened our safe but were unable to fix it. However, later in the day the safe was removed and another safe was installed and it worked well for the remainder of the trip. At 2:30 am the next to last day of our cruises I saw a spark somewhere in the ceiling near our door. Smoke began to come out of the ceiling smelling like an electrical fire. When I called the main desk 3 people came to our cabin immediately, one with a fire extinguisher in hand. One of the crew opened a door in the ceiling where the air conditioner was located and began looking around. It was a bit dirty up there, which was noted by one of the crew. Smoke was still in the room. I asked if they cared if I opened the door to the outside. So I did. With the door to the hall open and the door to our balcony open the smoke began to filter out of the room. After a few minutes they determined that the motor of the air conditioner had burned out and said that it could not be replaced until morning. They said we should leave our 2 doors open to get the smoke out of our cabin and they left. We do wish the crew had checked to see if that was an option conducive to sleeping, since it was now after 3:00 am. The wind coming through the cabin sounded like a freight train coming through the cabin. So we closed the door to the hall and laid back down. Then the door to the deck was banging so it was impossible to sleep. We closed that door too, even though there was still some smoke in the room. By 4:00 am we were able to drift off to sleep. By 7:00 am we were leaving our cabin and met a crew member coming down the hall to replace the motor. He said he was leaving and needed to do that before he left. Good thing we were heading out for the day and didn’t get awakened again for the repair. When returning to our cabin after breakfast our cabin door was left open and no one was in the cabin which was a little unsettling. In the end our air conditioner was fixed and worked fine for the remainder of our trip. I still wonder what they can do to keep the area around the ac units cleaner. We were breathing that dust in our cabin and the dirt could have contributed to a fire. I thank the quick response of the crew. But I do wish that they had offered us a way to secure the balcony door so we could have left it open. And why was our cabin left unsecured? Even though we were a little tired that day we didn’t let that stop our tours and enjoyed the day and the remainder of our trip Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
We wanted to experience the pacific northwest and travel with some good friends. The literature advertised this as upscale, all inclusive. We've taken many ocean cruises (15+) but never a river cruise anywhere. I'm not sure ... Read More
We wanted to experience the pacific northwest and travel with some good friends. The literature advertised this as upscale, all inclusive. We've taken many ocean cruises (15+) but never a river cruise anywhere. I'm not sure I'd say this is upscale, and I'm not convinced its worth the additional monies versus what you'd pay for a large vessel cruise. The Hop On/Hop Off bus is a nice feature, as is the wine and beer with dinner, but it's an expensive gimmick, not worth the extra money you pay. The cabins are nicely appointed but small, just like a larger ship. The intimate size (200+ passengers) was quite nice, but most were very elderly and the things to do were very limited. Food was good. Quantity was good, you could have extras. The number of menu selections were limited compared to a larger ship. The River Grill menu covers a wide range of items but it doesn't compare to a "for-fee" restaurant on a larger ship. The ambiance was not there. The guest performers were terrific. The on-board assistant cruise directors, who also performed, were not of the same caliber of talent. We all said we enjoyed this and we are very glad we did it. We just would not do another river cruise at this point. Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
This cruise for for my 10th anniversary. We were the youngest couple on the boat (not a critique, just an observation). It was the first river boat experience for both of us. There was one port-of-call change that was made after we ... Read More
This cruise for for my 10th anniversary. We were the youngest couple on the boat (not a critique, just an observation). It was the first river boat experience for both of us. There was one port-of-call change that was made after we booked due to an event at on of the ports that seemed significant enough to have warranted more warning. The excursions we took: The LEWIS & CLARK EXPERIENCE THE ULTIMATE PACIFIC NORTHWEST EXPERIENCE The PENDLETON TOUR THE COMPLETE LEWIS-CLARK VALLEY WINE TOUR The Hits: The room and service was excellent as expected The food was amazing with a variety of changing options at every seating The scenery in transit was beautiful The "riverlorian" The Lewis-Clark Valley Wine Tour Most of the entertainment The Misses: Some of the excusrions. The example I'll give is The Ultimate Pacific Northwest Experience, but we had similar experiences on more than excursion. This tour attempts to pack in far too much in one day. We were on the bus traveling between locations far longer than we got to spend at any of them. "Enrichment" on this tour is simply not an option. For example, stopping at the magnificent Multnomah Falls, we were allotted less than an hour. Only the most active and spry of us made it to the bridge, wit barely enough time to walk the rest of the grounds. It was basically race the bridge, then back down to spend a few minutes in the gift shop before taking off to the next place. Lunch was great, but maybe a catered lunch at Timberline instead, with more time at that location (and the others) would have made this excursion better. Maybe it's just me, but I would prefer more detailed enrichment at fewer places than less at more locations and spending too much time travelling between locations. The Entertainment The quartet contains talented musicians and excelled at the small scale pieces tasked to play. It was perfect for the '50-60's night. For some of the bigger themed pieces, a quartet is just not big enough to simulate some of the "big band" or Broadway orchestra pieces that were presented. This band would be so much better served with just one more member, specifically a horn, either trumpet or even a trombone, and it would really round out the sound. Read Less
Sail Date June 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
