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BRIDGE of the GODS Magazine

Cruising the Columbia and Beyond

Oct 25, 2020 08:00PM ● By Alexa Paolella, American Cruise Lines
Cruise Ship American Song

The cruise ship, American Song, travels the Columbia and Snake Rivers. AMERICAN SONG Photo Courtesy of American Cruise Lines

Cruising close to home in the U.S.A. has become one of the most popular travel experiences today, and the domestic options for great river cruising continue to grow year after year. American Cruise Lines, the largest domestic cruise line in the country, offers remarkable river and small ship coastal cruises in over 30 states: along the Columbia & Snake Rivers, the Mississippi River, and the East and West coasts (Alaska to Florida). 

From early spring through fall, guests on American’s Columbia & Snake cruises can embrace their inner pioneer and retrace the last leg of Lewis and Clark’s epic route.  Unlike Lewis and Clark, passengers will have plenty of time to relax aboard one of the Line’s newest modern riverboats or classic paddlewheelers. 

In 2021, the Line has 14 small (100-190 passenger) ships sailing across the U.S.A. with 4 riverboats operating on the Columbia & Snake.

American Cruise Lines offers 3 different Columbia & Snake itineraries: a classic 8-Day Columbia & Snake Rivers Cruise (between Portland, OR and Clarkston, WA, and the reverse); a more extended 11-Day Northwest Pioneers Cruise (also between Portland, OR and Clarkston, WA); and a 5-Day Highlights of the Columbia River Cruise (roundtrip from Portland, OR).

In 2018, American introduced the first modern riverboat in U.S. history, American Song. Acclaimed by Time magazine as one of 2019’s World’s Greatest Places to Stay, American Song frequently cruises the Columbia & Snake Rivers as do 2 of the Line’s classic paddlewheelers, American Pride and Queen of the West. Next year, the Line’s 2nd modern riverboat, American Harmony, will join the fleet out west.

Each year, American’s new riverboats and distinctive curated cruises bring many guests to the region, where they can enjoy guided excursions in the towns and communities along the river. Cruises also include complimentary pre-cruise hotel packages in Portland, OR, and Clarkston, WA. The packages allow guests extra time to explore the area’s attractions, restaurants, and incredible local businesses. American has long enjoyed strong local partnerships with ports and onshore businesses. Across the country, American’s cruises are destination-focused, visit only domestic ports, and always cruise within sight of land.

American’s Columbia & Snake Rivers cruise guests are treated to never-ending views of the Columbia River Gorge’s lush landscapes, Mt. Hood, and the magnificent Multnomah Falls. Cruises also visit Mount St. Helens and offer one-of-a-kind shore excursions each day. All shore excursions are small-group tours led by local experts and guides. At every port, guests have the opportunity to explore towns and local sites to learn about each region’s history, culture, ecology, and geography. From a fun afternoon spent at a local winery to in-depth explorations of Pendleton’s underground city, guests are immersed in the region’s culture. 

Modern Riverboats GLASS ATRIUM, Image Courtesy of American Cruise Lines

 American’s riverboats and small coastal ships are 100% U.S. built, crewed, and flagged. They offer the largest staterooms in the industry. Standard staterooms are 300-350 sq/ft, and most have private furnished balconies with sliding glass doors. None of American’s ships have interior cabins. Even cabins without balconies offer picture windows that open to fresh air breezes and dramatic river views. American’s ships also have huge Single staterooms and enormous Suites up to 900 square feet.

American’s staterooms and interior lounges are served by independent HVAC systems with no 

Modern Riverboats OWNERS SUITE, Image Courtesy of American Cruise Lines

 shared ductwork, which is especially meaningful for healthful travel. American’s ships offer many indoor and outdoor lounges, grand dining rooms, and casual outdoor cafes. Ships also have sweeping top decks with putting greens, comfortable seating, and exercise areas.

Each day, American’s cruises provide small-group excursions, sumptuous cuisine, evening entertainment, and onboard enrichment, all curated to complement the region traveled. American’s Columbia & Snake cruises highlight the famous last leg of Lewis & Clark’s expedition and explore local geographical and historical themes.

A sample of American’s port visits and on shore experiences include:

PORTLAND, OR
In the golden age of riverboats, sternwheelers (paddlewheelers) crossed Portland’s picturesque waterfront while steam whistles and calliopes rang out across the water. Today, guests can enjoy some of that nostalgia by departing from and arriving at Portland aboard American’s classic paddlewheelers or new modern riverboats. A complimentary pre-cruise hotel package is available on American’s cruises departing from Portland.

