American Cruising Rivers of Wine

In the world of cruising, wine is much more than a four-letter word. It is powerful.

Celebrity has a room dedicated to wine, 24 hours a day, called Cellarmasters. Norwegian has a wine cruise whenships are being re-positioned on the way to or from Alaska. Oceania has a sommelier for every 50 or so passengers on the Marina and Riviera.

Theme cruises are often built around the grapes. One of them is simply called the Wine Theme Cruise — in October — on two rivers in Washington state on the America Cruise Lines ship Queen of the West. It operates between Lewiston, Idaho and Astoria, Oregon but 95% of the travel is in Washington. You can board at either end and journey up or down the Columbia and Snake Rivers for eight days.

There are wine tastings on board and there's plenty to interest the history bugs, especially if it involves the Lewis and Clark expedition almost 207 years ago. The explorers followed the rivers to the Pacific Ocean, at the mouth of the Columbia, on the last leg of their journey. But even for historians, it's not all about the Lewis and Clark Trail.

There are forts and museums and gardens and meeting some of the indigenous peoples who were in this part of the country long before Lewis and Clark. There are city tours of Portland and Astoria, there's Mount St. Helen's and the Columbia River Gorge and the cowboys of Pendleton. And there is wine…with 160 wineries within 50 miles of the ship when it stops in Walla Walla country.
Walla Walla?

Of all the years we have been buying wine from Washington state, Walla Walla trumped our past when we visited the area last year. As Queen of the West goes, it's a little off the beaten path, but close enough that passengers will undoubtedly be sampling wines from what you could call the "France of the U.S." — perfect soil and temperatures for producing wines to rival those of Burgundy and Bordeaux.

Curiously, the eight-day trip offers 12 shore excurions. Guess how many are wine-related? One.

You think "wine" is a powerful draw?

Norwegian Dawn
7 nights
November 18, 2012
Tampa (return): Roatan, Belize, Costa Maya, Cozumel
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85

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