Cruising & Sailing Information

Taking A Paddleboat Cruise

In May my husband and I took a wonderful steamboat trip on the Colombia River, 1,240 miles long, and Snake River, 1,038 miles long, aboard the American West's Empress of the North. This is the first time we had ever done a "niche" type cruise and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Yes, the clientele tends to be older, but, what a shame that the younger mature adults are missing out on all this fun. It is steam boating in the true sense of the word. The paddlewheel turns as you leisurely make your way up and down the rivers and through the many dams that have been erected since the time of Lewis and Clarke. The ship is patterned after the river boats that plied the waters of Alaska, Oregon and Washington over 100 years ago and has a distinctly Russian flavor.

On the particular adventure that we took it was to follow the path of the Lewis and Clarke expedition so it was historical as well as fun. We boarded the Empress of the North in Portland, Oregon with no mishaps just a bit of a long wait. However, they did supply entertainment and refreshments while they prepared the ship for us. Once aboard we were escorted to a lovely stateroom that was right out of the riverboat era. It was roomy, beautifully decorated and had a balcony with two chairs and a table. There was a TV but we never used it since the real entertainment was the trip and the excursions which were included in the price of the cruise. The rooms reminded you of the river boat era but were very much up to modern standards.

Just a little tidbit: The "Portland Penny" is how Portland got its name narrowly missing being called Boston. The partners Lovejoy and Pettygrove who had filed the claim staking the territory needed to come up with a name for the quickly expanding territory. Lovejoy being from Boston, Massachusetts was adamant that this would be the name, while Pettygrove equally adamant wanted it to be called Portland after his beloved Portland, Maine. Hence the "Portland Penny" when Pettygrove won two out of the three tosses.

The artwork on the Empress was truly impressive. There were beautiful Russian artifacts and amazing pictures of the gold rush and life in the Northwest during the 1800's. I spent a lot of time just going up and down the four hallways perusing the artwork. (Every floor has a different theme).

Our first night out of Portland we were invited to cocktails and hors d'oeurves at the Paddlewheel lounge which is in the back of the boat and has windows overlooking the paddle wheel. We were still busy getting situated so we grabbed a cocktail and took it back to our room to get organized. Dinner was in the Romanov Dining room and the atmosphere really was one of a riverboat. The food was very good served by a courteous and fun American crew. Dinner lasted about an hour to an hour and a half and then it was off to the Golden Nugget showroom to watch the Pat O'Neal and the River Boat Jazz band play great Dixieland Music. Well, if you weren't into it by then you never were going to be. What fun and you are sharing it with only 200 other passengers. After the show you could stay in the Showroom for dancing or go to the Paddlewheel Lounge for the duo of Kari & Jerry who were not only very good but extremely friendly.

Of course, you are in a new place everyday and everyday brings a new exciting, educational and different excursion. Our first day out we where cruising the Columbia River Gorge taking in the breathtaking vistas, granite cliffs and waterfalls from which the Cascade Mountains takes it's name.

We thoroughly enjoyed this trip and would recommend to other adults, this is not a ship for children.

For more information on the cruises please contact Mary C. Hanna or visit

About Mary Hanna:
The author, Mary Hanna, has cruised the world on ships enabling her to sail on almost all of the top cruise lines. After over 60 cruises she decided to compile her expertise in an e-book to share with other cruiser, first timers or seasoned cruisers.

Mary C. Hanna


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