Sail Date April 2019
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
Sail Date November 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
Sail Date October 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
Sail Date September 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
Sail Date August 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
Sail Date July 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
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
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
Sail Date May 2018
My wife and I, along with four other couples, sailed the American Empress from Spokane to Portland on May 20, 2018. This was our third cruise with American Queen Steamboat Company. We had previously done the Upper Mississippi and Nashville ... Read More
My wife and I, along with four other couples, sailed the American Empress from Spokane to Portland on May 20, 2018. This was our third cruise with American Queen Steamboat Company. We had previously done the Upper Mississippi and Nashville to Memphis on the American Queen. DAY 1: American Queen provides your first night stay at the historic Davenport Hotel. The hotel shuttle which we had reserved thru the hotel ($25 per room) was waiting for us and quickly delivered us to the hotel. The hotel is beautiful and we enjoyed lunch in the Grill. The prime rib French dip sandwich was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. We completed our ship check-in, enjoyed dinner and walked a few blocks to see Spokane Falls. DAY 2: The next morning, following a buffet breakfast provided by American Queen, we took the Spokane City Tour Premium Excursion. We returned to the hotel around noon which gave us time to check out and eat lunch before boarding the bus for the two hour drive to Clarkston. If you choose not to take the extra-cost city tour, the morning is yours until it is time to board the bus to Clarkston. After boarding the boat, one member of our group went to make reservations for the River Grill “specialty” dining and another member went to the dining room to request a table for ten for the entire cruise. During dinner we had a short cruise on the river before returning to the dock. DAY 3: Still in Clarkston, following breakfast we did the hop-on, hop-off bus before returning for lunch on our veranda. Our group had four adjacent cabins on the Vista Deck. Outside each cabin were two chairs and a small table. A low railing separated the veranda from the walking deck and there was a metal partition between each veranda. At our request, the deck crew removed the metal partitions between our cabins so the area was open and we could all sit out and talk to each other. We went thru our first lock this afternoon which lowered us 100 feet. Following dinner we enjoyed the evening show and spent about 45 minutes chatting with the performers after the show. It’s great being on a small ship where the crew and entertainers know your names after the first day. The weather has been perfect although it’s been warmer than we expected. DAY 4: When we arrived in Richland, WA we weren’t able to dock due to the high water level of the river because of early snow melt run-off. The boat was positioned perpendicular to the shore and the bow gangway dropped. The premium excursions and hop-on, hop-off ran as usual. We left at 4:30 pm and were told that we were sailing to Umatilla, OR so the boat could take on water and fuel. We enjoyed another wonderful dinner and show. DAY 5: The regular dock in Umatilla was flooded so we’ve docked at an industrial dock. Unfortunately we spent most of the day here and the stink of diesel fuel was horrible. We should have spent the day cruising. This was the low point of the cruise. About 5 pm we reached the John Day Dam lock. Enjoyed another wonderful show this evening. DAY 6: Arrived in Stevenson, WA for an overnight stay. The weather and scenery has really changed. Much cooler, windy and forested. Beautiful scenery. We visited the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum this morning, enjoyed dinner and the show. DAY 7: Visited Multnomah Falls, Vista House and Latourell Falls. Another delicious dinner followed by a great show. After the show we enjoyed a rock & roll dance party. DAY 8: Arrived in Astoria, OR to a beautiful sunny day. Everyone is telling us that this weather is unusually good for Astoria which is normally overcast and cloudy. We did the hop-on, hop-off bus this morning and following lunch we took the Lewis and Clark excursion. Enjoyed our last dinner and show and packed for the trip home. DINING We had requested and received early dining but a specific table is not assigned until you arrive for dinner. The dining room manager had us at two tables (6 and 4) the first night, but the rest of the cruise we had a table for ten with the same servers each night. The River Grill and Bar becomes a “specialty” dining venue with a fixed menu with several choices. Five or six seatings are offered each night. There is no extra cost to eat there but each guest is limited to two dinners per cruise. We had made reservations for two nights but after our first meal we cancelled our second reservation. We were not impressed. Several in our group had the steak and lobster and by the time the server got around to removing the lobster from the shell, it was cold and the steak for several people was cold upon arrival. The food was no better than that served in the dining room nor was the ambiance. For breakfast and lunch the River Grill has buffet offerings as well as cooked to order items such as eggs, hamburgers, etc. The soft serve ice cream machine and assorted toppings are located here. Several days later we were talking to the Dining Room Manager about our experience and how we felt it would be better to following the example of the American Queen and have the River Grill serve buffet style in the evening for those guests who would prefer a quicker, casual meal. He said that would be his preference also since he really doesn’t have the staff to do a proper job in the present set-up. The Dining Room offered varied menu items for breakfast and lunch, although we always ate breakfast and lunch in the River Grill. Dinner in the Dining Room offered a changing menu consisting of three starters, six soup/salads, eight entrees, several side items and five desert choices. There were several times when we ordered multiple entrees or extra servings which were happily provided. Overall