We wanted a small ship that was within driving distance and found Blount. They have two older very small ships that are identical. We knew it was a small boat but weren't prepared for just how spartan that meant. It's a very seniors ... Read More
We wanted a small ship that was within driving distance and found Blount. They have two older very small ships that are identical. We knew it was a small boat but weren't prepared for just how spartan that meant. It's a very seniors oriented setup, max of 84 passengers in 40 cabins. The others on the boat were all born in the 1940's. The ship has no real amenities to speak of. It was very clean but badly in need of refurbishment.
The dining room is downstairs and the living room is on main deck. The cabins are on either of those two decks. Living room has uncomfortable chairs and a large TV which showed a movie on one evening. A local author spoke on another night. Nothing else in way of entertainment is offered. Bring your own books. Or load movies on the iPad first.
The young crew is very sweet and helpful. You can walk the outside of ship and sit on top deck.
The excursions are reasonably priced at each stop. Usually just a bus tour except for Newport where you visit a mansion.
The wifi is abysmal at port and nonexistent at sea. Your phone gets better service than ship's system. Yes it's free and they assume the seniors don't need internet connection.
Food is very typical buffet quality. The big night is lobster bake, other nights are choice of fish or meat/ chicken.
The real issue is that this isn't a very cheap cruise. For the ship you are on, the value just isn't there. I had researched American Cruise line and others seemed to like them better. Or just go with a larger cruise line unless number of passengers is really your priority.
Yet over half of the passengers were repeats! Why? I think it's simply due to the very small number of passengers and non-intimidating small ship. People want small and pokey since it's very simple and easy to deal with. Less confusion all around. They ring a bell and you head downstairs to dinner, not complicated at all. Don't expect to sleep late. Breakfast is 800am and it's all gone by 830. Lunch is 1230 and dinner is 630. No assigned seating used.
I won't be returning but please investigate all other options before buying this trip. Compare the price per day per person and especially consider the lack of a real cabin here, plus zero entertainment / amenities. See my details on the room below. Read Less
I have always wanted to travel up the River in a paddlewheeler, and my DH and I decided to take a trip up the Mississippi River, for an 8 day cruise. We selected the "Round Trip" from New Orleans, and went up as far as Vicksburg. ... Read More
I have always wanted to travel up the River in a paddlewheeler, and my DH and I decided to take a trip up the Mississippi River, for an 8 day cruise. We selected the "Round Trip" from New Orleans, and went up as far as Vicksburg. He had previously done this cruise, many years ago, so he said all good things about it.
It was a lot of fun, cabin was spacious, lots of room, king size bed, with balcony; bathroom was nice, with ADA compliant features. Shower had good water pressure. We were only a short walk to either one of different lounges, plus 1 floor above dining room. All very convenient and never got lost. This ship had 5 decks.
Staff was exceptional, and always willing to help, and the Captain invited groups to tour the pilot house, where he explained what happens, while steering up/down the river. He was very informative, and we learned a lot.
Dining room was always nice, clean, pretty linens/napkins, and our waiter, Jonathan, was OH SO GREAT!!! and AWESOME!!! and HELPFUL, friendly, and saw to anything that was needed, during the meal. He was also knowledgeable about foods and aimed to please.
Entertainment nightly, was the flavor of New Orleans jazz and blues; All entertainers we saw were very professional, and they put on great shows for us, lasting about 1 hour 30 mins.
Had good variety of onshore excursions to pick from, mostly plantations and a battlefield, in Vicksburg. Plantations on this trip were Oak Alley, Rosedown Plantation, and Houmas House, with couple of city tours, too. Only "negative" was the Vicksburg bus tour, through the battlefields, tended to be a bit drawn out, (long time to sit on bus), with narrator being a bit long winded. Most of tours were built-in to price of cruise, but had a few extra ones, that had an additional charge.
Embarking and disembarking was a cinch -- so easy, with no waiting in lines!!! This is definitely the main reason why small ships are best. No MEGA SHIPS for us!! Read Less
The following is a post I wrote for my travel blog:
Welcome aboard American Queen Steamboat Company’s second paddlewheel riverboat, the 223-passenger (and 83 crew) American Empress. She’s a beauty with her traditional black ... Read More
The following is a post I wrote for my travel blog:
Welcome aboard American Queen Steamboat Company’s second paddlewheel riverboat, the 223-passenger (and 83 crew) American Empress. She’s a beauty with her traditional black smoke stacks, red paddlewheel, ornate trim, and beautiful décor.
