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Sailing from Seattle to cruise the Pacific Northwest on American Cruise Lines’ (ACL) petite American Constellation on the same turnaround day as the behemoth Norwegian Bliss from Norwegian Cruise Line is a fascinating juxtaposition. The vessels are about as opposite as they come — especially in capacity.
And that’s ACL’s greatest selling point. The line calls it “Small Ship Cruising Done Perfectly.”
Most appreciated by ACL loyalists is the intimate nature of the 175-passenger Constellation, which is perfect for those who shy away from “being an ant,” as described by fellow passengers, among thousands on competing megaships.
On Constellation, there are never queues to embark or disembark at beautiful destinations, where several included shore excursion options maximize local ports of call.
Onboard, the bright Cascade Lounge is a forward-facing observation area that doubles as a social gathering space, a lecture hall, a show lounge and an occasional bar. At the stern of the ship, the wicker-furnished Sky Lounge has an outdoor deck space and clever patio doors that open to it when weather permits. A terraced Sun Deck with comfortable seating and a putting green sits above.
Beyond the staterooms, a fitness room, a library, a complimentary self-service laundry room, an office and two smaller midship lounges make up the remainder of the ship, which, except for a few designated areas, is nearly entirely nonsmoking — a most welcome change of pace.
The singular, patriotic-themed dining room serves a limited menu selection for lunch and dinner that inconveniently necessitates preordering at breakfast time. The food itself, however, is generally good, with a few misses in flavor profile and inconsistently small portions. Come cocktail hour, though, inclusions help make up for it: There are small bites and a complimentary full bar, as well as an additional evening service. Soft drinks, beer and wine are also included with lunch and dinner.
From the lounges to the private accommodations, the decor could use some updating. Prevalent grab bars and medical emergency buttons in staterooms speak to an older demographic. The exterior design is more contemporary than the interior, but for a ship that is just over 1 year old, both are already showing wear and tear.
The ship does cater well to its demographic, however. Hallways are wide, and all levels but the uppermost Sun Deck are accessible by elevator. One older woman I spoke to, who has sailed many times with ACL, told me that she has always been under the impression that the line is the owner’s “labor of love.”
While I can certainly see the framework of a proud company, extending to a friendly and helpful crew, it could use some polish. Lecturers are knowledgeable, and local entertainers are fun. However, additional onboard activities are slim.
While upscale clients seeking more excitement may want to look elsewhere, ACL is ideal for mature travelers who prefer a convenient escape closer to home.
The DetailsAmerican Cruise Lineswww.americancruiselines.com