the food was very good except for the pastry items which left much to be desired. They need a new pastry chef. ENTERTAINMENT The shipboard entertainment was excellent. Singers/dancers Sammi Sadicario and Daniel Lopez were both outstanding performers. Greg Pendzick sang and acted as the master of ceremonies and his wife Lindy Penzick sang and was the ship’s officer in charge of hospitality. Frank Chase played piano in the Paddlewheel Lounge. Kevin Neil captured the spirit of the wild west through his cowboy poetry and songs one evening. STAFF The staff was excellent. Everyone was extremely friendly and helpful. Our cabin attendant Olivia kept our cabin spotless and was a joy to work with. Dining room manager Baja arranged a special table for ten for our group and our servers Delonte and Lulu performed their duties in an excellent manner while making sure we had fun at dinner. A special thanks to Greg and Lindy Pendzick who handled their roles as entertainers and ship officers in a wonderful manner. They knew everyone’s name after the first day and went above and beyond to ensure that our cruise was wonderful. We never encountered a crew member who wasn’t helpful and more than willing to go out of their way to make our stay more comfortable. HOP-ON, HOP-OFF American Queen has their own fleet of four buses that follow the boat from stop to stop. At each town they provide a free hop-on, hop-off bus tour staffed by local historians that explain what you’re seeing and what’s at the different stops. The buses run in a continuous loop so you see what you want at your own pace. It’s a great system. In Clarkston we visited the Nez Perce National Historical Park and the Bridablik/Schroeder House. The House is a don’t miss attraction. It is a privately-owned residence that has been restored and filled with antiques. It is only open to American Empress guests and the owners take you on a wonderful tour followed by refreshments. Unfortunately they don’t allow any photography inside the house. In Astoria we visited Flavel House, a restored antique-filled house and the Astoria Column. PREMIUM SHORE EXCURSIONS We did several premium excursions which we felt were excellent and reasonably priced. The Spokane City Tour included Bing Crosby’s home, Manito Park and a ride on the historic 1909 Looff Carrousel. This tour fills your morning before being driven to the boat in Clarkston. Two members of our group went on the Hells Canyon Scenic Jet Boat Experience and enjoyed it. They said it was a smooth scenic ride. The High Octane Antiques: The Western Aeroplane and Automobile was wonderful. Over 325 airplanes, automobiles, motorcycles, jeeps and tractors are displayed. The Multnomah Falls & Vista House excursion included Multnomah Falls, Vista House and Latourell Falls, all beautiful locations. The Lewis and Clark Experience was very good. The Portland “The Rose City” Tour was also very good and delivered us to the Portland Airport by noon. Overall we had a wonderful cruise thru beautiful scenery. When comparing this cruise with our two previous trips on the American Queen, we preferred the American Queen. It is a larger ship which seemed to have more amenities. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
We had a great time on this trip, although there were a few, ahem, unexpected features. We traveled on the American Queen Steamboat Company’s American Empress, from Clarkston, Washington to Vancouver (Portland), westbound per Lewis ... Read More
We had a great time on this trip, although there were a few, ahem, unexpected features. We traveled on the American Queen Steamboat Company’s American Empress, from Clarkston, Washington to Vancouver (Portland), westbound per Lewis and Clark. This was the last week of April 2018, and almost none of the forecast rain materialized. A lovely time on the river and uncharacteristically green, even in the East, with sunny days and cool nights. This was our first river cruise ever so, with nothing to compare it to, I will venture to write a review. We flew into Spokane and paid way too much for a taxi to the hotel. Should have taken the shuttle for $25 a couple. The Historic Davenport Hotel clings to its glorious past, and it is charming and elegant, with stunning public spaces. Our corner room was large and welcoming. The Spokane River passes through town just a couple blocks away, and it is definitely worth a visit to see the rushing rapids. The neighborhood is not the best, and even in broad daylight, I found myself looking over my shoulder and clutching my purse. The elegant hotel is an oasis from the surrounding streets, but it seems somehow out of place and time. We had an excellent dinner at Wild Sage Bistro on 2nd Avenue in Spokane. Bus ride to Clarkston the next day was long and unremarkable. THE GOOD Our stateroom. We were on the Vista Deck, which means people could stroll by and chat. We found this charming and did not worry at all about lack of privacy. (That’s what window shades are for.) Our Category A suite was large and comfortable with a coffee maker, a loveseat and two chairs, and plenty of storage space. Housekeeping visited twice a day and did a great job. A side note about Vista Deck. The Empress has no gym on board, but a number of regular walkers made their rounds past our veranda every day. We cheered them on and joined them from time to time. (8 1/2 laps = 1 mile.) Dining. Overall: outstanding! Many choices, different every day, attentive service. We ate mostly in the dining room, with waited tables. Our Maître D “Baja” ensured that the wine was flowing freely at each evening meal. We always joined other diners, and these moments were some of the most memorable of the trip. The buffet in the Grill was also available for breakfast and lunch, with ice cream and snacks throughout the day. At night, the Grill becomes the premium restaurant, reservations required. Lobster is to die for. Room service is always available as well. On our “sea day” we enjoyed lunch on our veranda as we watched the scenery glide by. Entertainment. There were two nights with guest entertainers, Will Keifer with Banjomania, and Kevin Neil, a very funny cowboy guitar player. Both were really excellent. The Empress Quartet, consisting of piano, sax, bass, and drums, was entertaining as well. Excursions. Red Mountain Wine and Spirits tour was very enjoyable. Interesting presentations, nice scenery, and good wines. Bonneville Dam was a pleasant surprise. We had a guided tour into the vast turbine room where