There are many great memories that come to mind as I recount my nine-day yacht cruise down the Columbia River. There are colossal dams with massive steel locks, giant gorges cut through mountains, behemoth barges and ships drifting past cabin windows, spectacular unspoiled landscapes teeming with wildlife, tiny deserted islands, roaring rapids, historic images of explorers Lewis and Clark, and so much more.
My journey began last September, when a friend and I flew to Portland, Oregon, where we were greeted by American Safari Cruises. We were then transported by luxury van to Astoria. Along the way we picked up our fellow passengers, and then drove past beautiful coastline and stopped at the legendary Tillamook Cheese Factory in the seaside city of Tillamook, Oregon.
In couple hours we reached Astoria, Oregon and got a first look at our yacht, the Safari Spirit, anchored along an old wooden dock. I say “our yacht” for good reason. With a total of only 8 passengers onboard, the 105-ft. vessel was a private, floating paradise.
And that’s the beauty of American Safari Cruises. The company separates itself from competition by providing an upscale, private approach to cruising aboard actual yachts. Their three boats carry between 12 and 36 passengers in plush comfort, with homey lounges, hot tubs, and spacious cabins.
Once aboard the Safari Spirit, we enjoyed a cocktail reception, where we met Captain Winston, his four crew members, and our six fellow passengers. While nibbling on shrimp and sipping champagne, we discussed the mighty Columbia River and the incredible voyage before us.
We were then shown our staterooms. Our portside cabin was located on the first deck, about mid-boat. Quaint and efficient, if boasted a large comfy bed, DVD player, big windows, desk area, tub and shower, and best of all, a heated bathroom floor.
After unpacking I took a nap and then joined the others for dinner. While enjoying three-cheese tortellini with Dungeness crab, roast beef, mashed potatoes, fresh-baked bread, veggies, and Washington wines, the Spirit cruised along the canyons of the Snake and Clearwater rivers.
After dinner the captain dropped anchor in a secluded cove and we retreated to the lounge for cocktails and an itinerary briefing by our tour director Richard. We were then joined by a local historian who told fascinating stories about the surrounding area the Columbia River, which is one the most important waterways in the world. We concluded the evening with a stroll on deck and a movie in our cabin.
Next week, I continue down the Columbia River, kayaking, jet boating and cruising my way through Hells Canyon, the Snake River, Hanford Reach National Monument, Palouse Canyon, Washington Wine Country, the Columbia Gorge and Bonneville Dam. Along the way we will encounter unique wildlife, museums and attractions, incredible onboard meals and lectures, and get a floating history lesson on the Columbia River.
American Safari Cruises is currently booking for upcoming Columbia and Snake River Cruises beginning in September. For more information, dates and pricing, visit www.amsafari.com or call (888) 862-8881.
By Greg Aragon