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American Spirit Review

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American Spirit
3.0 / 5.0
62 reviews

Pros
Onboard relaxation and beautiful scenery are pretty much a guarantee.
Cons
Minimal entertainment and limited land excursions will leave active cruisers bored.
Bottom Line
Good for older travelers who need a slower paced cruise experience.

About

Passengers
100

Crew
25

Passenger to Crew
4.00:1

Launched
2005

Shore Excursions
0
Sails To
Sails From
American Cruise Lines Cruise Deals
Ben Lyons
Cruise Critic Contributor

American Spirit Overview

With American Cruise Lines' American Spirit, the name says it all. Operating exclusively along the U.S. East Coast, crewed entirely by Americans and built on the Chesapeake Bay, this small, 100-passenger ship is about as American as they come. Exploring historic and scenic ports where big ships could never think of calling, it offers a comfortable and relaxed cruise for those who are interested in both the destination and a friendly, well attended cocktail hour.

It isn't just by accident, or some patriotic fervor, that these ships bleed red, white and blue. Rather, a law entitled the Passenger Vessel Services Act limits the transportation of passengers between two U.S. ports to ships that are built in the U.S., owned by a U.S. company and registered in the U.S. Only a few companies are willing to brave the difficulties of flying the U.S. flag, and the experience on these coastal ships is very different from cruising on the Caribbean mega-ships.

First, American crews, and American taxes, cost more, so the fares are high (we'll say that again -- you pay a whole lot more for an American Cruise Line voyage than you would for a typical seven-night cruise out of Miami.) Second, don't expect rock climbing walls or ice skating rinks; these ships are simple; cruising is stripped to the basics. Lastly, don't expect gracious, polished service from waiters with 30 years in the industry whose fathers served onboard the Normandie.

Instead, you'll meet fresh faced college kids looking to do a contract or two while getting a chance to see part of the country. They are friendly, eager to please and receive pretty good training onboard, but this isn't their career. Don't be surprised if you are addressed as "sweetie" by at least one crew member, or if their knowledge of the menu is limited to, well, what is written on the menu. For many passengers, it probably feels like their cute but not-quite-grown-up grandchildren are serving them.

Other advantages, of course, are the wonderful itineraries along the East Coast. Imagine cruising Maine's rocky shoreline, watching lobsters being hauled out from Penobscot Bay early in the morning while a schooner sails by. Visit the former whaling captain of Nantucket one day, and walk to a lighthouse on Block Island the next. Enjoy the fireworks of oranges, reds, and yellows on the Hudson River fall foliage cruises while passing the US Military Academy. There won't be a casino or a 24-hour restaurant, but you'll get to venture inland and experience it all from an intimate, personal setting.

So, once you've decided you can live without art auctions and "gold by the inch," why should you choose American Cruise Line over some of their competitors that offer similar itineraries? For most people, it comes down to the ships.

Launched in 2005, the American Spirit is a larger version of its 2000 and 2002 built running mates, the American Eagle and American Glory, respectively. The basic premise behind these ships is simple. Small, American-flagged coastal ships have historically been hand-me-downs with tiny cabins and even smaller bathrooms. Enter American Cruise Lines, which built three modern ships, with more on the way, with a standard of comfort and spaciousness not found on its competition.

Cabins are not only large, but many of them have balconies, and a choice of lounges means that everyone isn't always forced to be together in the only public space onboard. It also helps that all drinks are included and food and service on these ships is probably a step above most of their competitors, but it is the cabins that initially draw many passengers.

Despite the comforts onboard, however, the real focus of the cruise is the destination with the ship merely acting as an agreeable means of transport between the ports. These ships were built to nestle into the smallest ports, and they take full advantage of this ability. Itineraries are designed to be in port every day and throughout the night, with only part of the morning or afternoon usually spent underway. Historic homes and museums make popular shore excursions, and a guest lecturer delivers eagerly anticipated talks.

While the fares are running towards the luxury end of the market, don't expect caviar, room service and a decadent spa. These are simple, but appealing ships with a friendly atmosphere of happy passengers traveling to quaint destinations. As evidenced by the company's rapid growth, it is a formula that seems to be working and keeps contented passengers coming back time and time again.

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Top American Spirit Itineraries

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Fellow Passengers

American Cruise Lines attracts an older demographic, and the fact that all three ships have an elevator is a highlight for many. Hailing from Texas to California to Florida to Montana, they represent a true geographic cross section of the country and are interested in what the guest lecturer will say about wildlife, art, or the history of the region.

