I have cruised with the large cruise lines for years, but lately, I've noticed that the shore excursions and onboard activities aren't for me anymore. Either they were too crowded, too physically demanding, or were things that didn't interest me. This was a devastating discovery, as cruising has always been my favorite way to vacation. Then a good friend of mine suggested a small ship river cruise with American Cruise Lines. And boy am I glad that she did.
Cruising the Mississippi River
After doing some research, reading the amazing reviews, and talking it over with my husband, I decided to book the Lower Mississippi River cruise. As fans of Elvis, jazz music & good southern barbecue, coupled with our love of American history, especially the Civil War era, we were certain this was the cruise for us.
Our cruise began in Memphis, where we immersed ourselves in the rich musical history of Beale Street. We then spent a day traveling down the river before arriving in Vicksburg, which is most known for being the key to winning the Civil War due to its connection between river and rail transportation. My favorite day of the cruise was visiting the Houmas House, 38 acres of gardens, fountains, and majestic trees.
I liked how excursions were clearly labeled from Low to High with ADA information, so it was easy to decide if we wanted to take part in an excursion or not. My husband's favorite excursion was the Great River Outdoor Adventure at the Double C Ranch, where we rode private quads through farmlands and pine plantations, and he even participated in a tomahawk throwing contest. Between the shore excursions and onboard activities, our Mississippi River Cruise experience was a wonderful journey filled with historical tales, awesome music, and a bunch of new friends.
All-Inclusive and Accommodating
I learned quickly after making our reservation that this was not going to be any ordinary cruising experience. The folks at American Cruise Lines took care of everything, even our hotel and airfare were arranged for us. The cruise fare also includes meals, snacks, cocktail parties, beverages, as well as onboard tips and gratuities.
All the crew members were American and, compared to the level of service I had come to expect from the other cruise lines, were so accommodating and always available to help with anything I needed. Every crew member went above and beyond to make this trip our best vacation ever.
The ship itself felt light, airy and was very well-maintained and exceptionally clean. The stateroom was so spacious featuring a large bath, plenty of storage, & came complete with our own private balcony. Our stateroom attendant Ethan was truly first-rate. He was super friendly, polite, and great at anticipating our needs. He even managed to straighten out our stateroom multiple times per day without ever being in our way. Our stateroom truly felt like a home away from home. And because this cruise line doesn't leave the United States, there was no need for a passport or waiting in those long lines at customs.
The relaxed atmosphere of American Cruise Lines is what sets them apart from the other cruise lines. After other vacations, I swear I need another vacation to recharge the batteries. But on this cruise, we never felt hurried or rushed. We were able to take part in as many activities as we wanted in a given day. There were always plenty of lounges to relax in if we didn't feel like participating. It was a nice change of pace cruising without the kids, casinos, DJs, and pools.
The food on board was incredible, featuring local cuisine that fit the culture of the port stop we had just explored. There were so many places on the ship to view the beautiful passing scenery, from our private balcony and lounges to the restaurant and sun deck. The onboard speaker stayed with us throughout the week and really added to our experience. She was so knowledgeable about the region and was a pleasure to talk to and listen to. She even came along on excursions and dined at our table one evening.
The journey along the river was a very smooth one, with land always in sight. I got seasick on an ocean cruise a few years back, so I was a little concerned, but I highly doubt anyone got seasick on a cruise like this. I also expected there to be issues with the smaller ships not having enough space. I was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case. I can't recall waiting on a line of more than 3 people the entire trip!
I think my favorite part of the cruise was meeting all the pleasant and interesting people on board. The ship had fewer than 180 guests, and best of all they were all around my age. We had so much in common. My husband and I became fast friends with our stateroom neighbors. We even booked our next cruise with our newfound friends and will be sailing the legendary Columbia & Snake Rivers together like Lewis & Clark! I can't believe I used to leave the country to cruise when we have so many amazing & desirable destinations right here in America.
Our experience with American Cruise Lines was truly unforgettable and unlike any cruise we have ever taken. We are so looking forward to our Columbia & Snake Rivers cruise next summer. The friendly, professional crew at American Cruise Lines, as well as the other like-minded guests, became like family by the end of our journey. We enjoyed the opportunity to discover parts of America in such a unique and personalized way. It was an experience of a lifetime we plan on repeating every year. I'm through with the mega ships - small-ship cruising is the only way to travel.
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