{{title}}

{{message}}

Sign Up
Cruisetrend helps you connect and share with the people in your life.
Cruise Ship Information
The American Empress is a 360-foot (110 m) diesel-powered paddle-wheeler that was formerly operated by Majestic America Line and named the Empress of the North. She was built in 2002 at the Nichols Brothers Boat Builders shipyard on Whidbey Island, in the U.S. state of Washington, for $50 million and debuted as a cruise ship in 2003. She is listed as accommodating 223 guests, and originally cruised Alaska's Inside Passage, the Pacific Northwest, and the Columbia River. While being operated by Majestic America Line, the ship was decorated with a 19th century Russian theme, but with Alaskan touches in the form of carvings and masks.
 
During the ship's time in Alaska, several smaller port cities such as Wrangell and Petersburg depended on the visits by the Empress of the North for a substantial amount of tourist-related commerce.In 2013, the Empress of the North was acquired by the American Queen Steamboat Company, which in 2014 renamed the ship American Empress and placed her back into service on the Columbia and Snake Rivers, after five years out of service. The ship's home port is now Vancouver, Washington.In April 2014, American Empress (which formerly sailed Pacific Northwest and Alaska cruises as Empress of the North) joined the fleet after undergoing a major refurbishment. The company is led by President Ted Sykes, who worked in executive and leadership roles at Grand Circle Travel, Viking River Cruises, Vantage and Saga Shipping; he was appointed in early 2013.
 
The American Queen Steamboat Company, on May 22, 2013 had purchased the Empress of the North from the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) and that it would rename the ship American Empress and resume sailings from Portland, Oregon, in April 2014. On April 5, 2014, American Empress was christened in Portland.  The paddlewheel boat is the largest sailing the rivers of the Pacific Northwest. The Empress had been out of service for five years.]She is the largest overnight riverboat west of the Mississippi River. The ship's home port is now Vancouver, Washington (in the Portland metropolitan area) and her normal route will follow the Columbia and Snake Rivers between Astoria, Oregon, and Clarkston, Washington, with 32 sailings scheduled for 2014, in the period April–November.
 
Atmosphere onboard 
The largest and most elegant riverboat in the Pacific Northwest. Included shore excursions in every port of call. American Queen Steamboat Company also provide Included deluxe hotel stay before your voyage - includes breakfast, taxes, porterage and transfers to the American Empress.
Complimentary wine and beer with dinner, Complimentary cappuccino, espresso, bottled water and soft drinks throughout  your voyage. Regional Pacific Northwest cuisine utilizing fresh ingredients creatively combined with a contemporary flair, gracious service from a friendly, all-American staff. Ship has country club casual ambiance, no formal wear requiredDaily lectures by the Riverlorian, our onboard history and culture expert. All staterooms feature a balcony or picture window with dramatic scenery unfolding before your eyes Cruise Line also have their own dedicated fleet of luxury motor coaches.
 
The refurbishment was a dramatic overhaul; public spaces and cabins got new carpet, paint, wallpaper, lighting and general updating. décor, decidedly Victorian with ornate furniture, floral carpeting, brass, frosted glass lampshades, lace curtains and elegant wallpaper, feels rich and elegant. Step onboard, and you'll be transported to a time when steamboats were a regular sight on America's rivers.
 
Food & Dining 
Yet the ship's surroundings feature contemporary influences. The Astoria Dining Room is sleek and light-filled with plenty of two-tops and the newly added River Grill offers a bistro-like experience. Still while American Empress is more accurately described as a steamboat without steam, there's no missing the iconic red paddlewheel.
The Astoria Dining Room on Deck 1 serves as the main dining room on American Empress, and all meals are of the sit-down variety. The room features numerous crystal chandeliers and a pale blue and ivory color scheme. The ceiling also boasts a blue LED light that feels a bit out of place, considering the ship's more traditional decor. The dining room is open for breakfast (7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.), lunch (11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and dinner (6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.) though mealtimes can vary slightly depending on tours in port. All meals are open seating, meaning passengers can choose to eat whenever is convenient and with whomever they wish. Tables seat between two and eight diners. Most meals reflect the Pacific Northwest region, and many dishes incorporate locally sourced products and plenty of seafood options.
 