the electricity is generated (walked across an actual spinning turbine), then to the viewing windows to watch fish climbing the fish ladders. Unique experience! Jet Boat on Hell’s Canyon was a little disappointing. At 5 hours, it was too long and, although it was pretty country, it was really just a slow boat up and back the Snake River Canyon. Didn’t see any wildlife. THE BAD We’d heard the stateroom walls were thin. This was true. We never heard our neighbor on one side, but on the other side (as the sound came right through our pillows!) we heard their TV turned to cable news at all hours of the day and night, even in the pre-dawn hours. We could hear every word and even identify the guests being interviewed. AQSC needs to get a handle on this, either with soundproofing (unlikely) or cutting off the satellite feed in the wee small hours. WiFi was “free,” but it was also pretty much non-existent for most of the cruise. Also, for much of the same time, we were out of cell phone range. (On reflection, maybe not such a bad thing.) Mary, the “Riverlorian,” was like that annoying sixth grade teacher you still remember, but not fondly. She talked down to us like we were stupid. And please spare me the political jokes - we’re on vacation. We left ten minutes into the first session and never went back. This was a big disappointment for me, because I was really looking forward to following the history as we traveled the route of Lewis and Clark down the Columbia River. Sadly, a missed opportunity. And where was Frank, the fabled piano player in the Paddlewheel Lounge? His substitute was uninspiring. THE UNEXPECTED Veterans Meet & Greet in the Paddlewheel Lounge. Each veteran was invited to share a brief account about his or her service. There were probably forty veterans and their family members. The greatest percentage were veterans of the Korean War, which was a fair reflection of the average age of the passengers. A good experience and a nice idea. Locks. As we traveled downstream, we went through a series of locks, four on the Snake and four more on the Columbia. It was fascinating to watch our Captain as she skillfully steered our big boat through those small locks, sometimes with inches to spare! Now this was weird. Certain of the young, male dining staff habitually hugged the guests, male and female, with much squealing and clapping of hands. They would come around the desk and ambush you on arrival, and intercept you again on departure. Some of the other guests seemed to enjoy this. Not me - it creeped me out. In this day and age, you just have to wonder. IN SUMMARY No vacation would be complete without a few surprises, and overall, we had a great time. The best part, of course, was all the interesting people we shared our cruise with. A different kind of trip for us and a lasting memory. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
We arrived at the Historic Davenport hotel in Spokane a day early (as is our custom). One night in this wonderful period hotel is included with the cruise. The hotel has an enormous two-story atrium that is quite impressive with much of ... Read More
We arrived at the Historic Davenport hotel in Spokane a day early (as is our custom). One night in this wonderful period hotel is included with the cruise. The hotel has an enormous two-story atrium that is quite impressive with much of the same décor as when it was built in the early 1900s. It has a restaurant called the Palm Court, a pub called the Peacock Lounge and a Starbuck’s. Our room was very nice but we needed a step stool (not provided) to get in and out of the ridiculously high bed. There is a multistory shopping center a few blocks away for a diversion. Checking in for the boat in the hotel was simple and fast. We enjoyed a nice brunch with the other passengers on the day of embarkation. Bags are picked up from your hotel room and you don’t see them again until they are delivered to your cabin. The American Empress buses took us on the two-and-a-half hour ride to the boat in Clarkston. These same buses and drivers follow the boat for the entire cruise and provide the convenient hop on hop off service and bus tours in each port. As with most cruises, they adjust the cruising to make the schedule. This is a little more obvious on a river cruise. For example, we boarded the boat in Clarkston, cruised a little that evening and the next morning we were in our same stop, Clarkston. Of course it was no problem, just a little weird. The boat has two restaurants. The main restaurant has table service for three meals a day with two dinner seatings. The Grill has buffet style breakfast and lunch supplemented by a short order cook doing a few specific items. In the evening, it turns into their specialty restaurant requiring reservations. The food in both restaurants was generally good, but sometimes the portions were very small. House wines were included with dinner. The scenery was nice though a little odd at first. We went through a section of territory where rainfall is very limited. It is so limited that there are no trees, just some sort of low grass or shrub. But as we progressed down the river, there were more trees and cliffs that we had expected. We did not go to any of the shows. We liked to walk around the ports for some exercise and a little shopping. We did not take any of the tours or the hop on hop off buses. The riverlorian was knowledgeable and pleasant. Trouble is that most of his talks were scheduled for 8:00 or 8:30 in the morning. That’s a bit early for people on vacation who like breakfast before they do anything. In the northwest, Lewis and Clark are the primary historical figures. So naturally, they were a big part of his talks. We found the service to be good and the staff friendly and helpful. The overall passenger demographic was somewhat older than we have previously encountered. The old-style paddle-wheel boat is decorated with a number of historical pictures and prints of things like Russian princes and Native Americans adding to its historical feel. The cruise ended in Vancouver Washington. Overall, it was a good cruise for those interested in a leisurely cruise through historic small town America.  Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
Our 9 day Lewis and Clark cruise included a night in Spokane at the Davenport Hotel. The sleep experience was lovely and the restaurant very good. We took the extra tour of Spokane and were glad we did, an interesting small city with a ... Read More
