Sunday, July 18, 2010

Seeing & Feeling the American Spirit This Weekend

I enjoyed a tour of American Cruise Line’s ship, American Spirit, over the weekend. She is nearing the end this season’s 7 night Philadelphia- Potomac River sailings from Philadelphia which stop at Havre de Grace, Chestertown, St. Michaels, Annapolis and St. Mary’s City in Maryland as well as Mount Vernon and Alexandria in Virginia. The stop in Alexandria enables people to also visit Washington, DC.

American Cruise Lines offers an opportunity to sail on one of the few U.S. registered cruise ships for what is referred to as “river ” and “coastal waterways” cruising. This is not traditional cruising in the way that most people consider a cruise to be. If you misinterpret what you think the experience is, you’ll be disappointed. However, if you know what to expect and this is the experience you’re looking for, you’ll quickly realize why this line has such a high repeat booking rate among a loyal clientele.

At over $6000 for a double cabin, you’ll find that the average guest is retired, financially comfortable, prefers a casual setting, enjoys a relaxing evening over splashy entertainment, loves American Heritage and wants to see multiple sites without changing hotels. While this isn’t the type of boat that Mark Twain would have sailed on, the quiet wonders of sailing to some of America’s history-filled port cities will have you think of him and a way of life as old as our country.

American Spirit offers open and comfortable public areas, and a feeling of Americana. Cabins are large by river boat standards and feature two twin beds which can convert to a double bed, a flat screen satellite TV w/DVD player, closet, dresser, desk and chair, hair dryer, large opening picture window and internet access. Bathrooms offer a little more space than most ship bathrooms and are nicely decorated. Accommodations remind me more of a floating B&B.

In fact, the entire ship’s atmosphere is somewhat like a B&B as you feel like a welcome guest into a home. The feeling is intimate as she holds only 100 guests. Most of the staff are young, but all are respectful and eager to please. The ship offers an unusual 1:4 ratio of crew members to guests which is much better than the industry norm. Crew and guests’ name lists are on a bulletin board to enable a quicker rapport among everyone.

One of the line’s strengths is the lecturers which speak about the local history, nature and culture. If weather permits, there is often a time of kite-flying off the ship while guests sip Bloody Marys. There is also a weekly Bingo game.

American Spirit along with American Glory, American Star and the new Independence sail in the waterways of eastern USA while the company’s only paddle wheeler, Queen of the West, sails in Washington and Oregon.

An American Cruise Lines cruise package includes your accommodations, prepared-to-order breakfast, lunch, dinner, limited beverages (coffee, tea, soft drinks & juice), snacks, a daily cocktail hour prior to dinner, beer & wine at lunch & dinner, guest lecturers and internet access. Warm, fresh cookies are included in the mornings. Evenings offer complimentary ice cream sundaes and root beer floats along with the opportunity to purchase alcoholic drinks.

I would consider this ship to be friendly for slow-walkers, but not accessible for a full-time wheelchair user. Read more about American Spirit's accessibility here.  

Ships in the American Cruise Lines’ fleet are available for group bookings and also chartering for exclusive use for groups of 49-120 participants. Our agents would be happy to share more information with you regarding these ships as we assist you with your individual or group travel plans.


  1. A lip for shower and balcony are understandable, but did there appear to be a reason for a step into the dining room? That sounds like it could be a safety hazard for someone with a walker or mobility challenge.

    Is the same ramp used in all cities visited for exiting and entering the ship? Did it appear that a wider ramp that would accommodate a scooter or wheelchair could be implemented? Is there adequate space for a ramp to bridge the two "block steps"?

  2. The step was from a lobby area to a corridor which leads to the dining room. I trust they have a reason for raising the floor and am guessing that there's plumbing and/or electrical leading to the kitchen off the dining room. To ACL's credit, the step is very well marked so it can't be missed. However,I believe there's enough space and ability to ramp it so that a wheelchair wouldn't have to "climb" or drop over the step and for it to be easier/safer for someone using a walker, crutches or canes.

    My understanding is that the same gangway is used in all ports. The blocks are used when tides are higher because the gangway seems to be a fixed length. I don't have the technical knowledge to say for certain, but I believe based on what I've seen over the years with other ships that it's likely that they could use a wider ramp and one that has the ability to lengthen and shorten.

    So my feeling is that this is two areas in which changes could be made to make the ship both more accessible and safer.


Thank you for leaving a comment. It will be published soon.