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Cruise Ship Information
Queen of the West sails the Columbia & Snake Rivers from Portland, OR, and Clarkston, WA (spring, summer, fall). A veteran of the Columbia and Snake Rivers, Queen of the West underwent a major renovation in 2011, with upgrades to passenger staterooms, lounges, galley, and engine room. Meticulous care and attention to detail went into the reconstruction, from the newly designed and custom built furniture, expanded staterooms and addition of more private balconies.
 
Onboard you’ll find an intimate atmosphere with multiple lounges and cozy staterooms, just a smaller than other American Cruise Lines ships. Sharing the ship with just 120 passengers allows for exceptionally camaraderie among passengers, and lets the attentive, personalized service of American Cruise Lines shine brilliantly.
 
The 120-passenger Queen of the West, formerly of the defunct Majestic America Line, cruises the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest. Itineraries include six-, seven- and 14-night sailings from Portland, Oregon. First launched in 1995, the ship underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation in 2011, which included the addition of private balconies, a new library on the third deck, and the conversion of several cabins into singles.
 
The 230-foot ship is propelled by a three-story-high churning paddlewheel. But unlike earlier paddlewheelers, Queen of the West doesn't rely on a steam engine. Instead, it is powered by a revolutionary hydraulic propulsion system that uses environmentally safe biodegradable hydraulic oil. The new "authentic" paddlewheel provides a quieter and smoother ride, with less impact on the environment.
 
Another unique feature: A 45-foot-long bow ramp allows passengers to go ashore anywhere along the river, much as the 19th-century vessels did. Passengers can take a shore excursion sponsored by the cruise line or arrange their own outing in ports. Emphasis onboard is on scenery, culture and camaraderie. Experts are brought aboard to inform and entertain, often focusing on regional history or traditions. All meals, which feature fresh meats and seafood, and in-season fruits and veggies, are taken in one open seating. Some 60 percent of the cabins feature balconies, and all have flat-screen satellite TV's and DVD players. There are 12 cabins for solo travelers. Passengers tend to be senior Americans, with few, if any, families or children.
 
First launched in 1995, the Queen of the West is the first overnight passenger sternwheeler to be built and operated in the West in 80 years. The 230-foot Queen is propelled by a three-story-high churning paddlewheel. The 45-foot-long bow ramp allows passengers to go ashore anywhere along the river, much as the 19th-century vessels did.
 
Atmosphere on board
Cruising the Columbia and Snake Rivers, from Clarkston, WA to Portland, OR, on the Queen of the West, a cruise trip with American Cruise Lines (ACL), is fascinating. The scenery was often breath-taking, especially in the Columbia Gorge, and the many examples of the awesome power of Nature were humbling, particularly learning about the formation of the gorge and the Mt. Saint Helens eruption. Most impressive of the shore excursions were the Mt. Saint Helens interpretive center, especially the two videos, the Astoria maritime museum and Ft Clatsop.
 
The Queen of the West, while not quite as impressive as ACL's new Queen of the Mississippi, was very comfortable and immaculately maintained, the staterooms had all the comforts one would wish. As always, the relaxed but pampered experience provided by the staff was a highlight. The friendly, skilled and caring attitude of the staff has been one of the best features of all our cruises with ACL.
 
Major complain about  ACL only the cabins are smaller than other ships, but still have plenty of storage space for a weeks cruise. The bathrooms are very compact and there is plenty of hot water. Snacks, coffee and soft drinks are available in the lounges any time you want them. The staff was well trained and a great group of hard working young people from all over the U.S.   ACL excursions  They $40 to $120 be aware prices are much higher than their advertised excursion prices.
 
Treading the line between modern and old-fashioned, Queen of the West feels authentically antique while being more spacious than you may think when you see it from shore. Its public rooms evoke a bygone era, and the long bow-landing ramp allows the vessel to cozy up to shore so passengers can walk easily on and off, even in secluded spots that lack docking facilities.
 
In keeping with the ship's 19th-century aesthetic, Queen of the West's public areas are done up in pressed-metal ceilings, chandeliers, balloon-back chairs, and other period touches. Our favorite room is definitely the Paddlewheel Lounge, where you can sip a cocktail to the thrum of the huge propulsion wheel, visible through the room-wide window at the back. Snacks and drinks are served here before dinner, and there's entertainment at night. The vessel also has an old-fashioned, one-level show lounge with a dance floor and a small bandstand/stage.
 
