Around each bend of the river, I imagined Lewis & Clark paddling along in their rugged canoe taking in the beauty of the area. Surrounded by the high peaks dotted with pine trees or the grassy plains, there is plenty to see. Each area is a photographer’s dream.

My husband came along with me. Our cruise started with an overnight stay in Portland. From the balcony of our hotel room, we could see our ship docked ready to take us down the river for our adventure. The ship we cruised on was the American Song. This was her inaugural run since she was recently relocated from the Mississippi River. It was quite a feat to get her here. She had to hug the shoreline since she is not an ocean going vessel. Only the captain, one crew member, and cook were on board. She went through the Panama Canal and up the coast of the western United States. Before the American Song was able to enter the Columbia River, it had to wait a few days for suitable conditions. Even then, a window was still broken on the lowest level in the dining area from the force.

The American Song holds 184 guests at capacity. It is contemporary in style with no paddlewheel. The ship has a four-story atrium and the largest staterooms in the industry, each with a private balcony. Our room was located on Deck 4 (Starboard), which is the top deck for rooms, and was clean, spacious, and the décor was light. There were several lounges, for relaxing, on different levels of the ship. A large lounge (Aft) located next to our room was really inviting in its décor. Skylights brought the warmth of the sun into the room, which made it a nice gathering place. There was also the main lounge (Deck 4 – Forward) where our guest lecturer would speak and where a variety of entertainment would be provided in the evening. If you didn’t want to participate, you could watch from the television in your room. There was no pool or spa and the exercise room was very small. There was a small laundry room with a washer and dryer.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were served in the dining room area. There was an option to eat on Deck 4 (Aft) at the snack area where pizza, nachos, and hot dogs were served. Fresh products from the farms of the Pacific Northwest such as fruits and vegetables as well as beef, dairy, nuts, and the famous Tillamook cheese from Oregon, were served. Our food was delicious and eye-pleasing on the platter.

I had not realized until I did this cruise that where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean is one of the most dangerous waters in the world because of the force of the river meeting the ocean. There are also sand bars in this area. Freighters come from all around the world to load their cargo of wheat and lumber. A certified pilot has to guide the freighter in through the river.

After all the guests were on board, we left the City of Portland and cruised to the City of Astoria. This was the furthest city we could get to before the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean.

At each docking, shore excursions were complimentary, with the opportunity to upgrade to another shore excursion with a minimal cost per person.

Excursions we chose:

Astoria, OregonFort Clatsop and the Astoria Shuttle Experience where we got off and went to the Maritime Museum, downtown area, and Astoria Column.

Kalama, WashingtonMount St. Helens Experience. We saw the mountain earlier on the boat and by the time we got to the park, it was covered in clouds.

Stevenson, WashingtonMultnomah Falls in Oregon. I couldn’t wait to see these falls. I have seen pictures of the falls before. My husband climbed to the top of the falls and back just in time for the bus ride back.

Dalles, OregonColumbia Gorge Discovery Center

Richland, WashingtonDay of leisure on the ship.

Clarkston, Washington – Not able to take the ship to this area due to high water and not enough clearance for the ship to go under the bridges.

Each of our shore excursions had so much to offer and it was fascinating to learn about the history of each area.

For those who did not want to get off the ship and do the shore excursions, there were other activities provided such as an art class, movies, and games. On some days prior to docking, there would be a lecture from the onboard historian, Ian Sampson. Topics included “Lewis and Clark”, culture, and the history of the area.

We were not able to complete the planned trip based on the itinerary. Because of the high level of water in the river, our ship stayed the last night in Richland, Washington. As a result, they had to bus us to the airport in Lewiston, Idaho for our return flight. Even though it was a long bus ride, it was through some beautiful country.

I felt that the crew of American Cruise Line bent over backwards to accommodate its’ guests. I would highly recommend a cruise with this company.

Sharla Washburn

If I can help plan your next cruise vacation, please contact me!

Phone: 801.483.6484

Street: 1431 South State Street

City: Orem, UT 84097

Business Days: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday



Are you ready for something new in cruising? How about taking it a step further, and start an actual adventure.

I recently experienced something completely unique in the cruising world, at least to me. I spent two exciting weeks aboard Hurtigruten’s Explorer vessel, the MS Fram. This beautiful, small, expedition style ship is specifically designed to take explorers to unique sites. In my time aboard the MS Fram, as they transitioned from the Antarctic to the Arctic Sea, we visited the San Blas Islands, San Lorenzo in Panama, Boca del Toro, Nicaragua’s Corn Islands, Isla de Provencia (Colombia), Cayos Cochinos in Honduras, a couple of days in Belize, and Cozumel.

Even though I’ve been on many Caribbean Cruises, everything about this was new to me. Hutigruten has been around since 1893, mostly in the Norwegian area. They have developed into a line with a highly trained and educated crew that specializes in exploring the unexplored, more difficult to visit, areas of our beautiful planet. Instead of a Cruise Director, they have an Explorer Team. This is made up of Biologists, Geologists, and Zoological Specialists from all over the world. There were daily lectures in both English and German, on the many experiences we were about to have. These included marine life, local birds, plants, geological structures, history and indigenous people of each area to be explored.

Each area was pristine, beautiful, and still full of the flavor of the native people. With only 150-175 passengers, and 85 crew members (total, including room stewards, kitchen and other hotel workers, and the exploration team) there was never an over-crowded feeling. With only a few people in each group, it was easy to feel like I was the first person to explore this island, reef, or cay.