Our 9 day Lewis and Clark cruise included a night in Spokane at the Davenport Hotel. The sleep experience was lovely and the restaurant very good. We took the extra tour of Spokane and were glad we did, an interesting small city with a terrific botanical garden. The cruise could not have been more organized, very easy movement of people and luggage. There is a 2.5 hr bus ride to Lewiston. Embarkation a breeze. We were greeted by all the crew. Special shout out to Lindy who introduced herself and made it a point to remember our name. She is a fantastic entertainer and was an always cheerful presence. Gayle, who ran the excursions was efficient and patient. Romano in the dining room a treat every time we saw him, and the manager of the river grill excellent. We had early dining and met delightful dinner companions. There was a vairiety of menu options with at least 2 different fish every night as well as traditional fare and always vegetarian items. Local wine was always presented and explained at dinner. The piano player in the lounge very talented and funny. The drinks just so-so, we kept trying the cocktail of the day and it was more miss than hit. This cruise is interesting as the topography changes drastically, with many locks down the Columbia. The hop on hop off worked very well. If you are a bicycle rider, Richmond offered great paved trails right off the boat. The included Columbia River Discovery and Interpretive center are wonderful museums. Disocovery center brought out some raptors for us. The Hells canyon jet boat tour was well worth the extra expense, as well as WAAM. Our very favorite was the Lewis and Clark tour to Fort Clasop and Discovery Bay. Our fellow travelers were very friendly and cheerful. The evening entertainment showcased some very talented folks and was accompanied by a 4 piece band. Our riverlorian shed historical light on the voyage Lewis and Clark took as well as helping identify wildlife. We saw deer, wild swans and sheep, sea lions and white pelicans. The spring orchards for pear and apples were in full bloom. It was a very relaxing vacation. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
I am in my 70s, an Australian solo traveller, love seeing new places and love cruising. I enjoyed an upper Mississippi cruise on the American Queen a couple of years ago and, as I had never been to the Pacific Northwest before, knew that ... Read More
I am in my 70s, an Australian solo traveller, love seeing new places and love cruising. I enjoyed an upper Mississippi cruise on the American Queen a couple of years ago and, as I had never been to the Pacific Northwest before, knew that a paddle boat cruise would be a great way to go. I was not disappointed - the accommodation was VERY comfortable, food was delicious, all of the crew from the Captain down were so helpful, and very approachable. I was so impressed with the standard of entertainment, particularly for such a small boat - all were excellent. Lindy, the Hotel Manager, ran a "tight ship", with everything running smoothly on board, and external problems (eg. a dodgy lock, which wouldn't fill) were handled efficiently. Love the Hop On Hop Off buses, painted to look like riverboats, which took us around each of the towns we docked at, and on the premium excursions. My favourite was Zip-lining, which I hadn't tried before, and the jet boat cruise up the Snake River. I met lots of lovely people, so had plenty of good company when I wanted it. Thoroughly enjoyed the cruise, and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to others. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
Beautiful Location, short trip, excellent small boat with personal service and great entertainment. Food selections were varied and fresh. Unfortunately our trip included several wet and misty days, but knowing this ahead of time, we ... Read More
Beautiful Location, short trip, excellent small boat with personal service and great entertainment. Food selections were varied and fresh. Unfortunately our trip included several wet and misty days, but knowing this ahead of time, we dressed appropriately. The well appointed rooms on the boat are very comfortable and the boat includes 2 dining rooms and 2 lounges. We had plenty of time to get outdoors and exercise our legs, but the well organized hop off, hop on buses were a great alternative. Local Guides were well informed. I Would recommend to elderly, couples or families, although no young children. Each port of call had interesting museums, river walks and information about the local area. Shopping wasnt as good as I expected. A cruise like this is a great getaway to spoil yourself, get refreshed and learn about another part of the country. We look forward to booking a Missippi River cruise in a couple of years. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
We are an active couple in our mid-late 60's, and this was our first river boat cruise in the US. We wanted to do another European river cruise, but decided to stay in the US this year and had never been to the Pacific NW. We picked ... Read More
We are an active couple in our mid-late 60's, and this was our first river boat cruise in the US. We wanted to do another European river cruise, but decided to stay in the US this year and had never been to the Pacific NW. We picked October because the price dropped at that point, plus we hoped to see fall colors. Boy, did we luck out on the weather! Absolutely gorgeous the entire week, bright sunshine, mid-high 60's. Very rare to have no rain at that time of year. We were younger than most folks on board, who tended to be at least in their 70's. Most were well travelled retirees. We decided on the east to west route for several reasons, but mainly we wanted to do the 2 hour bus ride at the beginning of the week when we could enjoy it, rather than at the end when we were tired. We flew into Spokane and had reserved the hotel shuttle to the Historic Davenport ($25/room, booked online in advance, very nice shuttle van). At check in we were told the cruise line had arranged for a 1pm checkout instead of the usual noon check out time, which was nice. We had a corner room on the 10th floor, probably the nicest hotel room we've ever had! I could have spent the entire week there! The bathroom was just gorgeous, with a soaking tub and a HUGE glassed in shower. There's a history of the Historic Davenport on one of the TV channels that was fascinating. We immediately headed to the lounge for happy hour and were disappointed