The American Empress on the Columbia River

As a self-confessed history buff – especially of American history – I knew I would love it: An eight-day scenic cruise on the Columbia and Snake Rivers between the states of Washington and Oregon aboard the American Empress. This was the scene of so much adventure in 1805-06 when the Lewis and Clark Expedition sought to open up this part of the country and form a bond between the federal government in the east and some of …

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Aboard American Empress: If it’s Friday, it must be Kennewick – or Pasco, or Richland

ABOARD AMERICAN EMPRESS-This was our last day on ilch’eeahwana, the local Native American word meaning “the big river.”  (Sounds like “ill-cheat-gee-wanna.”) The American Empress is parked in Richland at the confluence of the Columbia and the Snake Rivers, and unfortunately I didn’t learn the local word for the Snake. The exact point where this union happened is now occupied by the Sacajawea State Park. The wonderful little free museum there has much intriguing information about the Lewis …

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Aboard the American Empress: Showboat

ABOARD THE AMERICAN EMPRESS—I’m here to tell you that this ungainly looking river vessel with its fake smoke stacks and barely functioning paddle wheel has managed to come up with a fair number of pleasant surprises. As a veteran of more than 60 cruises, I swear to you this one has collectively the friendliest and probably the happiest crew I have ever seen. And a second positive aspect I gradually became aware of is how well it …

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Aboard American Empress: Visiting Stevenson, Washington

ABOARD THE AMERICAN EMPRESS—On Wednesday many of the cruisers on the Columbia River Gorge met Janet. Actually she was much more under the river than on it. Our Victorian-style paddle wheeler docked at a rather rustic-looking Washington town named Stevenson. Once more on the free hop-off, hop-on bus, we stopped at the Bonneville Lock and Dam, the same complex we had passed through on Tuesday. Some cruisers proceeded along the top to overlook the locks. We joined …

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Aboard American Empress: Tuesday on the Columbia River

ABOARD AMERICAN EMPRESS–Tuesday on the Columbia River – Throughout our third day today, our paddlewheeler was followed by a great white ghost. The snowy pyramid form of Mount Hood seemed to be always hovering in the back yards of all the forests and towns on the Oregon side while we progressed smoothly along the river. Many cruisers arose at 6 then made their way to the top-deck River Grill for “Locks and Lox,” a special breakfast to …

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Aboard the American Empress: We wake to fog in Astoria

ABOARD THE AMERICAN EMPRESS-Monday night on the Columbia River—Our morning curtains opened to nothing but bright fog today. Allegedly our boat had arrived at the historic town of Astoria, Oregon, where the river meets the ocean in a never-ending contest of wind and waves. The paddle wheeler was quiet and safe, but we couldn’t see a thing through the haze. After breakfast, sunny details quickly began to emerge through the atmosphere, and we boarded one of the …

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Aboard the American Empress: We begin our trip in Portland

ABOARD AMERICAN EMPRESS-Sunday night on the Columbia River – My wife and I flew into Portland, Oregon yesterday and taxied across the river ($40) to reach a hotel in Vancouver, Washington. Our first night of the American Empress experience was actually a recently refurbished Hilton, which served as a sort of land-based rallying point for cruisers and some crew members. The Empress herself was already resting at a nearby dock, her paddle wheels immobile for the time …

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Rolling on the River-Preparing for a cruise along the Columbia and Snake Rivers

Sara and I are not precisely sure what to expect on our upcoming cruise. My wife and I are veterans of many an ocean voyage. Either she or I or both of us can count as many as 60, covering nearly all parts of the globe and always far from our home in the U.S.A. But this one will be different — a river cruise, and one not one flowing in an exotic location like the Danube, …

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S.S. Legacy magnet board keeps track of passengers ashore, aboard

ABOARD THE S.S. LEGACY – In keeping with its 1900s theme, the S.S. Legacy has a simple way to keep track of passengers who are ashore and those who are aboard. Each time we leave the Legacy for a shore excursion, we look for our cabin number on a large magnetic board and move our little magnet from the “aboard” column to the “ashore” column. If there are two of us sharing a cabin, there are, of …

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S.S. Legacy Cruise: Saying farewell to a wonderful voyage

ABOARD THE S.S. LEGACY – Sometimes magic happens. Nothing you can really plan.  Even if you make all the best arrangements in the world, some trips just don’t quite come together as hoped. Maybe the food isn’t to your liking; the shore excursions too tough or too tame; entertainment rather bland or not your type; crew members inattentive or rude; fellow travelers tend to be prima donnas or grouches or know-it-alls. Maybe your room that looked so …

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