ONBOARD INDEPENDENCE-As our whirlwind week of cruising along the Maine coast nears an end, I want to take a moment before reporting on day 6 activities to tell you some things about our little ship – American Cruise Lines’ Independence – her officers and crew and the services they’ve provided during our all too brief voyage.
Built in 2010 by ACL-affiliated Chesapeake Shipbuilding Corp. in Salisbury, MD, the 194-foot, 104-passenger Independence (one of a 6-vessel ACL fleet) is a state-of-the-art example of excellence in small-ship design. The vessel is loaded with passenger-friendly features – including its spacious staterooms – all more than 200 sq. ft. in size. Most of them, 40 out of 51, are fitted with private balconies. Another feature rarely found on a vessel this size is an elevator that serves all four decks.
The Grand Dining Room comfortably accommodates all passengers at the same time, allowing for single seatings, and there are four roomy lounges, plus a sundeck, exercise area and putting green up top.
All staterooms sport large picture windows that you can slide open and that work nicely in conjunction with individual climate controls to keep cabin temperatures just as you like them. All staterooms feature a satellite TV and DVD player and, better yet, complimentary Wi-Fi. Other thoughtful elements include a writing desk and more than enough dresser and closet space.
ACL prides itself in presenting an “All-American Experience,” with its American built, flagged and crewed ships.
Heading up the crew list – 34 members in total — for our voyage was Captain Greg Scheiferstein, a Great Lakes Maritime Academy grad with 27 years of experience at the helm (five years with ACL) and his Mate Frank Duggan.
Handling the hotel side – and most effectively I might add – was Hotel Manager Janine Johnson. Constantly busy keeping tours and activities moving were Cruise Directors Megan Rexer and Robert Alexander. Guest Speaker Lauri DeGaris, a marine biologist, educator and history buff, was onboard all week with us, sharing her knowledge of the region through a series of informative lectures.
Chefs Bryan Lopez and Adrian Gonzalez orchestrated a 7-person galley crew charged with keeping us all well fed – or fat and happy — as was the case for most of us. Food onboard was excellent, both in terms of its quality and quantity. Menus featured plenty of coastal Maine dishes, with numerous lobster, mussel, clam and other seafood offerings.
A hallmark of ACL’s gracious hospitality is its hosting of a complimentary cocktail hour each evening and its inclusion of wine and beer with lunch and dinner. This really impressed us, as usually only top-tier luxury lines are quite so inclusive with the alcohol.
Yet another amenity we don’t often encounter on small-ship cruises is the program of nightly entertainment we enjoyed here on Independence. Typical of such was the talented Bar Harbor duo of Robert and Anne Bahr, pianist and vocalist respectively, who performed a range of classical favorites and show tunes in the living room-like main lounge. The music made for a very nice and relaxing evening.
In closing, I must say that ACL has come quite close to perfecting small-ship cruising — as it has so convincingly demonstrated to us during this Maine Coast cruise. Our fellow passengers apparently feel the same – as we’ve heard loads of praise — but nary a single complaint of any kind from anyone during the entire week.
So to American Cruise Line and our caring crew of the Independence – here’s a well-earned BRAVO!
A brand new tour offering attracted more than 40 enthusiastic participants for a Day 6 finale. Cap’n Fish’s Puffin Cruise (a $30 option) out of Boothbay Harbor proved to be an exciting ocean-going treasure hunt – in search of the colorful little pint-sized puffins — as well as other birds and sea creatures.
The 2.5-hour puffin safari focuses on Eastern Egg Rock, an islet that has been the object of a National Audubon Society project, commencing in the 1970s, to reestablish an Atlantic puffin population that virtually disappeared in recent decades due to declining fish stocks.
The colony is recovering nicely and happily today’s tour members spotted a large number of puffins, on the wing, in the water and perched on Eastern Egg Rock’s granite boulders. Also seen were eider ducks, gulls, cormorants and black guillemots, a fast-flying cousin of the puffin. Seals, porpoises, dolphins, and a gigantic ocean sunfish rounded out the list of marine life that greeted ACL passengers.
Also on offer during this last day of cruising was a guided tour of the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath (a $20 option). This nationally acclaimed museum features an extensive array of exhibits pertaining to Maine’s rich nautical history.
Shipyards, including current ones building the latest generation of U.S. Navy vessels, line the river’s edge, adding to Bath’s centuries old shipbuilding tradition – and the Maritime
Museum traces it all in its architecturally dramatic Maritime History Building. There are permanent and temporary displays of marine art and artifacts, boat-building demonstrations and, during the summer months, a variety of special river cruises.
Maine is home to a number of marine museums, but this one is the granddaddy of them all, and the best one, we think, to help you get a grip on the state’s complex maritime culture.
Posted on July 11, 2014
Photos by David Houser