to be told they had discontinued the half price happy hour appetizers (even though it was advertised on the folder we received at check in). Cruise check in was on the second floor of the hotel, and was disorganized in my opinion. First we checked in at a table in the hallway, then went into a room to finish up. Apparently they were supposed to take our photos there, issue bus transfers and get our credit card info. But the guy who did ours only took my photo and told us we were good to go. Found out the next morning from fellow passengers that we should have bus transfers, so we had to return to check in for those (of course we were on the last bus by that time). Then when we got to the boat, we were flagged to go to the Pursor's Office because hubby's photo wasn't on record, as well as our credit card info. But it was easily resolved. Breakfast at the hotel was a buffet in a private room, nice but nothing spectacular. We got a walking map of downtown Spokane from the concierge, as well as the self-guided tour of the hotel. The hotel tour is a must-do. We also walked an easy 2 blocks to the overlook of the Spokane River Falls. Bonus: There's a short cut to the Falls through a high end, multi level shopping mall. Just one block from the hotel was a great New York style deli, Domini's, where we got a delicious sandwich for lunch. Highly recommend. The worst part of the day was having to wait about an hour in the ball room for our bus transfer. Had a great driver for the 2 hour ride to the boat, learned a lot about the region and saw some beautiful scenery. FOOD Overall we were impressed with the food, although there were some misses. We ate most of our breakfasts and lunches in the River Grill, which was just steps away from our cabin. The entry to the River Grill is quite awkward and I always felt like I was coming in the back door. You are allowed two dinner reservations for the River Grill, and we picked Thursday (the cruising day with no port stop) and Sunday (the last night). Booking is done in the Show Lounge as soon as you board the ship. The menu in the River Grill is the same for the entire week, but it includes lobster. Lobster was also served in the dining room on Saturday, so if you plan it right you can have 3 lobster dinners! Each night we had a choice of regional red and white wines. All were very good. Refills are included, and you can carry out a full glass to the lounge or show when you leave. We chose regular dining (7:45) so we wouldn't have to rush back from a day out to get ready for dinner, but I would choose early dining next time since it was always well after 9 before we left the dining room. The entrees varied each evening, and always included at least one vegetarian selection. Hubby couldn't decide between the sea scallops and the braised ribs one night, so our waiter brought him both! The show for regular dining was at 6:30 and always ended about 20 minutes before the dining room doors opened, so the hall outside the dining room was always clogged with people waiting for the dining room doors to open. One night we sat at a table with two other couples we had met, and we were apparently overlooked – it was a good 30 minutes before we were served any wine and had orders taken, and that was after we flagged down the Head Waiter. There is a Happy Hour each day from 2-4 when beer is $1 off, and wine/cocktails $2 off. There's a 15% gratuity automatically added to each bar bill. ENTERTAINMENT We were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the onboard entertainment. There are two shows each evening so that everyone gets to see the show depending on their dinner time. Jordan and Isaac were quite talented as the onboard singing/dancing team. Lindy (hotel manager) and her husband Greg (cruise director) are also professional singers and put on two fantastic shows as well. They are all accompanied by a 4 piece quartet. Additionally, Frank Chase provided daily piano entertainment in the Paddlewheel Lounge. While he's great to listen to during his afternoon session, he is not to be missed in the evenings. So talented, and absolutely hilarious! Mary the Riverlorian is a wealth of knowledge about Lewis and Clark, as well as history of the area in general. EXCURSIONS, PORTS AND ACTIVITIES Each evening at turndown, a copy of the next day's activities as well as the Hop On Hop Off map is left in each cabin. Bus tickets are required for the first few morning buses only, and there is a kiosk next to the pursor's office where they can be printed. There were several excellent museums included during the week, all free as admission had been pre-arranged through AQSC. Lots of other interesting and historic stops as well, but we found shopping opportunities to be sparse. Astoria probably had the most shops and all were in walking distance of the boat, but it was Sunday and many were closed. If you are interested in purchasing native or local crafts, your best opportunities are the museum gift shops. We only took one premium excursion, the Wine and Spirits on Red Mountain winery tour. Our other excursion to Multnomah Falls was cancelled due to the fires in the area. I was really looking forward to seeing the Falls, at least from the boat, but then our departure was delayed due to another boat ahead of us in the lock, so we didn't pass the Falls until after dark. But the captain announced that she would try to find it and shine the ship's spotlight on it – what a treat! We also went through a number of locks, all different and interesting. While we read before leaving that bicycles were available for use in the ports, we never saw any and it was never mentioned. There are daily onboard activities as well, including zumba, bingo, trivia, crafts, etc. Wifi was very spotty and we also went through several dead zones, no cell or internet services at all. The best place to connect was the Paddlewheel Lounge, but connections were very, very slow. Disembarkation talks begin several days before the end of the cruise. We were going straight to the Portland airport to head back home, and rather than pay the $25 each for a seat on the bus, we used Uber for less than half of that. It's a very early day, as everyone has to be out of their room by 8am, and off the boat by 9am. Overall, this was a great cruise despite several glitches. The staff were fantastic, met lots of nice people, and saw gorgeous scenery as well as historic sites. We did feel like we had too much 'down time', and would have liked a few more activities geared towards more active lifestyles. American Queen knows its target market, and they provide a great experience. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
