My wife and I selected this cruise simply to relax in pleasant weather exploring a new part of Florida for us. We arrived the day before the start of our cruise with an overnight stay at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront allowing us to enjoy the pleasant weather and St. Patrick Day activities at Jacksonville landing and good seafood at Benny’s Steak and Seafood Restaurant on the St Johns River. This also allowed for a short five minute walk to board our American Cruise Lines (ACL) ship, the American Star, for embarkation which was simply a matter of showing your photo ID and walk on to the ship.
During the week the American Star cruise up the St Johns River (south as the river flows north) with stops in Palatka FL and Green Cove Springs FL returning down river (north) to pass thru Jacksonville and travel south on the intercostal waterway to St Augustine FL than north stopping at Fernandina Beach/Amelia FL than on to Brunswick GA before cruising back to Jacksonville FL for disembarkation. My favorite time onboard was spending time on the Sun Deck while cruising, enjoying the great weather (highs in the seventies with lows at night in the high fifties and no rain the entire week), watching the scenery go by and spending time with our pleasant travel companions while learning about the wildlife, history and key sites from our guide Charlie Petrocci and Captain Dennis Stokowski.
Our cruise Director Jim Leary did an excellent job handling all of our shore excursions with my favorite of the trip and one of the best I’ve experienced being our Lady Jane Shrimp Boat Tour which took us trawling through the Marshes of Glynn, south of St Simons Sound (near Brunswick, GA) learning about the shrimping industry and our catch from our three, fifteen minute trawls consisting of shrimp, blue crabs, spider crabs, puffer fish, horseshoe crabs, skate, amberjack and various other sea creatures. Also memorable was the Alligator feeding at the Alligator Farm & Zoological Park in St. Augustine FL and the Carriage Tour in Green Cove Springs, FL.
What made this cruise even more special was the food, as it was the best I've experienced in over thirty ocean cruises and fifteen river/coastal cruises. Food on my cruise experiences has always been overall good, with meals ranging from fair to excellent, but I was extremely pleased to find all of the meals on this cruise to be excellent. Each meal consisted of great selections, presentations and some of the best tasting meals I can recall . . . and that’s from someone from New Orleans, the home of great food.
The main reason why my wife and I have moved from Ocean Cruising (completed 31) to river/coastal cruising (this is our 15th and 7th ACL cruise) is for the easier sea travel on the inland waterways to avoid my wife’s trouble with motion sickness. This cruise was extremely smooth with the Captain taking extra care by traveling at the right time and waterway taking into account winds, tides etc. well communicating his schedule the entire week. Another plus of river/coastal cruising is the smaller ships with fewer passengers. Our cruise had sixty-nine passengers comprised mostly of retired seniors that resulted in great conversations about travels, hometowns, jobs/careers, family, military service and other life experiences. We love ACL’s daily 5:30 PM Happy Hour and open seating dinning that enabled us to meet most of our fellow passengers developing a few new found friendships.
The crew on this ship was simply great with the added bonus of having two Hotel, Assistant Hotel, and Housekeeping Managers as wells as three Executive Chefs and three Sous Chefs onboard to take care of our every needs. We selected a great week to cruise as more than enough care was being given with the added management onboard for training. Maybe having three Executive Chefs working as a great team resulted in the best meals ever experienced on my forty-six cruises. But it was not only management taking care of us as the college students hired to handle the dinning and housekeeping services were all friendly and couldn’t do more to provide a great onboard vacation experience. Service as meals was excellent as well as the attention given the care to our cabin.
In summary, ACL provided the consistent great service and excellent cruising experience we’ve enjoyed and we are looking forward to our two future ACL cruises booked while onboard.
Cabin was larger than those generally provided on other cruise ships at the same category. Bathrooms are spacious which is definitely a plus.