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We were on the Queen of the West sailing of May 20th. If you fly in, you are met at the Airport and transferred to the Embassy Suites Hotel. At the hotel, check-in for the cruise is done. A light buffet is served for the passengers waiting. Between 3PM to 4PM, you are taken by a MAL bus direct to the ship. The dock is a commercial dock.
If you are not flying to Portland, check with MAL reservations as to how you are to check-in. I suspect they will tell you to go to the Embassy Suites Hotel by a certain time.
This is a fantastic cruise with a great American crew, all of whom work extremely hard.
"The pier is called the 'Fred Divine Dock' on Swan Island. This is a shipyard and there isn't an actual address for it. You aren't able to drive to the actual pier either. You will need to get transfers from teh cruise line which are complentary on the day of sailing. They will pick up at the Embassy Suites airport hotel in Portland. The Embassy Suites has a shuttle bus to the hotel and they will pick you up from there."
I never responded to your questions regarding Majestic American Line and the Queen of the West. This was the first voyage for us so cannot comment on what changes there might be.
Many of the crew we talked to had been on this ship when it was American West steamboat and they were all very good.
On this trip, the buses follow the ship up and down the river and are there when the ship docks to take you on the various day excursions. The buses are brand new having been built in Canada and driven back to Oregon by the very drivers you will have. These drivers are very knowledgable about what you are seeing.
What we liked about this trip, was that all excursions were included. I understand most are not on the old Delta Queen boats - and in reading the MAL brochures, I guess that is still the case. Only thing to pay were alcoholic drinks and the tips at the end requested at $15.00 pp per day.
The paddlewheel actually runs this ship unlike the Queen of the North. On the day of cruising, there is a galley tour and an engine room tour. You will be surprised at the size of the galley which is smaller than my kitchen.
The engine room tour is not publicized so you need to listen closely to the announcements. It is after lunch on the day of cruising.
Service was generally good even though there were a lot of new personnel. The service staff is on 4 weeks and then they get 2 weeks of vacation. Sometimes dining can be slow but with good tablemates that is no problem. The upstairs Calliope Bar & Grill has food 24 hours a day including espresso drinks and wonderful hot dogs at lunch. You will not go hungry.
The staff are all very friendly and helpful so at least for this ship, I don't think there has been any major changes.