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Cruise Ship Information
American Cruise Lines introduced the 104-passenger Independence in 2010. While the passenger capacity is roughly the same as the 100-passenger American Star and American Spirit, Independence is larger, giving more space to the interior areas, including the cabins and balconies. Unlike Star and Sprit, Independence is also fully stabilized, with Rolls Royce stabilizers, allowing for smoother sailing.
 
The ship spends the summer sailing roundtrip from Portland, Maine, trawling Maine's coast and harbors. In the fall, it offers a handful of leaf-peeping cruises on the Hudson River before heading south for a series of "Historic South & Golden Isles" cruises from Jacksonville and Charleston.Activities onboard are tied into the destination, and may include a visit with a local lobsterman in Maine. Or, while on southern sailings, costumed antebellum characters may entertain cruisers.
 
The casual atmosphere is intended to foster camaraderie between fellow passengers, and all meals, which feature fresh meats and seafood, and in-season fruits and veggies, are taken open seating. Open decks and glass-in observation lounges allow for views of the passing scenery.Some 75 percent of Independence's cabins have balconies, and all have flat-screen satellite TV's and DVD players. The ship has seven cabins for solo travelers. There are three decks of passenger cabins on the Independence.  Deck 1 has the dining room, deck 2 has a large lounge with windows on three sides, deck 3 has a library, and deck 4 is the observation deck with lounge chairs and views in all directions. (Binoculars are available to use any time.) There is an elevator to all decks. There are two computers with free Internet service. Passengers tend to be senior Americans, with few, if any, families or children.
 
The Independence has several important features that differentiate it from the other ACL ships. Most importantly, it will be equipped with Rolls Royce stabilizers, making it the first fully stabilized ACL ship. This will virtually eliminate the ships roll in rougher weather conditions, and will make it much more comfortable on coastwise routes. The Independence also has a significantly wider beam than any other ACL ship which gives it larger staterooms and private balconies.
 
Atmosphere on board
Forget art auctions or poolside games; you won't even find low-impact activities such as dance lessons aboard these sedate ships. In the main lounge, passengers might read or play a quiet board game, and you're almost sure to find at least one game of bridge in the two smaller lounges. Most passengers seem content to just sit on deck and chat. Guest lecturers speak most evenings, and spend days pointing out passing sights. On one night, a local musician might be brought on board for a concert, or bingo could be slotted in place of the nightly lecture. Besides an occasional documentary film shown in the lounge, a tour of the ship's bridge, or a once-per-week teatime, there really aren't any other organized activities, though some summer itineraries may feature kite flying from the stern on one afternoon. In port, about half the passengers choose the reasonably priced shore excursions, which are usually bus tours to museums, areas of natural beauty, or historic homes. Active excursions simply aren't offered, which is just fine for this crowd.
 
Can you imagine eating lobster every day for a week while on a cruise experiencing blue skies and great scenery along the beautiful Maine coast. That’s the way it was on the Lobster Festival Cruise on American Cruise Lines’ 100-passenger Independence.Can you imagine eating lobster every day for a week while on a cruise experiencing blue skies and great scenery along the beautiful Maine coast. That’s the way it was on the Lobster Festival Cruise on American Cruise Lines’ 100-passenger Independence.
 
Some passengers arrived to Portland two days early to see Maine’s biggest city, and to make sure we got to the ship on time. One of Hotel chose for stay at the Eastland Park Hotel, within walking distance of the waterfront, and only a 5-minute ride to the dock. Hotel even had a free shuttle to provide transfers to the ship. The Eastland was built in 1927, with Charles Lindbergh being honored at a banquet there. The historic hotel now has 200 rooms, the Top of the East lounge with a nice view of the city, and wireless internet and is across the street from the Portland Museum of Art. They also are dog-friendly, and will provide your dog with a doggie bed and treats.
 
