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Sail Date: May 2018
From a villa in St. Barths to crossing the Atlantic on the QE2 in Princess class after a week in Epernay France, I consider myself a discerning traveller. We embarked on the Canadian Empress from my hometown of Kingston Ontario intrigued ... Read More
From a villa in St. Barths to crossing the Atlantic on the QE2 in Princess class after a week in Epernay France, I consider myself a discerning traveller. We embarked on the Canadian Empress from my hometown of Kingston Ontario intrigued by a voyage on the St. Lawrence River through the locking system to our final destination of Quebec City. It will enter my travelogue as one of the most enjoyable journeys I've ever experienced. My fellow passengers were also world travellers with fascinating interests and professions hailing from Europe, UK, US with a sprinkling from Canada. I haven't laughed so much in a long time! The ships staff were exceptional from Trevor our intrepid Purser who always showed up with something new to do from kites off the stern to the rules of shuffleboard which led to a rousing tournament - to the deck hands who never stopped polishing rails or wiping down the decks. Who knew Upper Canada Village would be the best example of my tax dollars at work? Or that Montreal, a place I grew up in, would come to life from a different perspective by our intrepid guide. With the ship so close to the water the views were spectacular, never impeded by weather - you could always find a spot to enjoy the river, and the freighters going by even from the interior of the grand saloon on inclement days. And somehow the design of the ship provided smooth sailing even on rough days. If you go, pack light. to the crew, keep the dance floor open! Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
The accommodation was dilapidated, cramped and odourous. We were instructed to leave the bathroom fan on at all times, for room ventilation, hence a roaring sound from the fan and air conditioning, the entire trip. In addition there was a ... Read More
The accommodation was dilapidated, cramped and odourous. We were instructed to leave the bathroom fan on at all times, for room ventilation, hence a roaring sound from the fan and air conditioning, the entire trip. In addition there was a constant roar from the engines, which seemed to be located under our cabin. There was no seating provided in the cabin other than a hard folding chair, or the tiny hard bed which was a board with a thin spring filled mattress on it. I asked for an extra blanket so I could pad the mattress against the poking springs. We sacrificed floor space to keep the second bed, which could be folded up against the wall, in the down position, since the hard chair did not seem to be a viable option for relaxing. Even with the noise in the cabin, it was preferable to the din in the "grand salon" which was deafening at times. From the description of the boat, I pictured a replica steamship with some padded seats and draperies, but such was not the case. I want to emphasize that the staff were exceptional, and worked themselves to a frenzy, serving in the dining room then cleaning rooms and toilets in between. This cruise is not suitable for disabled people, of whom there were plenty. There are stairs and ramps to maneuver without assistance from the crew. I found it a bit disconcerting that when we were lined up to get the key for our room, that we were also given a "contract" to sign. The contract released the company from any conceivable mishap. It was only later, when I read the contract, that I understood there would be no assistance for disabled people. This did not make a difference to me, but there were people who disembarked early because of the difficulty they encountered getting up and down the stairs (the cabins were downstairs, meals and disembarkation planks were upstairs). It would have made a massive difference to our potential travelling companions who, thankfully, cancelled early. I do not believe anyone read the 2 page, fine print contract before signing, as other passengers were in the lineup waiting to get the keys to their "cabin". There was only a small outer deck, at the back of the ship, that was a sheltered place to sit. It only had about 12 chairs for about 60 passengers. The top deck space, although it had more chairs, was unsheltered from all types of weather. Only the last half of the cruise on the river was really scenic as the river is just too wide to be able to see much on the shore. I would recommend a shorter trip around the Thousand Islands for anyone who wants to see the scenery. The cruise experience from Quebec City to Kingston on the Canadian Empress was just not worth the discomfort. This trip was not a bargain by any stretch of the imagination! Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
My husband wanted to follow the St. Lawrence by car until I located this cruise thru AARP. We have done a lot of cruising on large ships, but found the Canadian Princess cruise to be more intimate and lots of fun. The cabins aren't ... Read More