Breakfast offers typical American standards, such as bacon and eggs, but it also offers a few twists, including a brilliantly simple yet delicious salmon and egg hash. Fresh fruit and lighter fare like oatmeal are always available. Lunch comprises a soup or salad option and entree. Most of the soups are cream-based; we especially enjoyed the tomato basil bisque, paired with a luscious grilled cheese sandwich made with brie. Somewhat lighter options include a Caesar salad and crab cakes, which are also excellent, and the portions are perfect: not large but certainly hearty enough to satisfy.
 
At dinner, the menu offers a starter, soup or salad, and an entree. Diners can choose their main courses each night from a selection that always includes seafood, red meat, white meat and vegetarian dishes. Of note are the vegetable curry, the mint-crusted lamb and the salmon. Dessert generally highlights food from Washington and Oregon, so berries and apples are common. Our favorite dessert option is the apple pie, served hot with a flaky crust and perfectly spiced apples. A reflection of the local berry industry, the marionberry sorbet was exceptional: fruity, fresh, tangy and delicious.
 
One highlight in the Astoria Dining Room is the once-a-cruise wine-paired dinner, which spotlights a regional winery.
 
Cappuccino, espresso, bottled water and soft drinks are included all day, every day, and complimentary beer and wine are included with dinner. We were especially fond of the regional craft beer selections.
 
In addition to the main dining room, passengers can swing by the River Grill anytime for breakfast and lunch. Located on Deck 4 aft, the space is clean and a little more modern in design than the rest of the boat. It features a large white marble bar, dark walnut columns and seating for 55 people. It also is surrounded on three sides by floor-to-ceiling glass windows and doors, which can be opened when weather is nice to create an alfresco dining experience. (Don't worry: Heat lamps keep passengers plenty warm, even when the weather is brisk.) The area is also home to a self-serve soda machine and espresso/cappuccino bar.
 
Breakfast there includes an omelet station, where a chef will prepare your eggs made-to-order. It also has a small buffet that features a full range of breakfast items, such as bacon, toast, oatmeal and scrambled eggs. Lunch buffet options include some type of seafood, chicken and brisket, and salad. A chef will create made-to-order sandwiches, as well. Between meals, passengers can swing by to grab popcorn, cookies and other snacks.
 
At night, reservations are required to dine in the River Grill & Bar, which serves as a more informal dinner option than the Astoria Dining Room, and passengers generally are limited to two dinner visits per seven-night cruise. The menu always includes starters, a salad option and entrees. Each night, entrees include lobster tail, filet mignon, lamb chops, a vegetarian selection and a local fresh catch selection. Everything we tried at the River Grill was superb; in particular, we enjoyed salmon with crayfish sauce, a lobster surf and turf (for the former you could chose between grilled and steamed for the latter you could opt for a filet mignon or lamb chops). It's such a popular venue that we highly recommend you make your reservations on the first day or so of your cruise.
 
The River Grill & Bar is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Service at the restaurants onboard American Empress was friendly and knowledgeable. Servers know the local ties when it comes to food and beverages, and they're eager to make honest suggestions. Meals tend to meander, though; plan to spend at least two hours at dinner in the Astoria Dining Room. Wine, offered complementary at dinner, was generally of fairly low quality and only occasionally represented the regions of wine country in Washington and Oregon through. Room service is available at any hour, and the menu is substantial. It includes the standard breakfast fare, as well as sandwiches and burgers, fresh salmon, macaroni and cheese, and desserts to satisfy at other times of the day. Room service is complimentary. Line served also vegetarian options onboard that some cruise passengers were happy to have options beyond the standard pasta. While other dietary restrictions can be accommodated, it's important to make note of those restrictions when booking and to discuss them with the maitre d' once onboard.
 
Because the boat visits ports in Washington and Oregon, food and beverages onboard are locally sourced, a real highlight for fans of fresh seafood, up-and-coming wineries and craft beer. The food is generally excellent, both simple and familiar but mostly prepared to perfection. Service is friendly and knowledgeable.
 
Family with Kids/Teens 
This is not a family-oriented ship in any way, shape or form, so there are no amenities geared toward kids. American Empress doesn't have facilities or programs for families. If several children are onboard, the staff will work with parents to come up with appropriate activities.
 
