River Cruise Review: Legacy of Discovery

History and stunning nature are brought to life in the Pacific Northwest with Un-Cruise Adventures

I was recently a guest of Un-Cruise Adventures onboard the SS Legacy replica coastal steamer, sailing on the Columbia and Snake Rivers in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. Sailing the “Legacy of Discovery” itinerary, I was immersed in the region’s history and geography, with an emphasis on the Oregon Trail, the Lewis and Clark expedition, and the significance of the region during the Second World War – all set against the majestic beauty and grandeur of the Pacific Northwest.

The itinerary is particularly well-suited to history buffs, experiential travelers, and small ship enthusiasts. Get a glimpse of the experience in these photos, and read below for a detailed account of the journey!

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The cruise begins (and ends) in Portland, where we started sailing up the Willamette River toward the Columbia River. After the first of many delicious dinners, a welcome-aboard orientation introduced to the crew, including Captain Dano Quinn and his nautical team, as well as our Heritage Leader, Ryan Downs, and his historical interpretation and guide team.

We sailed through the night and went through the first of eight Columbia River locks early the next morning. The cruise’s first stop is the Bonneville Dam, a project of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. After dinner that night, history came to life with a dramatic interpretation of the stories of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, and the contributions of “Rosie the Riveter” women in the Northwest’s shipyards.

Day two – spent sailing toward the intersection of the Columbia and Snake Rivers – was actually one of my favorites. It was a perfect opportunity to relax, get to know other passengers, take a class (such as knot tying, Pilates, or native beading), and enjoy historical lectures.

Our third day included the Native American history of the region, thanks to Indian storyteller JR Spencer (also known as White Bull). His informative and entertaining lectures, songs, and stories of the Nez Perce people were a memorable highlight.

The day’s excursions included a jet boat ride into Hells Canyon on the Snake River, where the scenery was truly stunning. After a picnic lunch in Idaho, we picked fresh plums and figs in the local orchards. Later that evening, we had a historical interpretive performance (my favorite of the trip) on the first woman to cross the country on the Oregon Trail.

Day four was “Wine Day” in Walla Walla, Washington, where we visited several very interesting local wineries and had lunch at the Foundry Artists Cooperative. The following day we visited The Dalles, Oregon and toured the region. My favorite excursion of the entire river cruise was a visit to the Maryhill Museum of Art, a world-class art museum set in the mansion home of tycoon Samuel Hill, overlooking the Columbia River Gorge.

Our final day before returning to Portland was spent in Astoria, Oregon, where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. We visited the Middle Village and Fort Clatsop – the western terminus of the Lewis and Clark expedition. For American history buffs, this is definitely a highlight of the trip.

Overall, I found this to be an ideal river cruise option in North America. I thought the quality was excellent at every touch point – including the historical interpretation, which I originally thought might be cheesy, but wound up really enjoying and benefitting from.

The bottom line is that the all-inclusive Un-Cruise Adventures Legacy of Discovery itinerary is a perfect way to spend a week exploring the Pacific Northwest. I even plan on taking my parents on this trip again next year!

Photos courtesy of Jeffrey Ward. Contact Jeff now!

Check out a photo tour of the SS Legacy here.

Read Jeff’s onboard review of the SS Legacy here.

Click here for more information on the SS Legacy and Un-Cruise Adventures.

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