My husband wanted to follow the St. Lawrence by car until I located this cruise thru AARP. We have done a lot of cruising on large ships, but found the Canadian Princess cruise to be more intimate and lots of fun. The cabins aren't large; but you are only there to sleep, shower and change clothes. The food was very good. The bartender was happy to mix anything we requested - even when he was not sure of the ingredients. He looked the drink up on his phone and proceeded to mix. You don't get that kind of service on the large ships! The entire crew was friendly, including the Captain who joined in the fun when possible. The shore excursions were educational and informative. There were a few missteps during our cruise involving the shore excursions; but all were handled with finesse and consideration for the passengers. Onboard activities were lots of fun and full of laughs. We would take this cruise again in a heartbeat. Read Less
23 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
It was a hoot. I am not a big fan or expert on cruises having been on two others Holland America and Norwegian, trust me friends this is neither. It is a 50 year old reproduction of a 1890-1910 river cruise ship. The rooms are tiny, ... Read More
It was a hoot. I am not a big fan or expert on cruises having been on two others Holland America and Norwegian, trust me friends this is neither. It is a 50 year old reproduction of a 1890-1910 river cruise ship. The rooms are tiny, the bath/toilet with a marine toilet that you have to pump to flush is out of the past, the average age of the passengers is 77 and there were one pair of newlyweds who were 95 and 98 respectively. The entertainment is corn-ball and local and the shore tours are on yellow limousines AKA school buses. The food is nothing overly fancy, but substantial and tasty enough that I gained 5 lb and my wife 3. We both enjoyed it immensely, it is fun, laid back, low key, you tie up at night so you can sleep like a babe. Do not go if you want to gamble, drink to excess, stay up all night partying or try to impress your shipmates. But the scenery particularly in the 1000 Island area is outstanding, the crew from captain to cabin attendants/waitresses were friendly, kind, and personable. My only reservation is that once you get through the 1000 Island area the river widens considerably and the scenery is less interesting. I would recommend the slightly shorter trip through the island area and back to Kingston and then take the train to Montreal and Quebec City if you really want to go all the way down river. Oh by the way, spend a couple of nights in Kingston it is a charming relic from the past with lots of bed and breakfast places and even a few newer hotels if B&B is not your thing. Chosen because it sounded interesting, different and indeed it was. This is a one ship cruise line consequently they have to do it right and for the most part they do. The staff was very accommodating, the cruise was no hassle, the drinks were fairly priced and the food was "home cooking" with a flair. Top speed for the ship is about 12 MPH going with the current and probably 10 MPH going upstream. The river is essentially glassy smooth so the odds of "sailor's tummy" does not exist. The fellow passengers were for the most part very well traveled, and have experience with other big ship/ocean cruises. I personally did not hear any complaints except for one shore excursion that was less interesting that the others. All shore excursions are included in the fare. Other than shuffleboard and walking around the top deck and hustling to meals there are no fitness facilities so plan on putting on a pound or two. What the heck you can work it off when you get home. Note that there is no elevator so this is not a very handicapped friendly ship, think 1910 in this regard. Yes, I would do it again or at least take one of their other cruises. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2016
W have cruised extensively on 4 continents and know the difficulties of comparing what can be very different experiences.This little one ship ship cruise line attempts to step back in time a little ind delivered everything as promised, ... Read More
W have cruised extensively on 4 continents and know the difficulties of comparing what can be very different experiences.This little one ship ship cruise line attempts to step back in time a little ind delivered everything as promised, Because of its small size and the route through some very busy waterways there is a real sense of identification with the St..Lawrence river and it's history. The ship is over 30 years old but appears to be in good shape thanks to ongoing maintenance and the fact it operates only 4 months or so a year. Would suggest it is time to change some berth mattresses and renovate cabin windows as some are ddifficult to open. Our guest service crew were delightful; young, energetic with a nice mix of formality and casualness .The officers were approachable and well informed. Sailing on the Canadian Empress iis really a unique experience..Our party of 6 had a great time! Read Less
