Top American Cruise Lines Ships
Life onboard an American Cruise Lines ship really revolves around two things: going ashore in port every day, and the friendly ambience highlighted by the 5:30 p.m. cocktail hour with dinner and a lecture following. Meeting your fellow passengers is an important part of the cruise, and the open seating in the dining room encourages everyone to mix.
When not ashore, passengers usually read, watch the shoreline go by or chat with others. Organized activities are minimal, but the nightly talks given by the guest lecturer or river historian are eagerly anticipated and well attended.
With the destination so much a part of each cruise, there is usually only a morning or afternoon sailing each day -- otherwise you are tied up at the dock. Shore excursions are available for an additional fee on the coastal cruises, and at least one excursion is included with the fare on Mississippi and Snake and Columbia River cruises. Tours are scheduled for nearly every port, and they may be as simple as a two-hour town walk with a local historian or a bus tour to a museum or beauty spot. They are fairly priced between $10 and $35.
Docking in the center of town means independent exploring is possible, allowing those who want the opportunity to wander off on their own, shop for antiques, have dinner ashore or simply get some exercise walking.
Food is traditional American cuisine, usually prepared well, with some ambitious and creative offerings on the menu. Regional American fare is the norm with fresh seafood available on the coastal trips, Southern cooking on the Mississippi River cruises and Pacific Northwest-inspired cuisine on the western trips. Breakfast features freshly baked breads and muffins, and lunch and dinner feature freshly pies with, for example, fresh Maine blueberries in the summer season.
Lunch is generally a light meal as preferred by older passengers and runs to soups, salads, sandwiches and wraps. Half portions may be requested. Red and chilled white wines are complimentary at lunch and dinner. The line does not sell alcohol.
Cocktail hour is very well attended, with many passengers dressing up a bit for the evening. About 10 percent of men wear jackets on a given evening.
American Cruise Lines attracts an older, geographically diverse clientele from all regions of the country and Canada with a high number of repeaters on every voyage. Children are rare, although the summer New England and Maine itineraries draw a slightly younger crowd.
Many sail American Cruise Line because they simply dislike larger ships or want sheltered waters. For others, the initial draw is the unusual itinerary or an interest in the historical and cultural sites such as museums or homes of historic figures. The line also does a very good job catering to people with mobility issues, which makes it a popular choice for seniors.
There is also a broad range of cruising experience among the passengers, from those who are cruising for the first time to frequent sailors on the luxury lines that want to try a different type of itinerary. Most enjoy the slower, less active and low-key pace and the chance to meet new people.