Having been on the grand dame of the fleet, American Queen, and the newest addition, the upscale boutique hotel inspired American Duchess, we were curious to spend a week aboard the four-year-old American Empress and get a feel for their Washington-based riverboat.
What makes this boat different from the others is that all of the staterooms are outside with balconies/ verandas. Although our stateroom was located on the walking deck, so the veranda wasn’t as private on the other decks, I loved having easy accessibility to get quickly around the boat when I wanted to check out the view from all angles for photography. It was also convenient for my deck walks (8-1/2 laps equaled a mile), since there wasn’t a gym available.
As always when we cruise, we selected the least-expensive cabin, since we don’t need the extra space or spend much time inside our room. At 150 square feet, it was the same size as most inside cruise ship cabins, and it was appointed with a mini refrigerator, flat-screen TV, desk, safe, and plenty of closet space. A nice touch was the addition of a nice pair of binoculars.
Just a short walk down the hall from us was the River Grill, the casual dining option for breakfast and lunch buffets, or reservation-only dinners. Although we didn’t dine there for dinner, we enjoyed all of our breakfasts and lunches either on the deck outside of the River Grill, or just inside with great views looking out. When the weather was nice, they would open the doors, so you could enjoy the comfortable temperatures inside, but still feel like you were dining alfresco.
What made the convenient location dangerous for our waistlines was the 24-hour soft serve ice cream machine (with several toppings) and cookies. (Thankfully, I did so much walking during the week that I didn’t gain any weight!)
The other dining option, the Astoria Dining Room was fabulous for dinner. Although we had second seating (7:45 PM), it wasn’t assigned seating, so you could choose to dine alone or share a table with other passengers. The dining room was never full for the later seating, because first seating was more in demand. The River Grill was also a popular option, so it took the pressure off the dining room. As a result, dining was relaxed, the service was excellent, the food was delicious, and we weren’t rushed out of the dining room at the end of the evening. Baja, the Maitre D’ also made sure the wine was always flowing.
The highlight of our dining experience was being invited to have dinner with Captain Andrea Mickelson. As turned out, my previous three cruises (two with Bruce and one I took my mother on) totaled more cruising days with the company than any other passenger, so that is why we were invited!
We were quite impressed with the captain’s eight-year rise in the ranks from housekeeper to earning her USCG Captains license in 2002. She has been on the rivers ever since, and her passion is evident. Thanks to Baja seating me next to Captain Andrea, I was able to ask her a lot of questions and get to know her a bit.
Baja, along with Adam (bartender/ cocktail waiter), Evan (waiter), and Gail (Excursions Manager), were all working aboard the American Duchess when we were on in January, so it was fun seeing them again and getting to know them better. Adam remembered the dates we would be on, because it was his birthday during our cruise, and Baja scheduled us in his phone; so, we had a very warm welcome from them both on the first day!
In between the show and dinner, and then again after dinner each evening, we made our way to the Paddlewheel Lounge to hear Frank play piano and sing. What a hoot! His quirky sense of humor added even more enjoyment to his wonderful singing and phenomenal piano playing. He had us thoroughly entertained! And, when he wasn’t playing, we enjoyed the great views of the scenery out the side windows and the turning red paddlewheel out the back. Off to the side, there was a small library with comfortable couches, and four computers to access the free WiFi.
In the show lounge, Lawrence gave informative lectures during the day (We particularly enjoyed his two-part talk on Lewis & Clark). At night, there were excellent shows various combinations of the four talented staff singers accompanied by a fabulous four-piece band. Sammy and Daniel were so much fun and friendly, and they seemed to truly enjoy performing together. Greg (Cruise Director), and his wife, Lindy (Hotel Manager) reminded us so much of husband and wife team, Max and Darcy, the cruise director and assistant cruise director/ entertainers aboard the American Duchess. Not only did they all remember our names after the first time we met, but they were very personable, friendly, and amazingly talented. “Lindy on a High Note” was Lindy’s fantastic cabaret, which highlighted her operatic training while singing selections from Broadway musicals. Greg followed up with his own one-man show of Broadway musicals, complete with on-stage costume/character changes for each one. From Fiddler on the Roof to Don Quixote to Phantom of the Opera, we were totally captivated by his versatility and talent!