We were on the American Empress for its Clarkston to Vancouver cruise on October 9-16, 2017. We flew to Spokane on October 7 and spent two nights at Spokane’s Davenport Hotel (one night was already covered by the cruise). The Davenport ... Read More
We were on the American Empress for its Clarkston to Vancouver cruise on October 9-16, 2017. We flew to Spokane on October 7 and spent two nights at Spokane’s Davenport Hotel (one night was already covered by the cruise). The Davenport is a wonderful and historic hotel — be sure to take the self-guided tour of some of the hotel’s public rooms. We ended the cruise with two nights at the Dossier Hotel in Portland, Oregon (a much less interesting hotel with not much to offer except a good location). This is a cruise that will appeal to people who are interested in the history, geology, wildlife, indigenous peoples, and scenic beauty of the Pacific Northwest’s Snake and Columbia Rivers. It has an unhurried schedule, which makes it possible to be on a river cruise that is both fascinating and relaxing at the same time. While the boat is well-maintained and very attractive, it would not be a good choice if you are looking for a cruise that includes a spa, a swimming pool, specialty shops, casino, etc. It has none of these. While it does not have a gym, it does have bicycles onboard that you can take out when the boat is in port and you can walk around the entire top deck (though you may smell some diesel fumes on the stern section when the boat is docked). The weather during this October cruise was fairly cool. Mornings were sometimes in the upper 30’s or low 40’s, and highs were usually in the 60’s (occasionally in the low 70’s). Since we checked the weather forecasts before we left home, we brought clothes that we could layer – shirts, turtlenecks, sweaters, and a light, rain-proof jacket. (Not much rain, fortunately.) There are a lot of pluses. Mary, our “riverlorian,” was outstanding. She is a natural teacher who has an impressive mastery of a wide range of topics, from Lewis and Clark to the “Great Missoula Floods” to the underlying geology of the region to the history and culture of the indigenous peoples in the region. She is an engaging story-teller: fun to listen to and a terrific asset to the cruise. She scheduled a range of talks at all different times of the day, and was often in the Paddlewheel Lounge to answer individual questions. In a very different way, the American Empress entertainers were also a great asset. Mel, Kevin, Lindy and the American Empress Quartet were perfect for this cruise: they are all very accomplished performers and musicians who provided evening shows that were aimed at an audience of mostly folks in their 70’s and 80’s. (There was also a piano bar in the Paddlewheel Lounge that people seemed to enjoy. We, however, were generally in bed when he was performing.) The cruise includes hop-on, hop-off buses at each of the stops that run every half hour in the morning and every hour in the afternoon. What I especially liked is that (a) the local guides who ride with you on the buses are very knowledgeable presenters so that even if you just stay on the bus the whole time, you’ll still see and learn a fair amount and (b) the stops themselves are very well chosen. The American Queen Steamboat Company seems to put a lot of thought and effort into choosing and vetting these stops. The hop-on, hop-off stops are all included with the cruise. Our only “premium” tour (i.e., you pay extra) was the full-day trip to see the rose gardens in Portland followed by a trip to Mount St. Helen’s. Wow! Part of the wow factor was that we lucked out and had a stunningly clear day for the trip to Mount St. Helen’s and an excellent guide (Trudy). It was a memorable day and well worth the extra cost. The artwork on each hallway and in the public spaces makes the boat something of a floating museum. The artwork is numbered, and there’s a booklet in each cabin that lets you do a self-guided tour. It’s worth doing. Unlike some other cruises, the American Empress does not bombard you with constant p.a. announcements hassling you to buy something or do something. Just a few announcements to remind you that a talk or presentation is about to begin. I appreciated their restraint. We stayed in one of the two luxury suites that includes the cruise line’s “Commodore Services.” While it is costly, I think that we got our money’s worth. We were extraordinarily well cared for by Todd, our river butler, and Liz, our housekeeper. The location of this stateroom (Room 201) was another big plus: it is at the front of the boat on starboard side and has a private balcony. We had great views in two directions (forward and starboard) from which we could view scenery, birds, and marine life or watch what happens when the boat goes through the locks. If it was cold out, we could stay inside our stateroom’s sitting area and still have a great view through the windows that faced forward. But I think that we would also have enjoyed this cruise a lot even if we hadn’t been in that suite. We ate most of our meals in the Astoria Dining Room. The menu is surprisingly varied. There was plenty of standard fare (steaks, chops, and pasta) but also options that were more adventuresome. It is not a four-star dining experience, but it is awfully good, and the servers are remarkably friendly and eager to please. It includes unlimited wine at dinner. The River Grill has breakfast and lunch buffets each day, but we preferred the sit-down service in the Astoria Dining Room. Our only dining disappointment was the one night we dined in the River Grill, rather than in the Astoria Dining Room. I had lobster tail, and my wife had a steak. Both were merely OK (the lobster tail is rather tiny, actually), and the place was surprisingly noisy. The prep area is right where you enter the restaurant from the inside hallway (a bizarre location, frankly), and it fills the room with the noise of clanging dishes and pans. It didn’t help matters that at a table near us was a boorish fellow diner with a booming voice and very decided political views who perhaps was drinking too much of the wine and would not stop talking. Another complaint: the walls are pretty thin. The company might consider providing white noise machines for those in staterooms with noisy neighbors. Apart from that, we had a great time. This is civilized cruise for people who get a lot of pleasure from seeing and learning new things. The passengers are mostly retirees, and most are outgoing and sociable. At meals you have the option of sitting at a table for two, four, or six — which is a way of saying that you have the freedom to mingle as much or as little as you want with others on board. In sum, the cruise lived up to its description on the American Queen Steamboat Company’s website, and if you are attracted by what you read on the website about it, then you’ll enjoy this cruise very much. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