Food & Dining 
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all served in the ship's main dining room. The food choice was minimal but basically well prepared. The small number of passengers open seating dining and the wonderful cocktail hour enabled meeting lots of new people in a very convivial setting. As on previous cruises, you met people with whom you'll keep in touch and cruise again.
 
Sustainable cuisine allows American Cruise Lines chefs an unprecedented opportunity to create the freshest dishes for our guests while supporting local communities and ensuring a positive impact on the ecosystems cruise
American Cruise Lines offers open seating at every meal in the glass-enclosed Dining Salon on the Main Deck. The atmosphere is informal – seating is unassigned and dress is resort casual. Each table offers an incredible outside view and meals are cooked to order, making dining a great time to share your experiences with companions and build new friendships. Your masterfully skilled chef creates delectable feasts for each meal (menus announced well in advance). Carefully selected fresh seafood, meats and produce are often purchased in the regions we visit, allowing your chef to highlight the cuisine with local flavor. American Cruise Lines provides complimentary wine and beer during lunch and dinner service. A complimentary cocktail hour with full bar is hosted each evening before dinner. Glasses, ice, mixers, coffee and soft drinks are available at all times. For other liquor requests your Hotel Manager will assist you
 
Columbia and Snake Rivers cruises freshly caught Northwest salmon and sturgeon brought directly to Queen of the West -- Walla Walla onions, Astoria honey, Rainier cherries, and plump heirloom tomatoes gathered at local farmers’ markets
Local wines from vineyards on the banks of the Columbia River -- Unique ice creams produced nearby featuring mint, huckleberries, and cherries
 
Mississippi River cruises -- Steak- Certified Berkshire pork from Berkwood Farms, a local vendor in Des Moines, Iowa, Artisan cheeses made from cow, sheep, and goats’ milk, are sourced from nearby dairy farms and creameries in Wisconsin, Famous Memphis barbeque sauce
Mississippi Beer—Abita—the most famous locally-brewed beer in New Orleans, Freshly-made pralines, a New Orleans specialty
  
Southeast United States cruises -- st-michaels-crab-basket-with-corn-and-tomatoes  Maryland blue crabs are served in a variety of ways including seared, deep-fried, and roasted. Apalachicola Bay oysters, hand harvested in Florida
and served with mango pico de gallo and horseradish jelly. Fresh wild-caught Georgian Shrimp completes shrimp cocktails, seafood salads, and various entrées. Locally-grown Georgia peaches, Georgia pecans,Vidalia onions, berries, cabbage, watermelon, and Silver Queen corn
 
Northeast United States cruises, Lobsterbake  Fresh Maine lobster is offered in 28 different preparation styles. Maine Root Blueberry soda is a local specialty served onboard, made with Fair Trade organic cane juice and Maine blueberries. Craft beers such as Lobster Ale and Allagash Beer from local breweries
American Cruise Lines will work to cater any dietary needs. Please tell your cruise specialist approximately two weeks prior to your cruise so that we may plan accordingly. Refrigeration is available to store insulin or other medications requiring protectio
 
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
None. Most passengers get their exercise by going ashore and walking the port towns.
 
Entertainment
The banjo player, piano-bass combo and songs of the sea were good evenings of entertainment. And, of course, the historian flavored the trip with much educational and interesting lectures which brought the Lewis & Clark experience to reality. And this sums up our post thoughts of the cruise.
Daytime entertainment onboard Queen of the Mississippi is limited to enrichment lectures on river ecology and history, as well as activities like sing-alongs and kite-flying. The lectures, which were always well attended, are a great way to get to know the area you're sailing and put your trip into a historical perspective. The other activities? For 40-something passengers, they were a little hokey, but many of the older passengers loved them.
 
Board games are available in two libraries for groups to play in one of the lounges, or you can grab a book and hit the rocking chairs for a relaxing afternoon on deck. Evening entertainment consists of one show, beginning at 8:15 p.m. and lasting about an hour, after which most passengers retire to their cabins. You might see a banjo player, smooth jazz concert, a Frank Sinatra tribute or a retrospective of 30's through 60's music, or participate in movie trivia night.
 