37 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2015
We [two couples] selected this cruise because we wanted to experience the St Lawrence and the Thousand Islands during the fall. We knew from the brochure and company website that the ship was small but both depicted a cozy environment with ... Read More
We [two couples] selected this cruise because we wanted to experience the St Lawrence and the Thousand Islands during the fall. We knew from the brochure and company website that the ship was small but both depicted a cozy environment with small but reasonably comfortable cabins. We paid extra for the Premier Cabins, a huge mistake, see below. The ship itself is extremely small. The only enclosed public space is the dining room which doubles as the bar and lounge. It is barely large enough to accommodate all of the passengers. The kitchen is extremely small, making it difficult for the cooks to prepare food in a timely manner. We had two services for lunch and dinner with half of the dining room set up for meals and the other half set up as a lounge. Half the passengers literally watch the other half eat because there is nowhere else to go on the ship. It was too cool to lounge on deck and the cabins are claustrophobic. The few times they attempted to serve everyone at one time emphasized the kitchens limitations. It took over an hour and a half from salad to dessert for the Captains Dinner despite the best efforts of the chefs and servers. I should note, the crew from the captain on down did everything they could to make up for the ship. They were friendly, accommodating and hardworking, but were fighting a losing battle. Food was good but the cooks were clearly hampered by the size of the kitchen. The entertainment was also handicapped by the space limitations. For example, the last evening we had a dance featuring a local trio. In order to set up for the dance they asked the passengers to clear the dining room and either visit the bridge or go to their cabins while the crew set up for the dance. Neither option was particularly enticing given the time of night or the size of the cabins. Land tours were interesting but limited. Transportation was via school buses and the ships schedule did not allow for much free time in port. Internet was available only in the main dining room and streaming services like Facebook were blocked. The internet was weak or nonexistent at times but that is not unusual on river cruises. There is no TV service on board. Overall, I would not recommend this cruise. Another cruise line might be an alternative but given our experience I'd suggest driving the route and staying in hotels along the way. The river towns including Montreal and Quebec offer a wide variety of restaurants and accommodations and you are in view of the river most of the way. There are numerous day cruises available in various ports if you want to sight see from the river. Clearly, for what we paid for "premium rooms" we could have stayed in five star hotels for a seven day road trip. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2015
We [two couples] selected this cruise because we wanted to experience the St Lawrence and the Thousand Islands during the fall. We knew from the brochure and company website that the ship was small but both depicted a cozy environment with ... Read More
We [two couples] selected this cruise because we wanted to experience the St Lawrence and the Thousand Islands during the fall. We knew from the brochure and company website that the ship was small but both depicted a cozy environment with small but reasonably comfortable cabins. We paid extra for the Premier Cabins, a huge mistake. We selected the Premier cabins, 24 and 25 and paid a premium for the extra space. What a joke! The cabin was small with a double bed against a wall requiring that the inside occupant crawl out the foot of the bed or over the outside occupant when getting up. Not an easy task for older passengers. At best the cabin could be described as shabby, the furnishings and the cabin itself had all seen better days. The cabins were located directly over the bow thrusters which were extremely noisy, a special delight when leaving port at 4:30 AM. There were portholes, not windows in the cabin which were locked shut and could not be opened without tools and certainly could not be opened when sailing. The real horror was the bathroom, it was barley large enough to sit on the john and the shower was extremely tight. The toilets were marine toilets that evacuated into a holding tank that emitted an odor that required you to run the bathroom fan continuously and to close the shower drain with a supplied cover. There is no TV or internet available in the ships cabins. The ship itself is extremely small. The only enclosed public space is the dining room which doubles as the bar and lounge. It is barely large enough to accommodate all of the passengers. The kitchen