NEVER, EVER AGAIN! If you book a cruise after reading my review below, all I can say is “I warned you.”
We booked back-to-back Mississippi River Cruises in August, 2015. First one was from St. Paul, MN to St. Louis, MO: the second one from St. Louis to New Orleans. We had the same cabin for both cruises. As other travelers have mentioned, new passengers can come on board at 1030 a.m., but have to cool their heels in a lounge until the cabins are ready two hours later. Why not just push the boarding time back to 1230 and have the rooms ready? We got to our cabin, complete with an EIGHTEEN-inch TV. Really? 18-inch? My computer screen is larger. I had to clean the cobwebs off the sliding glass doors before my wife would go out on the “veranda”. Cobwebs and fingernail clippings on the floor of the veranda were good indications that this company doesn’t bother to clean the outside of the boat.
On the second day we realized the crew only has one set of washcloths on board. You can’t get replacement washcloths until 330 p.m. each day, and bath towels are only available after 1030 a.m. For the first few days we told crew members, including the hotel manager, we needed replacement towels, and all said we would get them, but that didn’t happen. For first few days we had to go down and get our own. One day instead of two bath towels, we got two bathmats! Some days we got one washcloth and one hand towel per cabin. How much would it cost to have 2-3 sets on board?
We had a Keurig-like coffee maker in our room but nothing to drink the coffee out of for first week. I decided to wait and see how long it would take before the steward noticed. It took a week.
Other comments on the room: The cabin wasn’t vacuumed even once in the two weeks we were on board. The volume control on the wall for the public address system was stuck on full blast. Result: every time an announcement was made, I jumped about six inches off whatever I was resting on. While the wall switch supposedly gave us a choice of background music, etc., it was inoperable. The best thing about the room was Ivan Levashov’s painting of white irises. Amazing.
Cruise staff told me that average age of passengers was 65-75. Not true by at least a decade. I know that American Cruise Lines has no control over who buys tickets, but the entertainment advertised should reflect that. We had World War 2 vets, Korean War vets (they wore hats advertising such), etc. One night’s entertainment was advertised as “Old Time Rock and Roll”, but the first tune we heard as we entered the room was “Bye Bye Blackbird”, followed by “I Fall to Pieces”, “In the Mood” and “Sentimental Journey”. Bluegrass another night act was not bluegrass music. I could go on and on, but that is illustrative. Even the cruise director admitted to me that they had “misrepresented” the entertainment. Some nights the talent advertised didn’t show up, and afternoon activities on three days included kite flying and BUBBLE BLOWING on the top deck. Be still my heart.
PORTS OF CALL: Oh, boy! Where do I start? The ports they advertise only have a casual relationship with what you get. Personally, I don’t think three hours on land counts as a port call. Passengers are herded onto buses, sometime for three hours, with no breaks. Local tours too often are a tour bus driving up and down the streets of small towns, looking at the outsides of vintage houses and touring vacant lots and closed store fronts with the tour guide saying “This lot/store used to be……….” The highlight of a couple of tours was a stop at the top of a bluff overlooking the town. Almost every port call ended, like at Disneyland/ Disney World, at a gift shop.
The first port of call was Red Wing, MN, home of the famous Red Wing Shoes, but we were there on a SUNDAY, when the factory and store are closed. Clearly American Cruise Line knows this. Result: a bus “tour” around this tiny town with a stop at a pottery-centered gift shop. We didn’t stop at Davenport, Iowa; Oak Alley, LA or Baton Rouge, LA, with no public acknowledgement of why. Instead we landed at tiny towns like Burlington, IA and St. Francisville, LA; both of which are ill equipped for and can not be considered an “attraction”.
Don’t assume you are going to get to see Elvis’s bedroom at Graceland or the exhibits at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis where MLK, Jr. was killed. Didn’t happen. Also, excursion on another day was to a button museum. I couldn’t make this stuff up.
ACL has no way of keeping track of which passengers are on the boat and who are not at any given stop. Consequently, for example, in Memphis, one passenger was left behind at the tour stop at St. Jude’s Hospital; a CREW member was left behind at the afternoon excursion, and a couple who had gone into town for dinner was left behind as the boat took off down the river at 7 p.m., instead of at the advertised time of 8 p.m. After sailing for 30 minutes, the boat had to turn around and go back to Memphis to pick the couple up. Crew error. When we told crew that we would be off the boat for one night, nothing (to my knowledge) was written down either upon our departure or return.
A final insult was my wife and I being literally left in the parking lot in New Orleans as the shuttle to the airport drove away early. Again, crew error. Result: cruise director unsuccessfully chasing after shuttle on foot, followed by an 80-90 mph taxi ride to the airport to catch up with the bus which had our luggage. Most exciting and entertaining (although stressful) part of the trip.
FOOD: Breakfast was well handled, but food to table for lunch and dinner occasionally had only a casual relationship with menu choices. Worst, the ice cream served was “soup” at every meal. Passengers complained on first half of cruise and ice cream was firm for next two days, followed by 10 days of melted ice cream. You could have consumed it with a straw.
VALUE: For what we spent on two weeks with ACL on the Mississippi, we could have flown to Europe and had an all-inclusive river cruise or ocean cruise. Please note that ACL price doesn’t include tips or airline tickets. Those are on you.