American-flagged Spirit have a smiling friendly American crew. Passengers also mostly are American. They have cruises in Maine in July, August and September. Our cruise was a Lobster Festival Cruise, and indeed I managed to eat lobster every day.  We went from Portland north to Bar Harbor, then worked our way along the coast back south, going through the many islands and around peninsulas into bays and harbors, many times threading our way through many yachts, classic sailboats, and working fishing and lobster boats. The ship either came directly into the downtown waterfront areas of ports we visited, or if anchored out, passengers were taken into shore by launch.
 
Food & Dining
Each ship's single dining room is situated on the lowest deck all the way at the stern, with windows on three sides.Meal service includes an early riser Continental breakfast as early as 6 in the lounge, regular breakfast from 7:30to 9, lunch at 12:30, dinner from 6:30 to 7:30.  There is open seating – sit anywhere with anyone. There is complimentary wine and beer with lunch and dinner, and complimentary wine or cocktails at the 5:30 cocktail hour in the lounge. There is always coffee, hot chocolate and juice in the lounge. Sometimes there was a chocolate treat. Dress is resort casual. There is no Captain’s Night, no suits or ties ever.
 
Family with Kids/Teens 
This is a cruise line for older adults, so children are extremely rare. A few families may sail on the summer New England itineraries, but the ships have no kids' programs or activities.
 
Past Passenger Programs
American Cruise Lines, operator of the newest riverboats and small cruise ships in the United States, is pleased to announce the introduction of a renewed loyalty program, featuring new premium benefits for members. The Eagle Society is the line’s way of recognizing and rewarding returning guests by providing a more personalized and enhanced cruise experience. The Eagle Society now features an expanded list of special benefits, including:
 
Complimentary cruise – Upon completion of 10 cruises with American Cruise Lines, Eagle Society members are rewarded with a complimentary cruise.
Complimentary shore excursions – After an Eagle Society member has cruised three times, shore excursion fees are waived on all cruises booked thereafter.
Special Eagle Society gifts – Member gifts range from customized officers jackets to champagne, and are always a guest favorite.
Membership identification – Customized luggage tags indicate Eagle Society belongings and special nametags indicate the number of cruises taken by each member.
Invitations to exclusive Eagle Society cruises – Each year, several dates are chosen for exclusive Eagle Society member cruises. These unique sailings are hosted by company executives and include special tours, receptions and entertainment.
Hometown VIP access – When a ship is in a port near a member’s hometown, American Cruise Lines extends a VIP invitation to come aboard for lunch or dinner.
Non-guest visitation and dining– When in port, members may invite friends or family aboard for a tour of the ship or to join them for meals.
Eagle Society-only savings and promotions – Members are privy to various special
 
Fitness And Spa
Exercise equipment is limited to a single exercise bike and a Stairmaster. Most passengers get their exercise by going ashore independently and walking through the towns. Such as spa, hair/beauty treatments and laundry are available in port and can be fully arranged by your hotel manager onboard. Additional services such as tee-time requests and special occasion setups are available upon request.
 
Entertainment
Evening entertainment consisted of entertainment by locals such as Sam the lobsterman, who told tales and answered questions about Maine lobstering and his career in the industry, or a lecture by the onboard historian Sam Ladley, enlightening us with the fascinating history of the region. Sometimes it was considered part of Massachusetts, sometimes part of Nova Scotia, sometimes had no government so the people here are used to doing things themselves. The northern part of the state still speaks mostly French.  Sam the lobsterman explained that Maine was abundant with lobster because from the beginning they have had strict rules that lobstermen followed about not taking very small lobsters or very large lobsters, allowing them to grow up to reproduce.
 
Saterooms
Some 75 percent of Independence's cabins have balconies, and all have flat-screen satellite TV's and DVD players. The ship has seven cabins for solo travelers. The drawers were spacious and plentiful, the closet was small but adequate and hangers were provided.More than anything else, it is probably the cabins that differentiate American Cruise Lines from their competition and spurs so many passengers to return. Other coastal ships bring back memories of Charles Dickens' description of his cabin on the 1840-built Britannia, about which he wrote, "Nothing smaller for sleeping in was ever made except a coffin." On the American Spirit, there is ample room for two people to stand at once or even turn around in the bathroom. With all cabins measuring around 220 square ft., they are considerably larger than standard cabins on mass market ships and only slightly smaller than most luxury ships.
 
