More like the Jack of Clubs instead of the Queen of Hearts, this paddle wheeler is royalty but not opulent as we expected for the price of the cruise. We romantically selected a paddle wheeler as opposed to a modern ship. Built in 1995 the Queen is ready for retirement in contrast to more modern ships plying the river. The cabins are small and the accoutrements are average.
Captain Wayland is fantastic. Commanding the bridge, he is in his element of knowledge and skill and he is patiently effusive. On deck and in the dining room he is caring and service oriented—he even helped take passenger luggage off the ship the day we departed. We gave him a standing ovation at our last dinner.
Speaking of food, it varied from beautiful presentations and tastes to somewhat plain and average. The dining room ran out of butter the last day or two. While docked in Clarkston we went to Walmart and bought a pound of butter, presenting it to Matt and the other waiters. They were gracious accepting the intended joke.
We boarded uninformed about the ship amenities and daily side trips—the American Cruise Line website fails to provide sufficient information and in an email from ACL Director Wilson his answers to my questions included: you will find out about side trips when you get on board and there is no swimming on the cruise.
We had opportunities to swim in the pool at the Red Lion Inn(night before we sailed from their dock on Jantzen Beach) and at beaches along the river. We overlapped tours because we took a day tour in Portland including Multnomah Falls only to find the falls included in one of the day trips. We did not know that wine, beer and mixed drinks were included in the fare. Tipping is delightfully included although we slipped a supplement to our waiter and our room attendant.
The advantage of a small ship (110 passengers) is intimacy and we met many wonderful people who became friends. We wore nametags that included our home cities and states, enabling us to strike up conversations.
Side trips were jockeyed between breakfast, lunch and cocktail hour thus we were rushed at the various sites and museums. We needed more time to explore at most every location. The side trips to Pendleton and Hell’s Canyon included lunch on land—that was excellent. At each port we were greeted by the same eloquent bus drivers, Jodi and Lynn. The busses were as great as the continuous historical comments and jokes by our drivers.
We elected to not go on the Hell’s Canyonjet boat tour because it was demur (the demographics-old people), no splashing or getting wet from the jet’s rooster tails. Those taking the tour related sighting of deer and mountain goats and eagles. Instead we went to Nez Perce IndianInterpretive Center in Idaho and tried to “throw” a dart with an atlatl. I hit the edge of the target on the third try!
Wow, did we learn a lot about the North Western United States, the Lewis and Clark expeditionand about the Native Indians. The rivers with rail lines and highways on both sides provide an immense transportation system for commerce destined for Pacific trade. As a result, the Columbia and Snake Rivers are a series of lakes and locks and are ruined for salmon, rapids and the Natives. There may yet be a balance between the two but it is complicated. Who was first? Who and what should be sacrificed? Indian Nations certainly have sacrificed up to this time.
Did we enjoy the cruise up the Columbia River? Definitely Yes! Would we do another river cruise? Probably Not!