American Cruise Lines

Overall Editor Rating
American Cruise Lines

Fodor’s Expert Review

Since its relaunch in 2000, American Cruise Lines has specialized in a unique style of small-ship cruising along the inland waterways and rivers of the United States. Typical itineraries include the Pacific Northwest, Maine, New England Islands, Hudson River, Chesapeake Bay, the Historic South and Golden Isles, Florida, and the Mississippi River. One of its ships, American Spirit, is designed specifically for cruising the inside passage.Read More

In 2012, American Cruise Lines added Alaska to its itinerary roster with one-week, round-trip Inside Passage cruises from Juneau and 11-night repositioning cruises between Seattle and Juneau at the beginning of the season—and from Juneau to Seattle at season’s end. With no more than 100 passengers on board, the small ship allows passengers to experience each port of call up close and personal. Itineraries are designed to explore some of Alaska’s most popular ports as well as remote wilderness areas.

To enhance the cruise experience, American Cruise Lines invites carefully selected experts to join each voyage. Through informal lectures, open discussions, and activities, they bring local history, nature, and culture alive with their knowledge and passion for American heritage. These naturalists and historians also lead shore excursions while in port to give you behind-the-scenes tours of some of Alaska’s best-kept secrets and favorite treasures. Basic shore excursions are included in the fare in Alaska, and alternative tours are available for purchase

Top Reasons to Cruise

All-American.The large fleet of American-built, flagged, and crewed small ships is also environmentally friendly and entirely nonsmoking.
Budget-Conscious Beverage Policy.Although not all alcoholic beverages are included in the fare, your own alcohol is welcome on board, and a complimentary cocktail hour is hosted every evening. Wine and beer are served with lunch and dinner at no additional charge.
Accessibility.With elevator service to all decks, the ships are accessible to the mobility impaired.
United States. Passenger Advantage.All departure ports and ports of call are located in the United States; a passport is recommended for Alaska cruises but not usually required.

Is This Line Right for You?

Choose this Line If
Don’t Choose this Line If
You are a discriminating traveler looking for the intimacy of a small ship.
You appreciate learning about the history and culture of the ports you visit.
You prefer a relaxed and casual atmosphere.
You must be entertained with splashy production shows and nonstop activity.
You must smoke—it is prohibited on board.
You would rather spend time in a casino than attend an evening lecture.

What to Expect on Board

Fitness & Recreation

Using the freshest ingredients available, menus are inspired by regional and local specialties and take advantage of fresh meats and seafood and in-season fruits and vegetables.

Special menus are available to passengers on restricted diets. Every evening before dinner, a complimentary cocktail hour is hosted with a bar setup and hors d’oeuvres. Dinner is served with complimentary wine and beer.


American Cruise Lines provides unique, regional entertainment on its cruises, so don’t look for splashy entertainers or a casino on board.

Activities are designed to highlight the areas through which you are sailing, including local musicians, demonstrations, minor theatrical performances, and games. Activities and lectures are as rich in history and culture as the ports themselves.

Fitness & Recreation

Exercise equipment and a putting green to hone your game are featured on board.

Walks ashore led by the ship’s naturalist offer a more rigorous workout. There is no spa or salon, but the reception desk may be able to recommend possibilities to you in ports.

Key cruising tips

Each ship has a large resource library, including books and videos, as well as naturalists and historians on board for each sailing.
Complimentary guided walking tours are offered on port days.
The main lounge has panoramic windows to view the scenery when the weather is not ideal, but the Observation deck is also partially covered.
It’s a good idea to arrive in the embarkation port a day before sailing as cruises leave early in the day. Departures are at 1:30 pm (sometimes earlier if all passengers have arrived), and embarkation begins at 10 am. Passengers need to be on board by 12:30.

Your Shipmates

Typical passengers are older, well-traveled individuals looking for a destination-focused adventure where they will have the opportunity to explore the history, culture, natural scenery, and wildlife of the unique areas visited.

Dress Code

Casual sportswear is suggested during the day. Attire should include clothing for layering when the weather turns cool. Comfortable walking shoes, a windbreaker, and light rainwear are also recommended items. Evening attire is always country club casual.

Junior Cruisers

Families are more than welcome, but it is rare to see children on board. There are no youth facilities; however, the cruise director will plan appropriate activities when children are sailing.


With the services of an American crew, your needs will be satisfied in an attentive, if not overly polished, manner and without a language barrier.


Tips are entirely at your personal discretion and generally average about $125 per person on a seven-night cruise.

Past Passengers

After your first cruise you will receive an invitation to join the Eagle Society in the mail. If you are already a past passenger and would like to join, you can do so on board your next cruise or by calling a cruise specialist and requesting an invitation. Past passenger benefits include complimentary standard shore excursions after having taken 3 cruises—after your 3rd cruise you will never have to pay for standard shore excursions again; special gifts on subsequent cruises; a complimentary 11th cruise—after you complete 10 cruises, the 11th cruise is be free; invitations to Eagle Society cruises and select sailings; Eagle Society luggage tags and name tags; and members-only savings and promotions. In addition, when a ship is in port near a member’s hometown, American Cruise Lines extends an invitation to come aboard for lunch or dinner and when in port during a sailing, members may invite friends or family aboard for a tour of the ship or to join them for meals.


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