Past Passenger Programs
The American Queen Steamboat Company unveils guest loyalty program: “Steamboat Society of America”
Much of the American Queen Steamboat Company’s early success can be attributed to guests sharing stories of their memorable trips with friends, family and booking another voyage shortly after arriving home. Valued return guests share a passion for U.S. river cruising and can now join the Steamboat Society of America, the company’s loyalty program, for special benefits and rewards on the American Queen and soon-to-be sailing American Empress (April 2014). Among the many benefits, guests receive their 10th cruise free.*
 
The Steamboat Society of America rewards their most loyal guests and encourages them to share their stories of why they are hooked on river cruising with the American Queen Steamboat Company.”
 
Among the benefits to the free Steamboat Society of America loyalty program are the following:
 
A $100 per guest credit on each cruise and $200 per guest credit towards a future cruise fare when booked with  deposit while onboard. Priority check-in and early vessel pre-boarding Member access for breakfast or lunch when American Queen or American Empress are in port near home town and family or friend tours of the boat when sailing. Credits toward future cruise fares for members referring friends who book.
Dedicated reservations line providing special service for members. Private cocktail party for members-only hosted by the captain and executive officers onboard..
 
Fitness And Spa
American Empress doesn't have a spa, fitness center or pool. There are no official fitness classes, but if passengers onboard are qualified and willing to teach classes, the line will allow it, with signup, and provide a location for it. On our sailing, one passenger was a Zumba instructor and taught classes in the morning in the Show Lounge. On another sailing, the fitness oriented cruise managers hosted off-ship hikes and other recreational endeavors. The ship offers six cruiser bikes for use in ports on a first-come, first-served basis, as well as helmets and bike locks. A wraparound balcony circumnavigates the fourth deck, and on a nice day, passengers will take leisurely strolls around the boat.
 
Staterooms
Each cabin onboard American Empress includes either a king or two twin beds, a sitting area and a view; there are no inside cabins. Not all beds are can be combined to form kings, so if a specific configuration is required, mention it at the time of booking. All cabins also feature Keurig personal coffee/tea machines, robes, safes, phones, hair dryers, binoculars and -- a nice touch -- Clarins toiletries, including shampoo, conditioner, soap, shower gel and lotion. Each cabin also has a flat-screen television with about a dozen satellite channels, including the major U.S. networks, ESPN and Discovery. Minifridges are filled with complimentary bottled water, which is restocked during the cruise. Heating and air-conditioning are controlled in cabins, and there are numerous U.S. outlets both in the living areas and in the bathrooms. Audio is also controlled in staterooms and allows you to listen to music and hear general ship announcements from the captain, cruise directors or riverlorians if you choose.

Cabins are spacious and comfortable, decorated in either red or blue color palettes and featuring plenty of lighting, both from Victorian lamps and overhead fixtures. Furniture is ornate, with dark wood wardrobes, small desks and padded leather headboards. Dressers provide plenty of drawer space. Bathrooms are the one spot where utilitarian supersedes elegance. They are small and simple; showers are quite compact and feature clingy curtains rather than doors. Decor is spare in the bathrooms, and the look overall is a bit dated. The walls are relatively thin between cabins -- we could hear conversations and flushing toilets from our neighbors -- but early nights are common onboard, so noise didn't disrupt sleep. (Having earplugs helped this light sleeper, though.)
 
Four cabin categories come in at less than 200 square feet: Veranda Stateroom (12 of them at 150 square feet); Single Outside Stateroom with Veranda (one of them at 160 square feet); Outside Stateroom with Window (seven of them at 180 square feet); and Deluxe Veranda Stateroom (76 of them at 180 square feet). All feature larger-than-average windows that allow in plenty of natural light, though they can't be opened. Veranda cabins feature standard doors (rather than sliders) that open onto balconies, which vary greatly in size depending on location. Two synthetic wicker and metal chairs come standard on balconies. Eight Superior Veranda cabins come in at between 210 and 225 square feet each.
 
