“We booked our Columbia River cruise on Cruise West with Mary Kayser of USA River Cruises. From our first contact with her Mary was professional, efficient, friendly and prompt. We booked only a month before the trip and within days we had the cruise we chose, the cabin we wanted and the paper work to complete. Mary obtained air schedule and reservations for us, including an extra leg on the return trip, and hotel reservations at a convenient hotel in Portland for an overnight stay. We flew from Orlando, FL to Portland, OR a day early to be sure to make all connections. The day of the cruise Mary met us at the hotel and graciously showed us around the city, including a tour of the rose garden, lunch and drop-off at the ship. We had already made a new friend.
The first evening on any cruise ship is a bit awkward since none of the passengers know any one else or exactly what to expect. The captain and crew provided all of us with a welcoming introduction to themselves and the accommodations and amenities we would enjoy for the coming week.
After orientation our adventure began as we pulled away from the dock, moved slowly through Portland, past sawmills, the airport and beautiful countryside of mountains and trees. That evening we were served the first of a full week of delicious, imaginative and beautifully presented meals.
Our first day trip was to the Bonneville Dam. We have toured hydro-electric dams before but were especially intrigued to see the turbine that was being assembled within the dam and to learn of the efforts that had gone into sustaining the fish populations, especially salmon. We spent an hour at the base of Multnomah Falls enjoying the cool mist, the majestic falls, soaking up the ambiance, the awe of the other visitors and the wonder of it all….like we wondered how those people climbed way up there.
Other day trips we enjoyed on this vacation were tours in Pendelton of the Woolen Mills and the Underground. Later we crossed miles of wheatlands to visit Tamastslikt Cultual Institute. We spent a day in a jet boat riding up Hell’s Canyon where we saw deer and bighorn sheep. We took a bus to the Walla Walla museum, Bergerin Lane Winery, Walla Walla Vinters. The wines we tasted at lunch and the other stops were excellent and several of our group took the opportunity to ship some home. We were privileged to spend a day in the Mt. St. Helen’s area where we gained a clearer understanding of the events before during and after the eruption. All these trips were well organized, informational, educational and entertaining. The off-ship luncheon arrangements were always unique and the food tasty.
During the week we passed through scenic coastal mountains, trees, and waterfalls. We moved through the pass to encounter grain fields, grasslands, basalt plateaus and desert. Along the way we were told of the overall history of the Lewis & Clark expedition, local Native American Tribes and details related to specific sites we were visiting.
Some observations we both had independently:
The cabins, crew, service were exceptional. The food on board was excellent. We found the diversity in the menus was awesome. Phil took full advantage of the fish entrees while Grace selected from the full assortment of offerings. We each gained 5 pounds.
The scenery was so varied as to highlight extremes in geographic area. The ship was maintained really well with no apparent needed repairs. Open seating allowed guests to meet and enjoy each other. Small ship size provided a chance to form friendships, some of which we still maintain. Choice and organization of day trips was outstanding. The bound, zippered, loose leaf notebook of information and the daily schedule were ever so helpful. It also provided a ready made trip diary; we just added a few personal notes and some personal snapshots and it was complete.
On our return to Portland, after a full crew send-off, we were bussed to the airport for our departure from a beautiful city and a delightful River Cruise.”
-Phil and Grace Hampton