Take some great East Coast destinations, throw in some very comfortable small ships, add a few enrichment lectures and complimentary cocktails and a boatload of uniformly older passengers, and you end up with American Cruise Lines. Operating along the Eastern seaboard and in the Pacific Northwest, the company's five ships are designed to poke into the smallest and most scenic ports, docking among sailboats at marinas or within a few blocks of museums, shops, and historic districts. Itineraries are port-intensive, with the ship underway for only a few hours in the morning or afternoon, usually arriving at the evening's port before dinnertime and spending the night at dock.
While the company is neither a luxury cruise line nor an adventure cruise line, it falls into a pleasant niche that succeeds in large part because of its ships. The line's four East Coast vessels are far younger and roomier than the competition's, boasting the largest cabins in the small-ship market (save for those aboard Cruise West's Spirit of Oceanus), many of which have balconies. This appeals to passengers who want the comforts of a shrunken cruise ship and will gladly pay for the extra space. The line's West Coast ship, Queen of the West, is an old-fashioned paddle-wheeler. On all vessels, east and west, guest lecturers provide some enrichment, helping passengers learn about their destination, and chefs from the Culinary Institute of America prepare good regional selections.
Part cruise, part historical tour, part Rotary Club meeting, Connecticut-based American Cruise Lines operates five U.S.-flagged vessels that offer a congenial ambience, an emphasis on American history and culture, and (a rarity for small ships) some cabins with balconies. Life on board is comfortable, reserved, and so hassle-free that many passengers don't even lock their cabin doors. If you want to bring a guest on board for dinner one night when in port, simply tell the cruise director. If you decide not to go on a shore excursion you signed up for, don't worry: If you don't show up, you don't get billed.
Sails to: eastern U.S. coastal cruises from Maine to Florida, Pacific Northwest.
Address: 741 Boston Post Rd., Suite 200, Guilford, CT 06437
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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.