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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2019
The Canadian Empress is a replica of the old steam operated passenger riverboats that used to cruise in the Thousand Islands of the St Lawrence River. There are of course modifications for the 21st century, even WIFI, so our travel was ... Read More
The Canadian Empress is a replica of the old steam operated passenger riverboats that used to cruise in the Thousand Islands of the St Lawrence River. There are of course modifications for the 21st century, even WIFI, so our travel was more comfortable than it would have been in the early 19th century. All travel is done in daylight hours, so you can maximize the scenery. We travelled from Quebec City to Kingston. Shore excursions usually take up a half day, including a bus tour of Montreal, a stop in Trois Rivieres with a bus to the shrine at Cap de la Madeleine, a visit to Upper Canada Village, a tour of Fulford Mansion in Brockville, and a trip up the Sky Tower on Hill Island from Gananoque. The remainder of the day you can sit on the upper deck or either of the covered stern or bow decks to watch the beautiful scenery go by. The pace is slow. Dress is casual, comfortable and practical. Chef Joe does amazing things in a very tiny galley. All meals are full service and the wait staff are great. There is a small bar at the end of the dining room with very reasonable pricing. On our trip beer and wine were included with meals but only $6 at other times. Bartender Matt was fantastic! The purser Karen did a great job of keeping us organized and entertained. There was a daily puzzle, evenings had entertainment including a magician, a flute and classical guitar duo, Roger James a singer who defies categorization, a night playing team Trivial Pursuit, and because our trip covered both July 1 and 4, views of fireworks. The July 1 event in Montreal was especially unique as it is done over the water, right where we were moored. Accessibility is an issue, as there are stairs. There were travellers on our cruise using walkers or canes and they managed, but this is not a wheelchair accessible ship. Most passengers were seniors, but family groups included middle aged members. We all got along very well, and the age mixture was great. This is not a cruise for children or teens though. Physical activity is minimal on board, shuffleboard and walking the deck the extent of it. Read Less
24 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
10 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 ... 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
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2009
First let my say we went with no expectations.We knew the ship was small and the cabins were small.One bed folds up on the wall during the day to give more room.Hanging space is very limited.Cabins 34 and 35  have a double bed (well not ... Read More
First let my say we went with no expectations.We knew the ship was small and the cabins were small.One bed folds up on the wall during the day to give more room.Hanging space is very limited.Cabins 34 and 35  have a double bed (well not really)If you are over 5' 9" you hit the wall at each end and the curve of the hull on one side takes away more space.You need to crawl over the other person to get in/out of bed.The age of the passengers was from mid 50's to 90, most were over 70.We had 30 passengers on our cruise and we were two of the younger ones (61 & 62).ACTIVITIES:Daily puzzles,Trivia, bingo, shuffleboard, nightly entertainment, shore excursions Entertainment was good with local talent. We had a magician, a guitarist/singer, a flutist and guitarist,  a comedian/guitarist and a trio. Shore trips included in the cruise were: Fulford Mansion in Brockville, Fort Wellington in Prescott, Old Montreal and trip to the Cosmosdome, Upper Canada Village, trip to the 1000 Island Skydeck and lots of locks during the trip.FOOD:The meals were fair to good.Breakfast was one special of the day plus  cold cereal, oatmeal, toast, muffins, juices, fruit.Lunch was usually a hot meal with soup or a small salad. (no choice of entrees)One day we had hamburger buffet with several salad choices.For dinner you had two choices which you chose the night before.Late night snack consisted of small hot or cold hors-d' oeuvresMuffins, coffee, tea, lemonade or iced tea were available during the day at the self serve station.Food portions were small and quality was inconsistent. Sometimes the food was not cooked well or overcooked. Vegetables were usually mushy and overcooked.A couple of the fish meals tasted off and smelled fishy (fresh fish should not smell).If you do not like either of the dinner or lunch entree they have no provisions for a substitute meal.Drink prices were very reasonable and soft drinks were free.PROS: The crew was very good. Ted the bartender and Marc the purser made a good team.Small ship, relaxing cruise.CONS:Not much time in port, just enough for the excursionsFood portions & selections They need to start marketing to the younger seniors. Read Less
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