In addition to the standard amenities included in other cabin categories, suites include Bose sound systems and iHomes. Six Suites with Veranda measure 310 square feet apiece and feature a larger seating area that includes a couch and table, as well as chairs. These suites are located on Deck 4 and feature large balconies with two padded chairs each. Deck 4 also features a wraparound walking area in front of the balconies, so the balconies for these suites aren't private but are ideal for sightseeing and people-watching. They make for a social experience; it's impossible not to chat with passengers as they walk by.
 
The ship also features two Luxury Suites with Veranda, each at 410 square feet; one is located on Deck 2, the other on Deck 3. In addition to all the amenities featured in the other suites, these have in-suite bars for entertaining. The ship has three accessible cabins. It has no adjoining or family cabins.
 
Entertainment
American Empress voyages include a variety of splendid entertainment that will keep your toes tapping and your imagination running wild.Night after night, top entertainers take center stage and deliver high-caliber performances worthy of Broadway. Boasting a rich décor accentuated with sparkling crystal chandeliers, elevated ceiling and comfortable seating, the warm ambiance of The Show Lounge provides the perfect setting in which to enjoy rousing musical revues and high-energy cabaret from our exceptional cast. The vessel’s Paddlewheel Lounge is a popular, alternate venue featuring smooth solo performances and soft piano music. Take pleasure in this intimate atmosphere which is ideal for sharing pre-dinner cocktails and late-night entertainment.
 
As with most river cruises, American Empress' itineraries are port-intensive: You'll visit ports each day of your cruise. Complimentary hop-on, hop-off bus excursions are included in each port. The boat visits small towns, so the tours aren't a major time commitment; many passengers on our trip never hopped off, instead electing to use the tour as a way to learn about history of a town without actually going to the various museum and educational excursion offerings. One nice touch: Admission fees to museums and attractions that are part of the Hop-On Hop-Off tours are covered by American Empress. The line also offers optional "Premium Experience Excursions" for an additional fee. These can be done in addition to the hop-on, hop-off tours and include more in-depth exploration of the area. Examples include a waterfall tour in Stevenson, Washington, or a "Lewis and Clark Experience" in Astoria, Oregon.
 
Because American Empress sails in the Pacific Northwest, following along the route Louis and Clark took in 1805, daily lectures by onboard history and culture experts are heavy on history of that era. The ship hires riverlorians, who lecture daily on various topics, including Native American culture, regional topography and even songs of the area. We were impressed with how knowledgeable the riverlorians are; they can speak expertly on nearly every aspect of the Pacific Northwest and were always around to answer questions.
Washington and Oregon are, of course, famous for their wines, so a cruise on American Empress will include several tasting sessions in which reps from regional wineries will come onboard to talk about their products and walk passengers through a tasting. Passengers can munch on cheese and pate while sampling wines.
 
During the day, the ship schedules craft-making sessions and trivia contests. The ship also retained the massive historic art collection from the previous owners, and passengers can do a self-guided tour to learn about the pieces, many of which reflect the Native American history.
 
At night, the bulk of the entertainment takes place in one of two places: The Paddle Wheel Lounge or the show lounge. The Paddle Wheel lounge, located on Deck 2 aft, is a large but comfortable spot where gorgeous stained glass highlights 24 windows and dark walnut panels cover the tray ceilings. Passengers get a close-up view of the massive paddlewheel turning. A small bar there opens in the afternoon, and fresh-baked cookies -- and milk! -- are served at 4 p.m. every day. This also is the gathering spot for a pre-dinner cocktail. A pianist and singer provide late-night entertainment there, too. At off-hours, it's a quiet spot to steal away to for some reading or computer time. The space offers a small library with some fiction and nonfiction books, many about the region and its history. There also are four computers, and passengers can browse the Internet for free. Complimentary Wi-Fi is available throughout the ship, but the consistently best signal will come in the Paddle Wheel Lounge. (Tip: If you're trying to use the Internet in your cabin, leave the door open a crack. This will provide a dramatically better signal.)
 
Tipping
The American Queen Steamboat Company crew works very hard to make sure that every aspect of your voyage meets the highest standards. This includes those crewmembers who serve you directly, such as wait staff, beverage servers, housekeepers and many others who support their efforts whom you may never meet, such as galley and laundry staff. To ensure that the efforts of all crewmembers are recognized and rewarded, gratuities of $16.50 per guest will be automatically added to your onboard account on a daily basis. If service onboard exceeds or fails to meet your expectations, you are free to adjust this amount at the end of the cruise. Gratuities are not included in the cruise fare; $16.50 per person per day will be automatically charged to passenger onboard accounts.
 
