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Patricia Ibbotson

Age: Over 25

Occupation:N/A

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: American Cruise Lines

Ship: American Eagle

Sailing Date: April 20th, 2002

Itinerary: Amelia Island to Charleston

The American Eagle is a new ship, built in 2000, and is more of a large yacht than a ship. It only holds 49 passengers and there were 48 passengers on our trip. This cruise line bills itself as "single friendly," so there are four single cabins. The cabins and bathrooms are larger than those found on most other vessels of this type. A hair dryer is supplied and some cabins have clock radios. The ship is nicely decorated and has a good-sized lounge, small library and a cozy reading area. There are books, current magazines, videos, television sets, VCRs, etc. Binoculars are also supplied. There are no telephones, though passengers may use cell phones available on the ship. Every passenger is given a cloth tote bag (with the name of the cruise line on it, of course.)

The passengers are older and well traveled. The staff is young and, unlike most cruise ships, all-American. They sign up for three months at a time and they all have more than one job. They clean the cabins as well as serve the meals. The purser also does duty as the bartender. While the service was uneven, the staff is very friendly and this tends to make up for lapses in service. Tips are pooled and the recommended tip for a 7-night cruise is $125.

The cruise itself is very informal. All meals are open seating. There are two choices for lunch and dinner and one makes the selection for the day at breakfast. The food was good, though the soups and salads are better than the entrees. The best part of the food was the appetizers served at cocktail hour every evening. These included a lot of seafood like shrimp, mussels, crab cakes, scallops, and oysters on the half shell along with cheese and crackers, chicken and beef teriyaki and wonton. Since the ship does not have a liquor license, all drinks are free. Soft drinks and mixers are available at all times in the Nantucket Lounge. Warm cookies, fresh from the oven, are served every morning at 10 a.m. and there is a snack, such as an ice cream sundae, served at 8 p.m. There was also a basket of oranges and apples in the dining room.

The cruise left from Fernandino Beach on Amelia Island, Florida and most of the passengers spent the night at the Holiday Inn in Jacksonville. However, a few passengers stayed at Fernandino Beach and that would be my choice if I were to take this cruise again. The cruise line offers special rates for several hotels.

After setting sail, we passed Cumberland Island and Little Cumberland Island (where JFK, Jr. was married six years ago) on our way to Jekyll Island. We arrived at Jekyll Island about 4 p.m. where we docked for the night. A shore excursion (optional) was offered Sunday morning, which was a trolley tour of the houses that used to be the winter residences of millionaires from the North. We stopped and toured the inside of three of these homes, including one belonging to the Rockefellers. We left Jekyll Island at 11:30 a.m. and arrived at St. Simons at 12:30 p.m. Another trolley tour was offered on St. Simons, but this tour does not include the lighthouse and museum. One should take time to walk over and see it.

We were on the water all day Monday cruising the coastal islands of Georgia. This land is nearly all marsh and not terribly scenic, but bird watchers and naturalists spotted many birds, including brown pelicans, osprey, egrets and even an eagle.

We arrived in Savannah in the late afternoon and docked right on River street. This was once the center of the thriving cotton industry and the renovated buildings along the waterfront now house shops, taverns, restaurants, etc. We spent the night docked in Savannah and still another trolley tour was offered the next day that included a stop at one restored house. There was plenty of time to explore on one’s own in the afternoon. Savannah's squares, streets with old oaks and hanging moss, and all the historic buildings make this a charming city to visit.

We left Savannah at 6 a.m. the next day, arriving at Daufuskie Island, South Carolina, at 8:00 a.m. Only one part of this island has been developed and the rest is natural, beautiful, serene, quiet and tranquil. A tour of this island is a must as the guide is a local who is quite a storyteller. After leaving Daufuskie, we headed to Hilton Head where we had to anchor and go ashore by dinghy. Again, a tour by mini-bus was offered, but Hilton Head is completely developed and we saw mainly golf courses and gated communities. This is one tour that could be skipped.

The next port was Beaufort. We passed Parris Island on the way in. Beaufort has many Civil War era homes of the wealthy plantation owners. It is such an appealing place that many movies and TV programs have been filmed here. A horse and buggy tour was offered here, but I think one could see more walking. The ship docked in Beaufort overnight.

The last port was Charleston and we only had a half-day there as we arrived around 12:30 p.m. The ship docked some distance from the main part of town in a marina full of expensive yachts. This was a disappointment after being able to dock in the center of town in Savannah. Again, a two hour tour, which includes The Citadel, was offered to passengers. One could also get into town by trolley, but one had to transfer to get to the City Market.

This tour also operates in reverse with slight variations in the itinerary and times. This is not a cruise for anyone seeking excitement, as the pace is slow. There is no casino, no gift shop, no pool, no spa, and entertainment is limited to local people coming on board to do presentations in the evenings. It is a different kind of cruising experience.

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