We chose this cruise because it was an opportunity to cruise the entire Mississippi River. That did not happen. The river levels were high all summer long, and we understand that itinerary changes caused by weather are routine.
However, ACL started notifying us of a change of the embarkation port from St Paul MN, to Memphis TN only 4 days from departure.
Instead of attempting to put our thoughts in a narrative, I will instead provide the pros and cons in an abbreviated list.
The only compensation offered was repayment of additional travel costs and $2,000 credit towards a future cruise. We of course will not be cruising with ACL in the future.
Very good meals, always fresh, lots of variety, minimal repeated menu items, good regional selections, and great pastries/breads/desserts
Great dining room service
Cabin service very good
Beer, wine, happy hour very well done
First guest lecturer excellent, both educating AND entertaining
Guest musicians very good to great
Memphis pre-embarkation Hotel (Peabody) excellent
Ship generally very clean with many public areas
Really enjoyed the limited daylight sailing time on the river
Highest per night price paid in our 60+ cruises
ACL definitely did NOT live up to slogan “Small Ship Cruising Done Perfectly”
Bad Business practices at corporate:
Embarkation changed from St Paul to Memphis due to high water levels
However, Mississippi River levels were high all summer
Per Tour Director on board, ACL did only one cruise between July & October to Upper Mississippi River
Therefore, change at the very last minute was unnecessary. It could have been done sooner.
ACL began itinerary notification just 4 days before cruise start, notification process haphazard at best, no details provided, no assistance offered
Few notified as late as 24 hours before embarkation, at least one cabin never notified (they caught up on their own half way through the cruise)
Suspect late notice to minimize cancellations and insurance payouts
Many further last minute itinerary changes once on board although river conditions remained unchanged (high)
Disappointing choices of alternative ports
Missed St Paul & Red Wing MN, Dubuque & Davenport IA, La Crosse WI, Hannibal & St Louis MO
Added New Madrid MO, Chester Il, Paducah KY, Greenville MS, Houmas House LA
Cape Girardeau added and dropped
No ACL representative at Memphis airport/hotel, no information provided on pre-embarkation times or meeting locations
Guests from two ships (ACL & American Queen) staying at Peabody and hotel staff not informed about ACL guests
As you can imagine, the timing and manner of the last minute change was a steady conversation subject throughout the cruise
Corporate Hotel Director Steve Benson sailed with us for three days, yet he only spoke to scattered groups of guests during that time, and he took NO NOTES
Promises made by corporate telephone sales staff never transmitted to ship, sales staff requested our drink choices, kept information in folio, but never passed on information, also said on board staff would do guest laundry, they don’t
On board Hotel Director/Cruise Director/Tour Director staff inexperienced, unresponsive, unprofessional, untrustworthy, unable to make decision without asking corporate
High on board staff turnover, many visibly unhappy
Poor inventory management aboard, on 14 night cruise, with daily port stops, ran out of butter, cream cheese, bananas, yogurt, selected beers, etc.
Shipboard Wi-Fi service very slow, even in port
Embarkation poorly done, check in handled while guests waited aboard three coaches by only ONE staffer, using paper listing and checking off names with pen
No muster drill
Guests could not start safety video on TV
Tours disappointing or non-existent:
Most frequent were shuttles from levee into town and coach tours to plantations/museums, many done on our own
Did not dock in St Louis, and 90 minute each way coach tour did NOT include Gateway Arch or time to visit on our own
Graceland tour poorly handled, passing out mansion tour tickets resembled a rugby scrum
Disembarkation poorly handled, luggage collected on pier only partly covered by tarps in heavy rain
City tour/drop off coach guide unprofessional, and made inappropriate political remarks & moral/social observations
Luggage unloaded at drop off and not secured, guests kept from leaving bus to maintain visual contact with luggage
We had a balcony cabin on deck 4. It was equivalent to a ocean balcony cabin, not as big as a mini-suite. Bathroom was adequate but not large, balcony was the same.