A 15% Beverage Service Charge is automatically added to bar charges and dining room wine purchases. These charges are paid entirely to American Queen Steamboat Company crew members. In ports of call and on shore excursions, it is suggested that you extend gratuities consistent with customary local practices. There is no charge for room service, but a tip of $1 or $2 for the delivery is appreciated. Gratuities for tour and excursion operators are not included in the cruise fare and therefore are at the discretion of each passenger.
 
Staterooms
Each cabin onboard American Empress includes either a king or two twin beds, a sitting area and a view; there are no inside cabins. Not all beds are can be combined to form kings, so if a specific configuration is required, mention it at the time of booking. All cabins also feature Keurig personal coffee/tea machines, robes, safes, phones, hair dryers, binoculars and -- a nice touch -- Clarins toiletries, including shampoo, conditioner, soap, shower gel and lotion. Each cabin also has a flat-screen television with about a dozen satellite channels, including the major U.S. networks, ESPN and Discovery. Minifridges are filled with complimentary bottled water, which is restocked during the cruise. Heating and air-conditioning are controlled in cabins, and there are numerous U.S. outlets both in the living areas and in the bathrooms. Audio is also controlled in staterooms and allows you to listen to music and hear general ship announcements from the captain, cruise directors or riverlorians if you choose.
Cabins are spacious and comfortable, decorated in either red or blue color palettes and featuring plenty of lighting, both from Victorian lamps and overhead fixtures. Furniture is ornate, with dark wood wardrobes, small desks and padded leather headboards. Dressers provide plenty of drawer space. Bathrooms are the one spot where utilitarian supersedes elegance. They are small and simple; showers are quite compact and feature clingy curtains rather than doors. Decor is spare in the bathrooms, and the look overall is a bit dated. The walls are relatively thin between cabins -- we could hear conversations and flushing toilets from our neighbors -- but early nights are common onboard, so noise didn't disrupt sleep. (Having earplugs helped this light sleeper, though.)
 
Four cabin categories come in at less than 200 square feet: Veranda Stateroom (12 of them at 150 square feet); Single Outside Stateroom with Veranda (one of them at 160 square feet); Outside Stateroom with Window (seven of them at 180 square feet); and Deluxe Veranda Stateroom (76 of them at 180 square feet). All feature larger-than-average windows that allow in plenty of natural light, though they can't be opened. Veranda cabins feature standard doors (rather than sliders) that open onto balconies, which vary greatly in size depending on location. Two synthetic wicker and metal chairs come standard on balconies. Eight Superior Veranda cabins come in at between 210 and 225 square feet each.
 
In addition to the standard amenities included in other cabin categories, suites include Bose sound systems and iHomes. Six Suites with Veranda measure 310 square feet apiece and feature a larger seating area that includes a couch and table, as well as chairs. These suites are located on Deck 4 and feature large balconies with two padded chairs each. Deck 4 also features a wraparound walking area in front of the balconies, so the balconies for these suites aren't private but are ideal for sightseeing and people-watching. They make for a social experience; it's impossible not to chat with passengers as they walk by.
The ship also features two Luxury Suites with Veranda, each at 410 square feet; one is located on Deck 2, the other on Deck 3. In addition to all the amenities featured in the other suites, these have in-suite bars for entertaining.The ship has three accessible cabins. It has no adjoining or family cabins.
 
Fellow Passengers
Expect well-traveled passengers, Passengers onboard American Empress are mostly Americans in the 60-plus age range. They're well traveled history buffs who are fond of wine. English-speaking international travelers from the U.K. and Australia also comprise a small percentage of passengers. While parents and their adult children show up occasionally, young families and their children are rare.
 
Our recommendation
Unlike large cruise ships the American Queen holds only 400 passengers. The intimacy of the boat along with the speed at which the boat moved encourage passengers to slow down and take a more relaxed attitude towards traveling. The staff is friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable.