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A Wine River Cruise that's Close to Home
One of the top reasons many travellers take a European river cruise is for the wine. The banks of many of Europe’s rivers provide the perfect combination of drainage and sun exposure for the cultivation of vines that produce some very famous wines.

But one of the best wine river cruises in the world doesn’t require a long haul flight.

Lynn Elmhirst, Producer and Host of BestTrip TV, explains.


The Pacific Northwest’s increasingly-acclaimed wine regions have a river flowing through them. Oregon and Washington states meet at the Columbia River as it flows westward towards the Pacific Ocean.

Our week-long UnCruise Adventure on the Columbia River tapped into some epic themes and gave us experiences that rival any river cruise in Europe – or the world:

·     We sailed in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark’s historic expedition to the Pacific through the Northwest, on a vintage vessel that’s designed to evoke the American frontier era of exploration; 

·     Our cruise gave us front row seats to take in the spectacular scenery of the Columbia River Gorge and its awe-inspiring transition from temperate rainforest to desert-like landscapes and dramatic cliffs; and

·     And it brought us into towns and communities along the way that have staked a claim to fame as world-class wine and culinary destinations.

Although most UnCruise Adventures emphasize soft adventure experiences like kayaking and other water sports off the ship, and zodiak landings in remote locations for hiking and land exploration, our Rivers of Wine cruise highlighted the region’s exquisite wine and cuisine.

And for good reason.


River of Wine

On both sides of the Columbia river, in both Oregon and Washingtonstates, a critical mass of viticulture is gaining world-wide recognition. 

Oregon has now become one of America’s largest wine producing states, with hundreds of wineries growing dozens of varietals, but mainly in small-batch wineries producing artisan wines from Riesling to Viogniers, Pinot noir to Syrah, with sparkling, rose, and dessert wines that tempted our palates.


On the other side of the river, Washington state is also now one of the top wine producers in the country. While it's a relative newcomer to America’s wine scene, wine has an illustrious pedigree in the state, dating back to 1825 when the Hudson's Bay Company planted the area's first wine grapes at Fort Vancouver.
 
Today’s Washington state viticulture community is growing fast, drawing wine-makers from Europe and New World wine regions to the state's unique terroir and conditions for producing premium white and red wines. Washington's young and internationally-influenced wine culture exhibits some of the latest trends in wine-making that visiting oenophiles – like us! love. Hand-crafting, sustainability, organic and biodynamic wines make visits to this Pacific North West wine region a must for any wine-lover.


 
I can’t think of a more geographically diverse wine river! We visited wineries with the Cascade Mountains’ dramatic Mt. Hood as a backdrop, to other vineyards just a short sail along the river thriving in almost desert conditions.

 
It would be nearly impossible to replicate our wine exploration of the Pacific Northwest along the Columbia River without the expertise of our UnCruise experts and guides, whose knowledge and relationships in the region gave us access to passionate local winemaker entrepreneurs who are drawing on the unique terroir (wine-producing terrain) to cultivate the grapes and craft one-of-a-kind wines – none of which we could get at home.

 
In fact, some of our fellow guests were on the cruise specifically to tap into that expertise to add to their wine collections. That’s a clear benefit of a ‘drive-to’ cruise: they’d driven in some cases cross-country to leave their cars in Portland and embark the ship, ready to drive home with a new collection of vintages – and Pacific Northwest winery contacts - after our round-trip voyage.
 
Others, like us, were thrilled just to taste these uniquely Pacific Northwest wines in charming wineries, surrounded by vineyards, and hear the stories of the winemakers, as well as meet and sample the fruits of the labors of other culinary innovators in small communities along the river. I think all of us were inspired to find room for at least one or two special bottles in our luggage to fly home!
 
The wine tastings and culinary samplings during our trips off the ship were complemented by an outstanding onboard gastronomic experience.
 
Hyper-local ingredients, not just regional, but identified on daily menus right down to the farm and producer, were transformed into one memorable meal after another. A ship that small – with a tiny galley! – even included a pastry chef. And in addition to abundant meals, onboard tastings of local oysters, cheeses and other delicacies had us pacing ourselves, knowing more treats we’d have to try would be coming up next.
 
The onboard sommelier worked lock-step with the chefs to pair an outstanding range of local wines, many from wineries we didn’t get a chance to visit, with each dish at dinner.

 
But maybe our favorite moment was on board when, local wine in hand, we immersed ourselves in the top deck’s hot tub during a late afternoon sailing to watch some of the most dramatic Columbia River Gorge scenery float by as we toasted our cruise along America’s River of Wine.
 

Start Your Wine River Cruise Trip!

 
 
All images copyright BestTrip TV/ Lynn Elmhirst.

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New USPS Stamp Collection Salutes Mississippi River Cruising
They don’t call it the “Mighty Mississippi” for nothing. From Lake Itasca’s trickling overspill in Minnesota, the Mississippi travels the length of the continental U.S., growing as it flows for 2,300 miles until it empties into the Gulf of Mexico with waters added from tributaries in 31 U.S. states.

The Mississippi is at the core of American heritage, and is often also referred to as “America’s backbone.” It’s also the country’s heart and soul, and one of the most epic river routes in the world. No wonder the popularity of Mississippi river cruises continues to grow.
 
In the spring of 2022, the United States Postal Service recognized the continuing allure of America’s greatest waterway and “quintessential highway” in a new stamp collection called the Mighty Mississippi. Each of the 10 photographic stamps in the portfolio represents a state along the course of the river.
 
And one of them – the Iowa stamp - features American Queen Voyages' American Queen steamboat near the city of Bettendorf. The honor also marks American Queen Voyages' 10th anniversary of sailing the Mississippi River.
At the ceremony dedicating the new stamp collection, the master of ceremonies was the cruise director of American Queen voyages, and John Waggoner, founder and chairman of American Queen Voyages joined USPS chief postal inspector, local mayors from along the river, historians and pastors, were also on hand to inaugurate the collection and note its significance.

“Travelers have been captivated by the Mississippi River — romanticizing the steamboats transporting them from Minnesota to Louisiana — throughout history,” said Waggoner. “Our flagship American Queen is an iconic symbol of those mighty paddle-wheelers, and we are honored to have her grace the collection.” 
 
The American Queen may be the perfect existing river cruise ship to symbolize Mississippi river cruising. At 400 feet long and nearly 90 feet wide, it’s the largest paddlewheel steamboat ever built. Her ornate, historic design, complete with bright red paddlewheel, fluted stacks and curlicue woodwork harkens back to the “romanticized” early days of Mississippi riverboat travel. That’s no accident.
 
“What we try to do as philosophy is keep things like it was in the 1900s. This is just how it was when Mark Twain was onboard,” Waggoner has said.
 
“We want you to experience the thump-thump-thump-thump-thump of the paddlewheel. We want you to stand on the stern. We want you to get muddy Mississippi water spraying your face, and we want you to sit in a rocking chair, and watch the river go by and relax.'
 
Other stamps in the collection highlight top destinations – and incredible diversity of travel experiences – along the length of the Mississippi.
River cruises tend to break the immense river into sections. Guests can choose northern, middle or southern itineraries – or even full length cruises of the Mighty Mississippi. From the unmistakeable, mid-century ‘gateway to the West’ skyline of St. Louis in the north, through the rich lands, horse, music and bourbon cultures in Kentucky and Tennessee, to the bayous of the South and the magic of the bright lights in birthplace of jazz and Creole culture, New Orleans, a river cruise on the Mississippi can bring travelers closer to the heart of America than they may have ever imagined.