Where Hurtigruten really shines is in exploring the far reaches of our planet. In the Southern Hemisphere’s Summer (Dec-Feb) they take adventurous groups onto Antarctica itself, to wander with the Penguins, and walk on the ice flows. Due its size, it is permitted to make actually landings on the continent itself, something the larger cruise ships are banned from doing. In the Northern Hemisphere’s Summer (Jun-Aug) they cruise the entire Arctic Circle, touching Canada, Russia, Iceland, Greenland, and Norway. They have polar bear and whale spotting competitions and walk out on the icebergs. The cruise itself includes ocean kayaking, snorkeling (for the Caribbean relocation cruises), paddleboards, and motorboat coastal explorations. All of these activities are included in the price of the cruise.

The Chef on board The Fram is very careful to prepare dishes to please every palate. They were composed of organic and high quality produce, seafood, and meats. Though they do not have the 24 hour food availability many other cruise lines offer, I never felt hungry or lacking in meal options.

Hurtigruten is starting to market more and more in the U.S.A. and many of the ships are, or will soon be, undergoing extensive rehabbing, including the MS Fram. They have just launched their premier ship, the MS Roald Amundsen, a green hybrid, which runs mainly on electrical batteries that are charged by small diesel generators. This hybridization makes these wonderful ships the greenest, most earth-friendly ships sailing today.

From the crystal clear turquoise Caribbean waters, to the humid rainforest, this was an expedition I will never forget. It was an experience that has opened up so much of this beautiful planet to explore and love.

Elaine Beckstrom

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Street: 101 South 200 East, Suite 100
City: Salt Lake City, UT 84020
Phone: 801.483.6331

Business Days: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday


I had a great opportunity to learn more about the American Cruise Line and enjoy a luxury cruise here in the United States. The American Cruise Line offers 35 itineraries that visit 30 different states. Itineraries range from the Pacific Northwest including the Columbia, the Snake, Puget Sound, the San Juan islands to Southeast Alaska; to the Mississippi River including New Orleans, the Cumberland and the Ohio Rivers; to New England along the Hudson River and the Maine Coast; to the southeast coastline of South Carolina and Georgia. There are numerous themed cruises also such as Lewis and Clark, Civil War, Fall Foliage, Music cruises, and food and wine cruises.

Their amenities include full size bathrooms, spacious staterooms, sliding glass balcony doors, elevator access, wifi, locally sourced ingredients for gourmet meals, breathtaking scenery and wildlife. A pre-cruise hotel was included right alongside the river, with a beautiful view of the American Song. Other inclusions are the tips and gratuities, a daily shore excursion, all meals and drinks. Nightly entertainment was also included with popcorn, ice cream sundaes and hot-out of the oven cookies.

My Columbia and Snake River cruise experience included a Lewis and Clark theme and a certified historian who traveled and shared his extensive knowledge of the area and the journey and the importance to the United States of this historic event. He added so much value to my experience and learning. We traveled along the geologically interesting Columbia River Gorge, saw historic sites of Astoria, Oregon; viewed Mount St Helens, Sacajawea State Park, visited the engineering marvels of the Dalles and the Bonneville Dam, and ascended the river through the locks. The beautiful Multnomah Falls are included in the sightseeing as is the REACH Museum which is in the area so vital to WWII and the development of plutonium and atomic bomb.

My American Cruise Line experience was so comfortable. Having an all-inclusive experience just heightens its attraction. The service was incredible as they would go out of their way to give you your perfect experience. The food was delicious, the scenery delightful, the entertainment for enjoyable and the historian was spectacular. This type of cruise is perfect for those who have travelled long and far, but now desire to stay closer to home yet still have a luxury experience. I would highly recommend this cruise line.

Julie Best

If I can help plan your next cruise or river cruise, please contact me:

Street: 1431 South State Street
City: Orem, UT 84020
Phone: 801.483.5230

Business Days: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

We often equate September with back to school; a new start for learning. In September, my new learning wasn't going back to school, but rather going back to the Caribbean. Having been to the Caribbean many times both on cruises and destination vacations, I was excited to explore three new ports of call (two in never-before-visited countries) and a return to a port I visited over 20 years ago.

My fall getaway appropriately was on the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) ship the Getaway. The ship, built in 2014, accommodates almost 4,000 guests, and yet there were plenty of activities, dining options and entertainment to make the ship feel comfortable and not crowded. The ship sails from Miami with stops in Mexico (twice), Belize, and Honduras and allows for a full day at the beginning and end of the cruise to enjoy sailing and relaxing on board the ship. Although shore excursions are offered in every port, I chose to forego the planned tours and enjoyed my time at the beach, poolside and shopping.

October 6

I love visiting Mexico any time an opportunity comes around, I’ll sign up for it, but I’d never cruise the Mexican Riviera and when I received an invitation from Carnival for their educational seminar at seas, I didn’t even think twice about it, I signing up. The itinerary included Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta out of the port of Los Angeles.

On the day of our cruise, I took the first flight out to make sure I arrived to Los Angeles with plenty of time before my embarkation. I had purchased the transfers with Carnival and when I was picking up my luggage I spotted the Carnival Representative dressed up in his uniform and holding a Carnival logo. I walked up to him, told him my name and after a few more guests showed up he escorted us to the Carnival motor coach.

We arrived to the pier at about 11:15 am which I thought it may have been too early to check in, but after a welcome speech from a Carnival staff we were allowed to get off and gather our suit case to then proceed to the check in. I really liked the check in process, being that our shuttle was the second bus to arrive, there were no crowds so our check in process was perhaps 30 – 40 minutes before arriving to the Lido Deck where one can find the buffet. Boy was I happy to be able to sit down and enjoy a meal. A few hours went by, and as I was doing a ship inspection of the top decks, an announcement came on the loud speaker, our cabin was ready and everyone could now go to their cabins. I of course was ready for a small siesta after over eating at the buffet so I headed to my cabin.