A majority of passengers are well traveled and have cruised before, but a large percentage have little interest in ever cruising on a big ship. Others have sailed on the luxury lines and choose American Cruise Line for their itineraries. They know that while the food and service won't quite be comparable to the foreign companies, they will be comfortable and happy.

With a high percentage of repeat passengers onboard, each trip becomes a family reunion of sorts as passengers recognize each other from previous voyages. Once you've sailed, it is very easy to walk onto any of the ships and feel at home right away.


American Spirit Dress Code

American Cruise Line passengers are dressier than some of the more adventure-oriented small ships where shaving is optional and a fleece is the only jacket you'd find in the dining room. Instead, passengers are casual but still smart looking during the day. Most passengers change for cocktail hour and dinner, with only a very, very few sporting blue jeans for dinner. Most men put on khaki pants and button down shirts, and anywhere from 10 to 25 percent will wear a jacket (but rarely a tie) on a given night. There is no designation of formal or informal nights.


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American Spirit Ratings

CategoryEditorMember
Cabins4.04
Dining3.04.2
Entertainment3.03.8
Public Rooms3.04.1
Fitness Recreation2.02.9
Family2.0N/A
Enrichment4.04.2
Service3.04.4
Value For Money3.03.9

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Awards and Recognition

American Spirit Member Reviews

American Spirit
grannie1TX
Sail Date: May 2019
I love the fact that the ships are all built in the USA and the staff is all American, mostly college graduates.... Read More
American Spirit
Textraveller
Sail Date: Aug 2018
I was told that the Spirit would be the next ship to be replaced. The fitness equipment on board was pitiful. The equipment was outdoors and not plugged into power.... Read More
American Spirit
robmc411
Sail Date: May 2018
Have done plenty of cruises and cruise lines over the years, but always out of the country. We loved the smaller ship, personalized service, and ports that could not be accessed with the larger ships. The food... Read More
American Spirit
Nevada Travelers
Sail Date: Sep 2018
We signed up for the American Cruise lines tour and stayed at their hotel pick, the Crowne Plaza, in downtown Seattle. Very nice hotel. Probably above our pay grade any other time.... Read More

American Cruise Lines Fleet

American Melody
5 reviews

Providing a healthy dose of Americana on U.S. waterways, American Melody joins American Song, Harmony and Jazz in 2020 offering contemporary design and innovative features.

View All American Melody Cruises
American Star

The 100-passenger American Star is similar to fleetmate American Spirit, though it includes a few more modern touches like flat-screen satellite TVs in all cabins.

American Spirit
3.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

Operating exclusively along the U.S. East Coast, crewed entirely by Americans and built on the Chesapeake Bay, American Spirit is an American ship through and through.

Queen of the Mississippi

American Cruise Line's paddlewheel riverboat Queen of the Mississippi combines modern amenities with design elements reminiscent of the days when steamboat paddlewheelers plied the Mississippi River.

Independence

American Cruise Lines introduced the 104-passenger Independence in 2010. Some 75 percent of Independence's cabins have balconies. The ship has seven cabins for solo travelers.

Queen of the West

The 120-passenger Queen of the West cruises the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest. Itineraries include six-, seven- and 14-night sailings from Portland, Oregon.

America
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

American Cruise Lines has been sailing the Mississippi since 2012. Its newest vessel, the 185-passenger America, is slightly larger than the line's other ships.

American Pride
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

Originally named Queen of the Mississippi, the renamed American Pride paddlewheeler now operates on to the Snake and Columbia rivers on Pacific Northwest itineraries.

American Constellation
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

The made-in-the-USA, 163-passenger American Constellation, the newest ship from American Cruise Lines, set sail in spring 2017.

American Constitution
4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating

American Cruise Lines newest coastal cruiser boasts spacious cabins and eastern U.S. itineraries that you won't find on other lines.

American Song

New modern riverboat from American Cruise Lines will cruise the Mississippi River in 2018 before moving west in 2019.

American Harmony

A contemporary river cruise ship with oceangoing pedigree, American Harmony brings big-ship amenities to the mighty Mississippi.

American Jazz

The third ship in American Cruise Lines' new class of modern riverboat, American Jazz debuts in August 2020, offering contemporary river cruises through America's heartland.

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