1. Home
  2. Cruise Reviews
  3. American Empress
The ship was not full (which was to our advantage) but I do not understand why not...this is the best trip we have taken in ages! The American Empress leaves either out of Vancouver, Washington or Clarkston, Washington depending if the cruise is going east or west on the Snake River and Columbia River. It is a small vessel with four decks and 200 plus passengers. The ship is in excellent condition just having been renovated. Our cabin was similar to cruise ship cabins...small! But it was nicely furnished and decorated and comfortable with lots of storage. The balcony was comfortable and perfect for viewing the awesome scenery along the Columbia and Snake Rivers. But do not limit yourself to the view from your balcony as we were prone to going out on the front and rear of the boat so we could see both sides...white painted rocking chairs are situated on the back and front of each passenger deck for the best views in comfort. What did we like: The food was excellent...lots of local produce and fruit and wines as well as local meats and seafood (I liked the bison)...wine and beer are complimentary at dinner each night The itinerary is excellent. We started in Vancouver (the cruise starts out with a night at the Vancouver Hilton...great idea!) That gave us the opportunity to take their informative and scenic Mt. St. Helen tour before the ship embarked later that afternoon. First stop was west of Vancouver on the coast at Astoria, Oregon...a good dose of Pacific rain forest wet weather but a fascinating place as we visited sites associated with Lewis and Clark, the theme of this cruise...only we were much more comfortable than they were in 1804-1806. The story of the Expedition is perfectly suited for this river cruise...an enthralling story which is well portrayed by the boat's resident Riverlorian, Laurence Cotton. We stopped in several river towns all unique and interesting...the Dalles and the Bonneville dam...Richland and its beautiful shoreline park and the area h Museum...Stevenson and the tour to Mt. Hood...we passed through four locks on the Columbia and four locks on the Snake River. Gorgeous scenery everywhere! A Hop On, Hop Off bus follows the boat and is available for free as transporation to sites in each town we visited. If we were not on an early morning premium tour (which you pay extra for) we would board the bus and do the entire route (about an hour normally). Early morning routes include local guides to talk about their community...another great idea. The premium tours were exceptional but cover a lot of territory so be prepared to be tired at the end of the day. I liked the Mt. St. Helen tour and also the Mt Hood tour, where we had scrumptious pastries and got hot drinks in the Timberland Lodge just below the summit. This tour also included a turkey dinner at the local Grange cooked and served by its members...what a pleasant experience that was. And then there was the stop at the local winery for a taste test before going back to the boat...a full day but very lovely. Onboard the boat, the crew is very attentive and service oriented. The entertainment was very good for such a small venue...a married couple are the cruise directors who serve multiple functions and are very outgoing and talented. Solo performers from on shore visit the boat for the evening's entertainment...Cowboy Joe singing and strumming made us all smile as did the other entertaunment. There is a four piece ensemble that provided excellent accompaniment as well. We also took tours of the Bridge and met the Captain Andrea and did a tour of the engine room...an impossibilty these days on all other cruise ships but well worth doing on the Empress. Highly recommend this trip! The only difficulty is getting back to Vancouver. If you fly to Vancouver, arrangements are made at the end of the cruise in Clarkston to bus you to Spokane a couple of hours away to fly home. If you drive to Vancouver, then it is up to you to get back. Renting a car is the best option which requires a short taxi ride ($15) to the Lewiston, Idaho airport to pick up a rental car...but be aware that the Avis/Budget rental agency has limited hours on Sunday the day we disembarked the ship...they do not open until 11 am. We found the best idea was to go pick up our rental car on Saturday...the ship arrives in the a.m. and park the car near the dock...plenty of spaces behind the Quality Inn and golf range. Be sure to check the rental car office hours though...it appears to be a one man operation! I will add that picking up the car on Saturday enabled us to drive around the Lewiston, Idaho area which is very scenic...we drove up the Snake River in Hells Canyon...awesome! Before we picked up the car we did take advantage of the Hop On, Hop Off bus and stayed on the whole circuit to get a great overview of the area. We could not fit in the Jet Boat premium tour in Hells Canyon which those who did raved about. By the way, picking up our rental car on Saturday also enabled us to leave Clarkston very early on Sunday for the 300 plus mile drive back to Vancouver and return the car the same afternoon ($164 for one day). If you pick it up at the 11 am opening time on Sunday, you do not have enough time to drive it back before the car rental office at the Sears Auto Service, Vancouver Mall, closes mid afternoon. So logistics is required for those who leave a car in Vancouver and I would think vice versa if you leave it in Clarkston. So, as I said I do not know why this boat is not full every trip. It is a fantastic experience and well worth every penny we paid.

Tremendously Pleased!