is extremely small, making it difficult for the cooks to prepare food in a timely manner. We had two services for lunch and dinner with half of the dining room set up for meals and the other half set up as a lounge. Half the passengers literally watch the other half eat because there is nowhere else to go on the ship. It was too cool to lounge on deck and the cabins are claustrophobic. The few times they attempted to serve everyone at one time emphasized the kitchens limitations. It took over an hour and a half from salad to dessert for the Captains Dinner despite the best efforts of the chefs and servers. I should note, the crew from the captain on down did everything they could to make up for the ship. They were friendly, accommodating and hardworking, but were fighting a losing battle. Food was good but the cooks were clearly hampered by the size of the kitchen. The entertainment was also handicapped by the space limitations. For example, the last evening we had a dance featuring a local trio. In order to set up for the dance they asked the passengers to clear the dining room and either visit the bridge or go to their cabins will the crew set up for the dance. Neither option was particularly enticing given the time of night or the size of the cabins. Land tours were interesting but limited. Transportation was via school buses and the ships scheduled did not allow for much free time in port. Internet was available only in the main dining room and streaming services like Facebook were blocked. The internet was weak or nonexistent at times but that is not unusual on river cruises. There is no TV service on board. Overall, I would not recommend this cruise. Another cruise line might be an alternative but given our experience I'd suggest driving the route and staying in hotels along the way. The river towns including Montreal and Quebec offer a wide variety of restaurants and accommodations and you are in view of the river most of the way. There are numerous day cruises available in various ports if you want to sight see from the river. Clearly, for what we paid for "premium rooms" we could have stayed in five star hotels for a seven day road trip. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
We were 1st time cruisers, so we can only say what we liked and what others may have told us. Having read previous reviews we had only modest expectations as we felt we'd be the youngest passengers at 59 and 65 and the age of the Canadian ... Read More
We were 1st time cruisers, so we can only say what we liked and what others may have told us. Having read previous reviews we had only modest expectations as we felt we'd be the youngest passengers at 59 and 65 and the age of the Canadian Empress. However, the cruise exceeded our expectations and we had a very good time! We missed being the youngest by a few years, that was a 52-year-old woman accompanying her mother. The ship may be older but she ran well on this trip! We compare life on board to camping in our pop-up camper, only without the extra bed to use as storage. Other passengers told us the tiny cabins are typical of river boats. It was also somewhat noisy - from ships' noises, not passengers - even though nights were spent at dockside. Therefore, we felt a bit sleep deprived at the end of the trip. We were busy every day! Each day combines cruising, fine dining, excursions and entertainment. With the OUTSTANDING weather on this trip, cruising was fantastic, including SPECTACULAR sunsets! Dining included 3 meals each day, due to the capacity crowd, they provided 2 seatings at noon and evening; you had to chose which early or "main" at the beginning of the trip. Snacks were always available at all times in the Lounge (didn't partake), they were also served near the end of each evenings entertainment, plus the great bar Steward kept munchies out at all times. I heard no complaints about the meals even though there was no choice in foods, you got what they served. Meals were also served in smaller portions that usually found at restaurants but, given the frequency with which full meals seemed to occur, we heard no complaints! Our daily 1 or 2 excursions were interesting, especially for history buffs! We learned a lot about early Canadian settlers and their "take" on history, which is somewhat different that I recall from my long-ago U.S. history lessons! Entertainment consisted of local individuals and small groups presenting music, comedy and magic; all were worth seeing. A few things to be aware of: hotels and shopkeepers will accept U.S. dollars but they make about 12% on the deal. I suggest using an ATM and withdraw Canadian dollars, they use an exchange rate very close to the official rate. Having a few hundred Canadian $ provides more than adequate funding for modest purchases along the way and for the recommended gratuity of $10 per person per day. The Holiday Inn at dockside provided an ATM which worked very well, although the one at the Ambassador Hotel would not function with any of the 3 cards presented, perhaps because Canada