Travel Happiness/“American Glory- Plenty Of Good Things in this Small Package”

by Art Richards

With each new class of cruise ship getting ever larger, it is indeed refreshing to learn of one cruise company that believes “smaller is better.” Based at Haddam on the Connecticut River, American Cruise Lines is in its second incarnation with a tiny fleet of two 49-passenger ships and a third under construction in the company’s Chesapeake Shipbuilding yard.
In the blue-water cruising industry, where a capacity of 500 to 800 passengers is now considered small and 100 to 200 is boutique or yacht-like, this ship could be considered a bathtub toy by comparison. But putting American Cruise Lines’ American Glory up against Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Glory is about as logical as discussing the merits of a small country inn on the coast of Maine versus a casino hotel palace on the strip in Las Vegas.
The American glory’s 27 cabins are the largest in the coastal cruise industry, averaging more than 200 square feet. Located on three of the four decks, all are outside with doors that open to an interior corridor; 14 have private balconies-a narrow terrace furnished with chairs and a small table, used mainly for quick access to the open air and to observe the local scene in port. The boat is often tied up by late afternoon and typically remains so into the wee hours.
Furnishings are similar throughout and beds can be made up as twins or a double. Amenities include a desk, a couple of chairs, a chest with deep drawers, curtained closet, satellite TV, and large-view windows that slide open. Roomy bathrooms have good counter space and large stall showers. Toilets are the traditional saltwater flush types, much quieter than vacuum units. On such a small boat, location is not much of a factor, apart from the Main Deck forward cabins that are shaped by the bow curve affected by noise from the bow thrusters.
The American Glory has three lounges affording a choice of camaraderie or a quiet spot to read or enjoy a card game. The forward Nantucket Lounge, furnished with cane-style chairs and sofas, provides the social center with seating for everyone. With three exposures and a bow deck to stand out on, the passing scene is always in view.
At 5:30 every evening the line hosts an hour of complimentary cocktails, beer, wine, hors d’oeuvres served by the hotel manager and an assistant. The captain or first mate appeared most nights. Creative hors d’oeuvres changed daily to include jumbo shrimp, bacon wrapped scallops, pate de fois gras, cheeses and crackers, fresh vegetables and soft-shell crabs.
The Dining Salon, located on Main Deck aft, offers big-window/three-exposure views from eight round tables of six and seven places. All meals are wait-served. The dining and cabin staff, young American men and women of college age, attends a training course before coming aboard for a contract lasting several months.
The ACL chefs are generally trained at the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, New York and the cuisine, geared to cruising region, is among the best. At cabin turndown time, guests receive the lunch and dinner selections for the next day. Lunch tends to be a lighter meal preferred by the passengers. For dinner at 6:30pm, entrees might include tender roast beef, rack of lamb, veal chop, fresh swordfish, fresh salmon with a béarnaise sauce.
The Nantucket Lounge has a large-screen TV for showing videos or tuning into the news. Reference books for the cruising region are found here. Observation Deck runs from the stern to just above the pilot house and is furnished with deck chairs, armchairs, and wrought iron chairs set around oval tables. A small section is under cover. A sheltered area at the stern one deck below provides seating and a view aft.
American Cruise Lines celebrates Americana on domestic itineraries up and down the East Coast with an immersion in U.S. history, the environment, and culture, nicely complemented by the best local foodstuffs prepared by an upbeat all-American crew. The fledgling company has come a long way in four years, giving its passengers good value for the top dollar they are paying, with the only extras being gratuities and shore excursions.
Richards is the owner of Richards World Travel, Inc. (www.richardsworldtravel.com).