Monday, 3 March 2014

Un-Cruise through History

#expeditioncruising


If sailing through U.S. history sounds appealing, check out the latest offering from Un-Cruise Adventures — weeklong voyages along the Columbia and Snake rivers. Un-Cruise, which is best known for trips to Alaska, Hawaii and Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, has inaugurated voyages based in Portland, Ore., that blend river sailings with stops for hiking, city exploring and museum-going. They are designed for travelers who want to explore and become engrossed in the lore and history of the U.S. Northwest.

Plying waters that mostly divide Oregon and Washington states, the 192-foot, 88-passenger SS Legacy — built in 1988 and heavily renovated in 2013 — is the vessel that makes these ventures into the past possible. A modernized rendition of a 19th-century riverboat steamer, Legacy offers excellent accommodations and food as well as continual immersion in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Invaluable to this mission are the crew members, who are often dressed in period costumes that bring to life some of the region’s most vibrant characters. These include those involved with the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Oregon Trail, and conflicts between Native Americans and early pioneers. Another theme is the struggle that pitted merchants who wanted to tame and circumvent treacherous river rapids against those who wanted to leave the trade-defying challenges as they were.

Most important, these re-creations are designed for adults with a strong sense of history. Not only do re-enactors stroll decks and lounges during the daytime, but they also do evening presentations augmented by period photography and maps.

Meanwhile, everything aboard the Legacy is comfortable. Cabins in which two people can easily maneuver feature a pair of single beds, a desk and a functional bathroom with a retractable laundry line. Each room has a video screen that plays DVDs from the ship’s extensive and free DVD rental library. It is not possible to access cable or broadcast TV onboard, however.

Dress is decidedly neat casual, with no formal nights on the docket. Clothes should reflect the informal mood aboard and the strolling and light hiking on shore. You’ll also want to bring along your iPad, tablet or cell phone since they will be your only easy access to news and communication from the outside world.

Food is served at a single open seating and is of a quality that is enhanced by chefs needing to serve dozens — rather than hundreds or thousands — of guests. Among the more impressive offerings on a recent cruise was a beautifully prepared rack of lamb.

Wine and other drinks throughout the day from the lounge bar as well as at meals are included in basic fares. This supports the prime shipboard diversion: conversation among old and new acquaintances. The top deck has comfortable chairs for sitting or lounging, two hot tubs and a spa, sauna and yoga classes.