On September 10th my wife and I and 34 neighbors from our Del Webb community took the American Empress riverboat from Clarkston Washington to Vancouver Washington (not Canada). The costs were $9189 not including flights, gratuities or ... Read More
On September 10th my wife and I and 34 neighbors from our Del Webb community took the American Empress riverboat from Clarkston Washington to Vancouver Washington (not Canada). The costs were $9189 not including flights, gratuities or transfers. Although everyone had a great time as we were all friends prior to this trip, we were very disappointed that we completely missed the major scenic portions of the river due to the Oregon fire and the Native American salmon fishing rights which prevented our docking at The Dalles. Due to the fire, we completely missed the Columbia gorge (passed thru after midnight), Mt. Hood, Multnomah Falls, The Old Scenic Highway, Bonneville Dam, and Timberline Lodge. We felt American Queen Steamship Company let us down, when they decided to compensate us with a day in Vancouver Washington with an included 15 minute hop on-hop off bus trip, and an additional day in Astoria Oregon with an included shopping trip to Cannon Beach and Seaside beach (local beaches). We asked them to provide a trip to Mt. St. Helens as they had done on the previous trip, but they refused. After returning home we requested our travel agent to ask them for compensation but AQSC did not respond. The bottom line is the fire and the blockage of The Dalles port were completely out of American Queens control, however their replacement options simply fell way short of the missed experiences to say nothing of the $1000+ a day cost. By the way they continue to advertise the same experiences we missed, even though the State of Oregon indicates those experiences may be closed for up to 2 years as a result of the fire. Although we all had fun on the river boat, we all felt that AQSC fell short in substituting for the missed experiences. We are aware that their contract says they can make any changes they want, including doing nothing. As a group we had a great time, but probably would not travel with AQSC in the future. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
Regrettably, our $7K cabin had malfunctioning air conditioning. It was terribly hot so we were provided with a fan! On the fourth day of the cruise, a maintenance person fixed the air conditioning unit but the thermostat was irregular ... Read More
Regrettably, our $7K cabin had malfunctioning air conditioning. It was terribly hot so we were provided with a fan! On the fourth day of the cruise, a maintenance person fixed the air conditioning unit but the thermostat was irregular and lowered to 65 degrees. With this, this, the air conditioning vent started dripping a significant amount of water into the carpeted floor. It was only after my third try that there was any action, and since I had the staff attention, I asked to have the room fully cleaned as well. There was significant dust on the baseboards and where the carpet met the walls. There was food in the refrigerator when we arrived. My assessment is there is simply no quality control. Yes, the ship has an English speaking crew but if they are not attentive, then it is of no value to the passenger. The company's apology to me was a complimentary bottle of wine. As for dining room food, I don't know. I asked someone how they liked the food and the reply was "I guess it is ok if you are hungry." My husband and I missed the first night dining because our room was so hot making unpacking impossible in the short time frame we had to unpack and change. When we did go to the dining room another day, we were seated by ourselves so we never went back. Instead, we had room service on our veranda. The value of the cruise for money spent is absurd. The scenery is really nice but the cruise experience was not something I would recommend. Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
We chose a destination with cool weather and new scenery. North Texas summers are hot, oppressively hot. We had not traveled often enough in Washington and Oregon. This cruise not only gave an opportunity to see these states but also ... Read More
We chose a destination with cool weather and new scenery. North Texas summers are hot, oppressively hot. We had not traveled often enough in Washington and Oregon. This cruise not only gave an opportunity to see these states but also the beautiful Columbia River Gorge and the scenic mountains; Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Adams. The river is a vista of ever-changing mountainous scenery. We went thru 8 or 9 locks (from sea leve to about 800 feet elevation at Lewiston, Idaho.) Our first day in Astoria, Oregon, was cool enough that I was concerned with not bringing enough warm clothing. The entire trip the morning weather was excellent and as we got further from the coast the afternoon weather got warmer. So if you are looking for a morning shiver with your cup of coffee during July and August, here is the trip. The food, the service, the accommodations, the entertainment, the crowd (over 70) was great. No kids, no drunks, just plain ordinary seniors, dignified, mostly well-traveled and polite. The staff & crew were well trained, very professional and would go out of their way to be friendly. Our first cruise was on the 'old Delta Queen' many years ago and this riverboat cruise was just as memorable as our first. Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
American Empress Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.4
Dining 4.5 4.5
Entertainment 4.5 4.5
Public Rooms 4.5 4.4
Fitness Recreation 3.5 3.0
Family 1.0 3.0
Shore Excursion 4.5 4.4
Enrichment 5.0 4.5
Service 5.0 4.7
Value For Money 4.0 4.2
Rates 4.0 N/A

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