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Queen of the West

Take an Americana Cruise Around the Pacific Northwest

This is not your father's sunburn/island-a-day/shop-'til-you-drop/snorkel-and-dive/2000-passenger cruise. In fact, it is quite the opposite.

This is a cruise into history, on a small and very intimate scale, with lots to learn about. There are guides and expert lecturers all along the route to teach and explain, and the number of passengers is so manageable that you can expect to really meet each and every one. This is, most of all, a cruise into the fascinating tale of Western America's discovery.

The Queen of the West's year-'round, seven-day, sternwheeler steamer trips leave from Portland, Oregon. They cruise through ever-changing scenery, terrain, and climate for 1000 miles along the Columbia, Snake, and Willamette Rivers, through eight locks and dams, beside picturesque cities, forts, Indian reservations, forests, waterfalls, gorges, and canyons along the historic Lewis & Clark and Oregon Trail routes.

A hospitable, young, American crew takes care of passenger comforts, while on-board historians/naturalists/lecturers take care of the learning activities. Enthusiastic landside rangers and guides at each attraction and visitor center fill passengers in on their geographic and historic specialties. A fleet of luxury Prevost coaches precedes the ship each night and is waiting when the ship reaches port the following morning. The same well-versed drivers stay with the passengers for the entire week, making for expert tour leadership. TV cameras are trained on the road ahead and transmit pictures to screens in the buses, so passengers may sit anywhere and get a front-seat view.

Daily Tours

Daily tours are included in the tour price. On most cruises, tours visit: The Bonneville Dam, where the generation and distribution of electricity and the use of fish ladders are demonstrated; Multnomah Falls, at 620 feet the second highest waterfall in America and part of the greatest collection of waterfalls in the U. S.; Hells Canyon, where high-speed jet boats whiz by petroglyphs and memorable natural landscape formations; Pendleton, where passengers visit with working cowboys who show how horses and sheep dogs are trained; Maryhill Museum, where Rodin sculptures and drawings, native American carvings and artifacts, and a replica of England's Stonehenge war memorial are on display; Tamastslikt Cultural Institute, which tells the history of the region's Indian population through exhibits, dioramas, dance, and dialogue; Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, which houses a giant working model of part of the Columbia River and displays about the geologic creation of the Gorge; Mount St. Helens, whose visitor center overlooks and explains the spectacular and destructive l980 eruption; and Astoria's Columbia River Maritime Museum, one of the world's leading maritime museums. Additional information regarding the Lewis & Clark expedition permeates each day's travels at virtually every stop, as he history of the 1803 expedition is relived throughout the week's cruise.

Food and Entertainment

Several novel ideas mark Queen of the West's food service.

  • There are no assigned tables. So passengers may choose to meet new acquaintances whenever mealtime arrives. By the end of the journey, most passengers have met and made many new friends.

  • Single-sitting dining accommodates all passengers.

  • Half-portions of anything on the menu may be ordered. From soup to desserts, portion sizes are up to the consumer.

  • Views from the parlor-decor dining room are never-ending. Because the room is situated on the first deck, sight lines of the river and the banks beyond are continuous through large tabletop-to-ceiling windows. No dining room chair is more than 25 feet from a whole wall of windows; most are closer.

  • An alternative dining room, the top-deck Calliope Bar & Grill, serves breakfast, lunch, snacks, chili, and desserts. Soft drinks and coffee are available 24 hours a day.

  • Printed menus and recipes are freely given to those who request them. And requested they are, because passenger comments about food are virtually unanimous in praise of both the creativity and delectability of the offerings. They include fresh Northwest fish like salmon and halibut daily, different soups daily, complimentary hors d'oeuvres daily, fresh-baked rolls and breads, prime rib, steaks, lobster, duck, rack of lamb, chicken, salads, vegetarian entrees, and scores of desserts.

A resident band, a cruise staff, and other small vocal, instrumental, dance, and comedy groups provide the entertainment. Most nights have an entertainment theme, like Best of Broadway, Country Western, Golden Oldies, or America the Beautiful. Different entertainment is possible each evening because the ship customarily picks up entertainers on the day of their show and drops them off just after the show at one of the many landings along the route. The boat is never more than a few hundred yards from shore. Because of a novel adjustable bow and shallow depth, it's always easy to simply walk on and off. No rough-bucking big-ship tendering here. Information about each day's activities and highlights is provided to each cabin the night before via a Western-style newsletter titled "Queen of the West Times." It offers historical tidbits of upcoming ports, an hour-by-hour program of activities, and previews of the next day's entertainment program.

America West Steamboat Co and American Orient Express, which provides private rail cruises, are under common ownership. Visit www.Cruise-news.com for more information.


Fleet: American West Steamboat Company

Size: 163 passengers, 47 crew, 280 feet long, 50 feet wide, 4 passenger decks, 73 staterooms and suites.

Accommodations: There are nine categories of staterooms, among them an owner's suite, penthouses, veranda staterooms, and value staterooms. All have outside views.

All have TV with cable channels and view of the river ahead available, VCR (video library tapes available for loan), music channels, thermostat, and sitting area. Most have a writing desk. Some have refrigerators and extra windows. Some come with robes. Modern prefabricated bathrooms with seamless enamel-finished walls and wall-hung toilets.

Public Rooms and facilities Showroom, lounge, bar and grill, formal dining room, elevator, 3 bars, gift shop, 11,000 square feet exterior deck space. There is artwork throughout depicting the history of the Columbia River and its early steamboats.

Itineraries: Year-'round except for January maintenance: seven day cruises cover Portland, Willamette River, Columbia River, Snake River, Bonneville Dam, Multnomah Falls, Pendleton, Tamastslikt Cultural Center, Hells Canyon Jet Boat, Wine Tasting, Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, Mt. St. Helens Volcano, Astoria, Cannon Beach. Daily, guided tours are included in cruise price.

Year completed: 1994

Web address: ColumbiaRiverCruise.com

Toll-free: 1-800-434-1232        (Source: Cruise-News)

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