ASTORIA, OR
While visiting the “little San Francisco of the Pacific Northwest” and the oldest settlement west of the Rockies, guests can take-in an 1885 Victorian Queen Anne home and climb the steps at the famous Astoria Column. Shopping, dining, and sightseeing are all part of this gorgeous waterfront city.

FORT CLATSOP EXPERIENCE
Guests can take a tour of the actual fort where Lewis & Clark and their Corps of Discovery spent the winter of 1805-06. A personalized guided tour of the fort and grounds and special live demonstrations are included. The museum and visitor center offers one of the best collections of Lewis & Clark literature.

MT ST HELENS EXPERIENCE
A scenic journey to the Mt. St. Helens Johnston Ridge Observatory is a popular choice for guests. There, they can view the splendid landscape that was forever changed from the powerful volcanic eruption of May 1980. A guided tour lets visitors observe the crater and spectacular views of the pumice plain and blast site.

MULTNOMAH FALLS EXCURSION 
Visit and tour the Pacific Northwest’s tallest year-round waterfall. American’s ships dock at the Columbia River Gorge, where guests can take a privately guided hike from the ship through the winding forest and across The Bridge of the Gods before reaching Multnomah Falls. Once there, guests can explore the falls and walk across the famous Benson Bridge for an amazing overhead view of the falls.

THE DALLES, OR & THE COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE
The famous last stop on the overland portion of the Oregon Trail was treacherous terrain for pioneers but offers stunning scenery today. With views of the Cascade Cliffs and the fertile Columbia River Valley, guests are treated to sights of the ancient river canyon.  As the canyon cuts through the Cascade Mountain Range, it provides dramatic contrasts of rainforest, desert, and alpine meadows. The Gorge, a federally protected National Scenic Area, boasts basalt cliffs, waterfalls, lakes, streams, rivers, and wildflower fields.

THE PENDLETON EXPERIENCE (RICHLAND, OR)  
Guests will enjoy a scenic ride through the countryside and arrive at Pendleton for the day.  There, they can take a private guided tour through Pendleton’s infamous underground city. Afterward, there is a BBQ lunch and an afternoon visit to the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute for a look into the culture, stories, and past of the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla Indian tribes. The Pendleton Experience also includes time to visit and tour the Pendleton Woolen Mill, with an opportunity to purchase authentic Pendleton woven goods.

HELLS CANYON JET BOAT ADVENTURE 
Enjoy a private Jet Boat Tour into the deepest canyon in North America. Your private guide will tell you stories about regional history with special attention to the canyon’s breathtaking unique geography. Guests will explore and enjoy dramatically changing views of desert canyons, ancient rock formations, high plains, and alpine forests along the way. Historical pictographs enhance the tales of the canyon’s formation and regional history.

CLARKSTON, WA 
Nestled at the convergence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers in Southeast Washington, Clarkston is the gateway to an unusual inland port rich in history. Clarkston is named after William Clark of the historic Lewis & Clark Expedition and is home to Hells Canyon, North America’s deepest gorge. Guests can explore Clarkston’s natural beauty and small-town charm.  American has a one-night complimentary pre-cruise hotel package as well as an extended 2-night pre-cruise package for cruises from Clarkston.

AND...
There are many other shore excursions available along the way, including a visit to Portland’s historic rose gardens, with over 10,000 roses, impressive views of downtown Portland and snow-capped Mt. Hood; a visit to the Maryhill Winery (including tour and tasting) at The Dalles, OR; visits to the Western Aeroplane & Automobile Museum in Hood River, OR; and visits to the well-known REACH Museum in Richland, WA (which has the only complete baby Woolly Mammoth skeleton in its rotating displays). There are active excursions, too, like the Kayaking Eco Excursion or the Wilderness Trek to Fort Vancouver.

AMERICAN SONG
Image Courtesy of American Cruise Lines

 Following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark while cruising the legendary Columbia and Snake Rivers is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. American Cruise Lines’ riverboat and small ship explorations throughout the country allow guests to rediscover the exceptional diversity of the U.S.A.

From its history and spirit to its geography and people, American’s extraordinary itineraries illuminate the best that river cruising has to offer in the Columbia River Gorge and beyond.