Amenities include a large dresser, a functional closet, a small satellite TV getting approximately 20 channels and a chair. Beds can be pushed together to form a large queen sized bed or two singles. Simple but spacious, the comparisons to any luxury lines must end with the square footage; don't expect Egyptian cotton bed sheets here. Perhaps the greatest distinction is that the company offers balconies with approximately half the cabins -- an astoundingly high ration for a river ship. While verandahs are narrow (with only enough room for two lightweight chairs and a plastic table), have only canvas partitions for privacy and take up space from the cabin's interior, they still provide a welcome option. The balconies are particularly appealing since the ship is always within sight of land and is cruising to scenic destinations.
 
Happily, even those cabins without balconies still get fresh air. The large picture windows in each cabin open, allowing you to fall asleep while listening to the gentle lapping of water on the ship's side. Delightful!Bathrooms are similarly large with excellent water pressure. Showers are big enough to turn around in without worrying about the curtain clinging to you. Standard toiletries of soap, shampoo and conditioner are, of course, provided, along with a hairdryer.
 
Staterooms are the most spacious in small ship cruising - all over 200 square feet in size, and each with large opening picture windows and a private bathroom. Your spacious stateroom is a comfortable haven and the perfect place to relax and unwind. Enjoy the ever-changing scenery from your large, opening picture window or from your private balcony. If there is one thing that really differentiates American Cruise Lines from other coastal competitors, it's the cabins. Rather than the closet-size boxes usually found on similar-size American ships, these cabins average 225 square feet -- bigger than most standard  Mega size ship cabins, and nearly twice the size of those of the main regional competitor Blount Small Ship Adventures. Cabins are comfortable, clean, and pleasant -- not to mention bright, thanks to large picture windows that actually slide open and to the narrow but serviceable balconies (you get one or the other). As in the public areas, though, their decor isn't exactly stylish. Each cabin comes with a large writing desk, decent storage space, bedside tables, a hair dryer, and a satellite TV that gets about 20 channels. Bathrooms are very roomy, with excellent water pressure. Cabins on the older Glory are a touch smaller than those on Spirit, Star, and Independence, especially on the forward end of the lowest deck, where the curvature of the bow reduces square footage.Each ship has several cabins for solo passengers (a real rarity these days) as well as at least one that's wheelchair accessible. Each ship also has an elevator, giving wheelchair-using passengers access to the entire ship
 
Tipping
Gratuity can be charged to your onboard account, with a relatively steep recommended amount of $17.85 per person, per day.
 
Fellow Passengers
Make no mistake about it: American Cruise Line passengers are older, and then some. The company's cozy, low-impact, American style of cruising suits them perfectly, and the fact that each ACL ship has an elevator linking all the decks (a rarity in the small-ship world) is a big draw. Hailing from all over the country, passengers generally appreciate changing for cocktail hour, with about half the men wearing a jacket and/or tie. They are also the types who readily wear the provided name tags for the entire week and don't mind visiting four historic homes in one cruise.
 
Our Recommendation
Make no mistake about it: American Cruise Line passengers are older, and then some. The company's cozy, low-impact, American style of cruising suits them perfectly, and the fact that each ACL ship has an elevator linking all the decks (a rarity in the small-ship world) is a big draw. Hailing from all over the country, passengers generally appreciate changing for cocktail hour, with about half the men wearing a jacket and/or tie. They are also the types who readily wear the provided name tags for the entire week and don't mind visiting four historic homes in one cruise.
 
In port, slightly less than half of them tend to explore the towns independently, combing antiques shops or just strolling along Main Street. Well educated and usually comfortably heeled, they are eager to learn about the region and enthusiastically attend the nightly lecture. With diverse cruising backgrounds (from luxe Seabourn to mainstream Princess), they do not necessarily expect five-star service, but they do want comfy, spacious cabins along with the conveniences and camaraderie of a small ship. A very high percentage consists of repeaters, who collect the line's various itineraries like game pieces.