The evening show is always in the Deck 2 Magnolia Lounge, a large window-framed space full of comfy couches and chairs. The Gal Friday of lounges, Magnolia is where you'll find many of the lectures, Eagle Society (American Cruise Line's loyalty program) recognition presentations, the afternoon cocktail hour and more. The room rarely looks the same, as furniture is rearranged daily -- sometimes two or three times a day, depending on what's on tap for entertainment.
 
Other lounges on the boat include the Deck 2 Paddlewheel Lounge, with its dark wood and Tiffanyesque light fixtures, and the Deck 4 Sky Lounge, a much airier space with floor-to-ceiling glass doors and wicker furniture. Both lounges provide soda, water and small snacks -- like granola bars, fruit, pretzels and chips -- all day long.
 
At every port, American Cruise Line offers one or two shore excursions, with most costing well below $100. With just two exceptions, our excursions consisted of a bus ride to an attraction (typically a museum of some sort), a guided tour and then the bus ride back. Of the eight tours we were offered, only one -- a short hike in a national park -- required any real physical exertion.
 
The tour options provided by the cruise line were not passengers' only choices. If you didn't like what was on offer, the cruise director was more than happy to do some research for you to find alternatives. For instance, American Cruise Lines offered a standard museum tour at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. But we wanted to see horses, so the cruise director arranged for us to do a paddock tour. We just had to pay the cost of the tour.
 
Saterooms
There are 73 cabins in nine categories, ranging in size from 131 to 288 square ft. All are outside, two are wheelchair accessible and 25 have a verandah. The decor is early American with wooden wardrobes, deep green carpets and floral spreads. The hurricane-type bed lamps are fitting, but too dim for reading. Bed configurations vary from fixed twin or queen to convertible, so it pays to check. Four value cabins have upper and lower berths. Twelve have pull-down berths to accommodate third and fourth parties. All cabins have a TV/VCR. As there are no phones, wake-up calls are delivered over the in-cabin audio system. Bathrooms are the shower-only variety, and essentially identical. Hair dryers are not supplied.
At 155 to 390 square feet, Queen of the West's cabins are smaller than the extralarge digs on American Cruise Lines' East Coast ships, though the vast majority of them have private balconies. Each is outfitted with a large picture window, satellite TV with DVD player, and a writing desk, and decor runs to "cozy bedroom" aesthetic, with dark-wood tones, flowery bedspreads, and lace curtains. All cabins open onto interior public corridors, as on larger cruise ships. Two cabins are wheelchair accessible.
 
Of the six spacious suites, four offer 180-degree views. Two on the top deck have windows facing to the sides and doors that open directly to the outside -- rain or shine. Extra amenities in the suites and six superior staterooms include a sitting area, flowers, terry robes, a mini-bar/fridge and room service for continental breakfast.
 
Tipping
Gratuity is at your personal discretion. Tips are generally given to the Hotel Manager near the end of the cruise. They are then divided equally among the stewards and deckhands. Tips generally average about $125 per person for a seven-night cruise. Stewards and deckhands do not expect and cannot accept tips directly. Credit cards, personal or travelers checks, and cash are accepted. If you choose to pay by credit card, please contact the Hotel Manager at least one day before the end of your cruise.
 
Fellow Passengers
American Cruise Lines attracts an older demographic. (The average age is probably 72 or so.) The fact that the ship has an elevator is a highlight for many. Hailing from all over the United States -- Alabama, California, the Carolinas, Ohio, Florida -- passengers represent a geographic cross section of the country. More than 40 percent of the passengers have been on at least one American Cruise Lines cruise before.
 

Our Recommendation
Casual resort attire is de rigueur, both on the ship and ashore. For dinner, men's clothing might include a sport shirt and slacks with a sport coat or sweater. Women might find a sweater and slacks or a dress appropriate. American Cruise Lines also recommends you bring comfortable walking shoes, a hat, light rain wear and a jacket for cool evenings.  Currently the only old-style paddle-wheeler with overnight cruises in the United States, Queen of the West combines the charm and history of the classic river vessels with some of the comforts and amenities of a newer ship.