is using the chip technology we U.S. citizens are soon be offered. The Ambassador, however, is a very nice hotel with very helpful and courteous staff, PLUS they let you park your car for FREE during the trip, a savings of $20-30 USD per day! Things to consider: The Empress has multiple decks connected by steep, narrow stairs; we had several co-passengers with disabilities whom we wondered how they could travel between decks. However, with one possible exception (he may have been satisfied to slightly limit his activities), all seemed to come and go as they wished. Also, excursion transport, all short rides, was provided on school buses, you know; those with bench seats and little ride comfort. We also wanted to go ashore while docked in the evening, primarily for exercise and to get a few supplies (drinks) for our cabin. Strolling was possible at most moorings but shopping at only one. Also, the one mooring location featured a rusty old warehouse wall as the dock-side view , while an "ok" neighborhood in which to stroll it was not at all pretty. The crew was excellent and provided a first class experience to all, right down to the Captain's wild dance floor gyrations! The Stewardesses (their title, really) were well trained even though this was the first trip for 2 of the 4. The Bar/Wine Steward is a phenomenal guy and the consummate professional. The Purser worked her butt off to make things happen and ensure all had a good time, on time! The navigation crew were all very friendly and informative, always willing to explain the various operations which kept them busy! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2015
Smooth sailing!! We were so fortunate to have 24 people on board (capacity is 60 people per the cruise line literature). So easy to communicate with the staff and other passengers. St Lawrence Cruise Lines included all excursion costs ... Read More
Smooth sailing!! We were so fortunate to have 24 people on board (capacity is 60 people per the cruise line literature). So easy to communicate with the staff and other passengers. St Lawrence Cruise Lines included all excursion costs and gratuities for local guides and drivers in the base cost. This was certainly welcome. On board staff were tipped at the end of the cruise. Food was well prepared and cheerfully served with a variety of offerings during the cruise. Half portions and diabetic deserts were offered. Cabins are small, but fine for two people who go there to sleep and use the restroom (plenty of hot water for showers). The excursions were interesting, especially our visit to Upper Canada Village, and logistics were handled well. We were happy to have good weather, which facilitated visiting, watching the boat go through the locks, and reading, knitting, etc.. The evening entertainment includes a flute / guitar duo that provided much enjoyment. Good promotional information facilitated staying both in Quebec City and in Kingston, Ontario. Although the literature suggests dressing up for farewell dinner, in reality, we were able to just be comfortable. The crew seemed to be always busy keeping the boat clean and tidy and the wait staff / cabin attendants could not have been nicer. Maybe a different route next time. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
We did a six night cruise on the Canadian Empress from Quebec City to Kingston. While there were a few positive aspects, notably very good food and evening entertainment, overall this cruise did not come anywhere close to meeting our ... Read More
We did a six night cruise on the Canadian Empress from Quebec City to Kingston. While there were a few positive aspects, notably very good food and evening entertainment, overall this cruise did not come anywhere close to meeting our expectations. Other reviewers have commented on the small cabins, which is absolutely the case but we could have lived with that. However, we felt that the main problem is that the ship is old (35 years) and has not been maintained to an acceptable standard. Everything looks shabby and tired, and we experienced numerous mechanical problems which impacted our cruise experience. These included a power outage, lack of hot water, lack of cold water (depending on the day), and an engine problem that resulted in cancellation of one of the scheduled itinerary items. What bothered us most was that there were frequent sewage odors not just in our bathroom, but throughout the ship. We felt that the crew worked very hard to make our experience as pleasant as possible. However, we also felt that the ship is staffed at the absolute minimum level, meaning that the service was sometimes slow and cabins and common areas were not kept very clean. Given the price point, we were expecting much more and in our opinion, we did not get what we paid for. In fact, most of the other passengers whom we spoke to about their satisfaction with the cruise told us that they were also very disappointed and would not recommend this cruise to others. Read Less
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