American Empress Cruise Review by fudgbug: Pacific Northwest
The cruise has you start in Spokane, WA where you spend one night at the Doubletree City Center. The hotel is comfortable and has a very good, though a bit expensive, Spencer's Steakhouse. The hotel is located so that you can walk to restaurants, the park, and the falls.
In early afternoon the American Empress will take you by bus (2 1/2 hour ride) down to Clarkston, WA where you join the boat. The drive takes you past golden wheat and hazelnut fields.
Our welcome on board made us feel quite welcome and valued. During dinner there is a short cruise before spending the night.
In Clarkston a Hop On-Hop Off complimentary tour is offered though we chose the Premium Tour that took us on a jet boat through Hells Canyon that we thought well worth the extra cost.
The next stop was in Richland, WA where we chose the Hop On-Hop Off tour. The visit to the Reach Museum was interesting. I'd bypass the stop at Sacajewa State Park as there really isn't anything More there. You might enjoy the stop at the Country Mercantile as they have really good ice cream and fruits from the area that you can try as well as a shop where you can buy items that one doesn't find in the local supermarket.
The next day was spent on the Columbia River and sailing through the Gorge and arrived at The Dalles around 8 pm where we spent the night.
In the morning, we took the Hop On-Hop Off that took us to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center that shouldn't be missed. Other stops were The Original Courthouse Museum, Fort Dalles Museum and the Sunshine Mills Winery that we chose not to visit.
In Stevenson, the next stop, the Hop On-Hop Off took us through Downtown Stevenson that you could visit easily with a walk from the boat, Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center (another not miss), and the Bonneville Dam. At the dam, do not miss the fish ladder viewing area.
The end of the tour is drawing near in Astoria, OR named for John Jacob Astor. We chose the Hop On - Hop Off that included the Riverwalk that you access with just a short walk from the boat, Flavel House, a beautiful Queen Anne house that was built in 1886. The Carriage House has displays and this is where you pick up a ticket to enter the house for a self guided tour. The house has been lovingly renovated by the Clatsop County Historical Society and is a gem. The views from the Astoria Column was hidden by fog so we didn't get off nor did we visit the Heritage Museum. Astoria has a lot of restaurants and is quite nice.
The American crew is welcoming, friendly and helpful.
The onboard entertainment included a Riverlorian, a husband and wife team, Greg & Lindy Pendzick, who were quite good and were the Co-Cruise Directos. Frank Chase in the Paddlewheel Lounge was quite entertaining as was another couple, Laura Sable, singer, and her husband Bill Weimuth who is multi-talented - storyteller, singer, magician.
Food generally was very good, but the complimentary wines definitely need improvement!
On board activities include the Riverlorian, Bingo, Enrichment Lectures and a bit more.
Overall, a very experience.
The cruise ended in Vancouver, WA where you could take a ships tour to Mt. St. Helens, a bus to the airport ($25 each), or have the ship arrange a taxi the airport.with tip cost $35. Less
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