This cruise line promises small ship cruising "done perfectly", and claims that it stands out from larger, much more affordable lines with personalized service, all-inclusive dining, and meticulous attention to detail. My party of 9 people was by far the youngest and healthiest group there, and possibly the largest with a combined spend of nearly $70,000, yet we were also one of the easiest to care for; we had minimal luggage, no mobility or health issues, no medicine storage, no diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, no assistance needed on or off the boat, and only two (light) alcohol drinkers in our whole group. The ONLY special consideration any of us asked was from the kitchen, where we were assured that my food allergy (peppercorns) and my niece's vegetarian diet could easily be accommodated. We sent in our "special dietary requirements" cards months in advance, AND called a week before the cruise, to confirm the dining requests had been noted on our reservations. In addition, I met with the head chef in person the first day, and so did my niece and her mother. All the dining room staff tried their best, but it didn't seem to matter, because the kitchen kept screwing up my meals, from the first day to the last, which I found terribly disappointing at a price point of over $6,000 for the week. In fact, there were more problems with ACL's "perfect" small ship cruise, than with many impersonal mega-ships I've taken for one tenth the price. Sewer gas inexplicably filled my room the first evening, causing a lingering stench that maintenance struggled to alleviate. My cabin, #115, offered one narrow, shorter-than-average, uncomfortable twin bed (with a splintery piece of plywood under the mattress); stains on the chairs, the carpet, and the lamp shades; decor like a nursing home or a Motel 6; broken window opening mechanism; and a shower curtain that wouldn't stay closed on the edges, because the rod tilted down in the middle. Water sprayed out whenever the shower was in use, and there was no mini fridge nor were there usb-capable outlets in the rooms (although in fairness to the cruise line, most of the other passengers were over 70 and could barely operate a flip phone, so they probably had very few usb devices to worry about). Oh yeah, and on our first day of sailing I discovered the hair dryer in my room didn't work, so I had to take it to guest services to exchange it, which involved waiting in a long line (with dripping wet hair). These may seem like nit-picky complaints, but remember there was no entertainment to speak of on the boat, and relative to other cruises, very few amenities, so I estimate at least 60% of the value of this itinerary (Snake River and Columbia River) should have come from the many gourmet meals and snacks. Unfortunately, because they kept "forgetting" and peppering almost every dish I was served, I found myself frustrated and self-conscious every day, either being given a bland, unpalatable entree with no sauces, side dishes or flavoring agents at all, or taking two bites of a supposedly pepper-free entree, choking and sending the meal back while my throat closed up. These dining problems SERIOUSLY impacted my enjoyment of the cruise. For much of the trip, I was physically ill, in fact I spent hours in my room with cramps and diarrhea, which was NOT the personalized 5-star experience we were promised by the sales team. To add insult to injury, my teenage niece, who doesn't eat meat, was served previously-frozen plain vegetables as her "entrees" for the first three days, until my uncle finally spoke up, and asked the chef to please include some protein. After that, she got vegetables with tofu for the rest of the trip. She was never given a card with menu options like the other diners, and very little effort was made to offer her ethnic, exotic, flavorful or high-value ingredients. I've seen unfavorable online reviews by other vegetarians who cruised with ACL, mentioning their own poor experiences in the southeast, but with a home base like Portland, OR, where vegetarians and even vegans are incredibly common, I would have expected far better preparedness from the American Pride.
Bottom line, ACL charged a premium rate for what was supposed to be fantastic, personalized service, but did not offer anything of value for that money, or live up to the promises they made to guests. Most hotels I've stayed at, restaurants I've dined in, or cruise lines I've sailed on would have at least tried to compensate for the repeated disappointments and near-poisonings, by comping a room upgrade, sending a bottle of champagne, waiving some excursion fees, etc, but these guys never even tried. I received a number of request for feedback after the trip, and provided it, but never got a response. Although my feedback clearly stated that I would not choose this line again in the future, and would like to be removed from future mailings, they have ignored my unsubscribe requests and continued spamming me going on three years now. Luckily my life wasn't threatened, but there are many people who have food allergies far more severe than mine, and in a really serious case, the constant kitchen mistakes could actually have killed someone! Did I mention they also lost my uncle's suitcase when we were disembarking, and he had to wait in a nearby town overnight, then drive back to the port to retrieve it the next day, nearly missing his flight home? All of that being said, my overall impression of the many college aged kids staffing the boat was that they were very inexperienced, as other reviewers have mentioned, but they tried really hard to be friendly, responsive and helpful. Most of them did a great job on what appeared to be very little sleep.
I rated the cabin "average" above, but that was being generous. At $900 a night, the cabin was kind of a let-down. Decor hovered somewhere between a nursing home and a Motel 6 on the style scale; sewer gas inexplicably filled my room shortly after embarkation; the only bed was a narrow, shorter-than-average twin with a splintery piece of plywood under the mattress; there were stains on the chairs, the carpet, and the lamp shades; window opening mechanism was stuck; and the shower curtain wouldn't stay closed on the edges, because the rod tilted down so badly in the middle. Water sprayed out whenever the shower was in use, lamp shades drooped and were loose, a bulb was burned out, and the room offered no mini fridge or usb-capable outlets (although most of the other passengers were over 70 and could barely operate a flip phone, so they probably had very few usb devices to worry about). Also, on our first day of sailing I discovered the hair dryer in my room didn't work, so I had to take it to guest services to exchange it, which involved waiting in a long line (with dripping wet hair). On the plus side, storage was ample.