American Empress Cruise Review by Sburygrandma

3 people found this helpful
Trip Details
The ship was not full (which was to our advantage) but I do not understand why not...this is the best trip we have taken in ages!

The American Empress leaves either out of Vancouver, Washington or Clarkston, Washington depending if the cruise is going east or west on the Snake River and Columbia River.

It is a small vessel with four decks and 200 plus passengers. The ship is in excellent condition just having been renovated. Our cabin was similar to cruise ship cabins...small! But it was nicely furnished and decorated and comfortable with lots of storage. The balcony was comfortable and perfect for viewing the awesome scenery along the Columbia and Snake Rivers. But do not limit yourself to the view from your balcony as we were prone to going out on the front and rear of the boat so we could see both sides...white painted rocking chairs are situated on the back and front of each passenger deck for the best views in comfort.

What did we like:

The food was excellent...lots of local produce and fruit and wines as well as local meats and seafood (I liked the bison)...wine and beer are complimentary at dinner each night

The itinerary is excellent. We started in Vancouver (the cruise starts out with a night at the Vancouver Hilton...great idea!) That gave us the opportunity to take their informative and scenic Mt. St. Helen tour before the ship embarked later that afternoon. First stop was west of Vancouver on the coast at Astoria, Oregon...a good dose of Pacific rain forest wet weather but a fascinating place as we visited sites associated with Lewis and Clark, the theme of this cruise...only we were much more comfortable than they were in 1804-1806. The story of the Expedition is perfectly suited for this river cruise...an enthralling story which is well portrayed by the boat's resident Riverlorian, Laurence Cotton. We stopped in several river towns all unique and interesting...the Dalles and the Bonneville dam...Richland and its beautiful shoreline park and the area h Museum...Stevenson and the tour to Mt. Hood...we passed through four locks on the Columbia and four locks on the Snake River. Gorgeous scenery everywhere!

A Hop On, Hop Off bus follows the boat and is available for free as transporation to sites in each town we visited. If we were not on an early morning premium tour (which you pay extra for) we would board the bus and do the entire route (about an hour normally). Early morning routes include local guides to talk about their community...another great idea.

The premium tours were exceptional but cover a lot of territory so be prepared to be tired at the end of the day. I liked the Mt. St. Helen tour and also the Mt Hood tour, where we had scrumptious pastries and got hot drinks in the Timberland Lodge just below the summit. This tour also included a turkey dinner at the local Grange cooked and served by its members...what a pleasant experience that was. And then there was the stop at the local winery for a taste test before going back to the boat...a full day but very lovely.

Onboard the boat, the crew is very attentive and service oriented. The entertainment was very good for such a small venue...a married couple are the cruise directors who serve multiple functions and are very outgoing and talented. Solo performers from on shore visit the boat for the evening's entertainment...Cowboy Joe singing and strumming made us all smile as did the other entertaunment. There is a four piece ensemble that provided excellent accompaniment as well.

We also took tours of the Bridge and met the Captain Andrea and did a tour of the engine room...an impossibilty these days on all other cruise ships but well worth doing on the Empress.

Highly recommend this trip!

The only difficulty is getting back to Vancouver. If you fly to Vancouver, arrangements are made at the end of the cruise in Clarkston to bus you to Spokane a couple of hours away to fly home. If you drive to Vancouver, then it is up to you to get back. Renting a car is the best option which requires a short taxi ride ($15) to the Lewiston, Idaho airport to pick up a rental car...but be aware that the Avis/Budget rental agency has limited hours on Sunday the day we disembarked the ship...they do not open until 11 am. We found the best idea was to go pick up our rental car on Saturday...the ship arrives in the a.m. and park the car near the dock...plenty of spaces behind the Quality Inn and golf range. Be sure to check the rental car office hours though...it appears to be a one man operation! I will add that picking up the car on Saturday enabled us to drive around the Lewiston, Idaho area which is very scenic...we drove up the Snake River in Hells Canyon...awesome! Before we picked up the car we did take advantage of the Hop On, Hop Off bus and stayed on the whole circuit to get a great overview of the area. We could not fit in the Jet Boat premium tour in Hells Canyon which those who did raved about. By the way, picking up our rental car on Saturday also enabled us to leave Clarkston very early on Sunday for the 300 plus mile drive back to Vancouver and return the car the same afternoon ($164 for one day). If you pick it up at the 11 am opening time on Sunday, you do not have enough time to drive it back before the car rental office at the Sears Auto Service, Vancouver Mall, closes mid afternoon. So logistics is required for those who leave a car in Vancouver and I would think vice versa if you leave it in Clarkston.

So, as I said I do not know why this boat is not full every trip. It is a fantastic experience and well worth every penny we paid.
Sburygrandma’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Shore Excursions
Service
Free Price Drop Alerts
Get American Empress price drops
250,000+ people have entered their email