Monday, October 13, 2008

American Spirit Features and Daily Routine

American Spirit Features:

The American Spirit has four decks in all. The lower three decks contain the staterooms and public spaces, as noted below. The fourth deck serves as the open passenger deck, with two large sunshades, putting green and exercise equipment. The ship provides elevator access to all four levels.

The lower three decks contain all 51 staterooms. Of these, 26 staterooms on the second and third decks have private balconies. We found our first deck stateroom to be much larger and more comfortable than we expected, with a surprisingly large bathroom. We also welcomed the individually controlled air conditioning unit that we could adjust at will. Soundproofing was excellent on all sides of our room; we heard that some occupants of units on the third deck could hear noises from people walking over their heads on the top deck, which might be a disadvantage.

The Chesapeake Lounge, located forward on the second deck, is the gathering place for informal activities. Picture windows provide expansive views of the scenery rolling by. The Lounge is well-stocked with current magazines, newspapers such as The New York Times, and “coffee table” books of the areas covered by the cruise itineraries.

The Dining Salon is located at the stern on the first deck, with tables providing seating for six or eight people each. With the open seating policy, it is easy to become acquainted with a large number of people. The young, ethnically diverse staff is generally efficient and friendly, making a great effort to please.

Two smaller lounges offer more intimate spaces for relaxation and reading. The Library Lounge, located on the third deck, houses the ship’s library; the Midship Lounge, located on the second deck, is suitable for the occasional card game, or serves as another reading spot.

The ambiance of the American Spirit is that of a sedate floating resort without the noisy hustle/bustle of an on-board casino or disco. This may reflect the “mature” age of the majority of the clientele. We believe this was a major positive for this cruise company.

American Cruises has a reputation for providing excellent food. We found this to be true on the American Spirit. The 37-year-old head chef trained at the Culinary Institute of America and provided great imagination and creativity in much of the cuisine. Emphasis was on locally-produced seafood and fish. Lobster in some form was available at just about every meal! We felt some of the best entrees were the fresh sea bass and halibut procured at ports of call. There were also alternative entrees available for non-fish and seafood eaters. The galley would even produce vegetarian and vegan meals, on request.

Precaution: The American Spirit is not outfitted with stabilizers. This is not an issue for river and harbor cruising, and the ship can handle low- to moderate swells in the open sea without incident. In the case of large swells and high winds, however, the captain may decide to alter the itinerary by putting into a safe harbor, to ride out dangerous conditions.

Typical Daily Routine:

The cruise line offers passengers organized excursions, to explore the ports of call, or recommends walking routes or public transportation, to access the attractions. Since we are inveterate walkers, we usually opted to explore on our own where feasible. Typically, the cruise allocates two to three hours in the morning and/or afternoon for on-shore activities.

The ship has a well-structured schedule for shipboard activities and meals. The Chesapeake Lounge opens at 6:30 a.m. for a very informal “early bird” continental breakfast, with coffee, muffins and fresh fruits available.

All meals in the Dining Salon are open seating; formal wear such as tuxedos or formal gowns are discouraged. The Dining Salon is open for “official” breakfast between 7:30-9:00 a.m. Staff will take orders for the chef’s specials, eggs to order, waffles, French toast and other goodies, with an abundant buffet of breads, cereal and fruits also available. Guests are asked to provide their selections of lunch or dinner choices, to enable the kitchen to better plan the entrees.

Lunch is served generally between 12:30 and 2:00 p.m. Sometimes it was more convenient to skip lunch onboard, especially on Nantucket, where we had to tender to and from shore.

Our guest lecturer, Sandy Balla, scheduled a daily brief talk at 5:15 p.m. in the Chesapeake Lounge, followed by a 5:30 happy hour with complimentary wine, beer and mixed drinks, plus hot hors d’oeuvres passed around by staff.

Dinner is 6:30 through 8:30, usually followed by entertainment or a talk at 8:30 in the Chesapeake Lounge into the evening. One stormy night with nothing else going on, the crew conducted a bingo game. Another evening, the entertainment was the movie “Jaws”; this was appropriate since we were at Martha’s Vineyard, where much of the film was made.

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