The dining and entertainment on all three boats is truly top-notch quality, and the best we have experienced on the water, including the many ocean cruises we worked on as Arts & Crafts instructors with two major mid-level cruise lines.
What makes American Queen Steamboat Company’s cruises unique, though, is the included hop on-hop off buses that follow the boat throughout the itinerary. They make frequent stops at several of each town’s highlight attractions, and admission to those attractions are included as well.
Premium excursions are also available, and we scheduled our first one for this cruise. (More on that in a later post.)
The most enjoyable aspect of each cruise we have taken with American Queen Steamboat Company, however, has been the staff, from the captain all the way down to our stateroom attendant. As personable and friendly as they are, it appears as if they wisely hire for personality and train the skills needed to perform the job. The company also does a great job promoting from within. Lindy was originally hired as an entertainer when the American Empress first started; however, she was asked by the owner of the company, John Waggoner, to become Hotel Manager. After initial protest by Lindy (I’m not a hotel manager; I’m an entertainer!), she agreed under the condition that she would still be able to perform her cabaret. Mr. Waggoner agreed, and she now pulls double duty and seems very happy.
The staff also goes out of their way to make sure their guests are happy and having a good time. I witnessed one man at the River Grill looking at the selection of ice cream toppings and asking where the nuts were. Edward, the River Grill chef promised he would get some for him the next day. Sure enough, the next morning, he poured out a bag of mixed bar nuts on his workstation, so he could pick out the peanuts for this passenger’s ice cream. Then, he spent his work break going into town to buy a can of peanuts to keep this passenger happy the remainder of the cruise! That’s going above and beyond, don’t you think?
Knowing I liked the chocolate chip cookies, Evan surprised me one night at dinner with a wrapped plate of the treats to take back to our cabin. I hadn’t asked for them, but he thought to do it anyway.
In addition to seating me next to the captain, Baja brought us out lobster tails on the last night of the cruise, because he knew how much we had enjoyed them the night before.
It is all of these reasons that we will continue cruising with American Queen Steamboat Company. We already have one booked for next summer! Read Less
This cruise had been on our bucket list for the last couple of years. My husband and I with another couple had done European river cruises and thought that this would be similar. No way can ACL be compared with them. They may both be ... Read More
This cruise had been on our bucket list for the last couple of years. My husband and I with another couple had done European river cruises and thought that this would be similar. No way can ACL be compared with them. They may both be small boats as far as passengers but that is where the comparison stops. On this cruise the excursions were large bus trips where you stop only at highway rest areas. If you are on the wrong side of the bus you never see the point of interest. Dining options very limited and not up to other cruise lines. The young people in the dining room made the week with their friendly, helpful ways. The dining room itself needs an overhaul. The fabric chairs are stained as is the carpet. Our cabin was not luxury at all. Everything on the boat closes down at 9:00 pm, and no movies offered on the tv. I am sorry that this did not work out for us in our mid sixties, maybe we would have enjoyed it more fifteen years from now. Read Less
After our 2017 cruise on the Queen of the Mississippi, we wanted to experience another cruise on ACL. We piggybacked this cruise with a few days in the Willamette Valley, so the shorter cruise time was not an issue. The food was great, ... Read More
After our 2017 cruise on the Queen of the Mississippi, we wanted to experience another cruise on ACL. We piggybacked this cruise with a few days in the Willamette Valley, so the shorter cruise time was not an issue. The food was great, although the portion sizes did seem a little smaller than our prior cruise. Note that this ship is not one that ACL had built; so the orientation is a bit different than their other ships. You have to step up to get into the bathroom (which was not an issue for us but could be for someone using a walker). There were plenty of shore excursions to choose from (complimentary as well as reasonably priced options), as well as wandering on your own in Hood River. On-board lectures as well about Lewis and Clark, since we were in Lewis and Clark territory. You should pay up for the larger staterooms if you can. It was also a nice touch that the wines were all either Washington state or Oregon wines. These cruises attract an older crowd (not for children). Read Less
We chose this cruise because my husband is a history buff and the theme was the Revolutionary War; also we wanted a small ship experience staying in protected waters where I would never lose sight of land! The ports we visited were ... Read More
We chose this cruise because my husband is a history buff and the theme was the Revolutionary War; also we wanted a small ship experience staying in protected waters where I would never lose sight of land! The ports we visited were significant during the Revolutionary War but we had a bonus on this cruise. Dr. Harold Cones, Jr. was our lecturer who is also a biologist. We learned some things about marine life in the Chesapeake Bay as well as being entertained by his wit and sense of humor.
Logistically everything flowed smoothly;our cabin was large and comfortable, the private balcony was spacious as was the bathroom.
Attention to detail was evident at all times.
I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone looking for this type of on board experience.
The staff is young and they are very polite, helpful and patient while dealing with a older clientele.
Only complaint: Better wine should be available to accompany the excellent food Read Less
This experience was a rip off! The cruise cost over $10,000 for 7 days. The ship should be mothballed and the food was terrible. The food was obviously frozen and reheated in the microwave. American Cruise Lines advertised this cruise as ... Read More
This experience was a rip off! The cruise cost over $10,000 for 7 days. The ship should be mothballed and the food was terrible. The food was obviously frozen and reheated in the microwave. American Cruise Lines advertised this cruise as serving gourmet food. The cocktail hour consisted of frozen food and the wine was solely from California. The retail cost of the wine was $4.99. When I requested another brand of wine I was told that I had to pay $30.00 for a bottle. Again this cruise was advertised as serving premium wines!!! When we contacted customer service, they will not speak to you. The noise in the room at night was unbearable. The engine and the thrusters were so loud at night that we could not get any sleep. The air conditioner shut itself off at night. The engineer tried to fix it may times. I will never use this cruse line again. Read Less
This was the first cruise of the Constitution and lasted for 10 nights as we cruised around the Chesapeake Bay. I think the highlight for most people on board was getting to visit Washington D.C., even though I really loved Yorktown. We ... Read More
This was the first cruise of the Constitution and lasted for 10 nights as we cruised around the Chesapeake Bay. I think the highlight for most people on board was getting to visit Washington D.C., even though I really loved Yorktown. We saw the Yorktown battlefield and shopped in the pretty area right around the ship's dock. The Constitution was built in Maryland (surprise!!) and it felt like a perfect way to have the first cruise be in Maryland.
The ship is pretty and we had a nice room with large doors and a private porch. All meals are in the dining room on the first floor, where everyone sits together. Some people form little groups and all sit together, but we chose new table mates each night and met some wonderful people, even one with mutual friends from long ago. The chef focuses on the local specialty and I think I had crab 7 of the 10 days I was onboard, it was indulgent but excellent. We plan to cruise again next year and may try the Mississippi for more history. I would love to see Vicksburg. Read Less
I am in my 70s, an Australian solo traveller, love seeing new places and love cruising. I enjoyed an upper Mississippi cruise on the American Queen a couple of years ago and, as I had never been to the Pacific Northwest before, knew that ... Read More
I am in my 70s, an Australian solo traveller, love seeing new places and love cruising. I enjoyed an upper Mississippi cruise on the American Queen a couple of years ago and, as I had never been to the Pacific Northwest before, knew that a paddle boat cruise would be a great way to go. I was not disappointed - the accommodation was VERY comfortable, food was delicious, all of the crew from the Captain down were so helpful, and very approachable. I was so impressed with the standard of entertainment, particularly for such a small boat - all were excellent. Lindy, the Hotel Manager, ran a "tight ship", with everything running smoothly on board, and external problems (eg. a dodgy lock, which wouldn't fill) were handled efficiently. Love the Hop On Hop Off buses, painted to look like riverboats, which took us around each of the towns we docked at, and on the premium excursions. My favourite was Zip-lining, which I hadn't tried before, and the jet boat cruise up the Snake River. I met lots of lovely people, so had plenty of good company when I wanted it.
Thoroughly enjoyed the cruise, and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to others. Read Less
AQSC Marketing, Consumer Marketing Mgr. - AQSC has responded
Thank you so much for taking the time to provide this review about your recent American Empress voyage. We are thrilled to hear that you enjoyed your time with us and sincerely appreciate your business. We hope to have the pleasure of welcoming you onboard one of our vessels again.
All our best,
American Queen Steamboat Company
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