American Empress

Take Me to the River – in the Pacific Northwest

Competition is heating up on the rivers of the Pacific Northwest, to places once visited by Lewis and Clark. The American Queen Steamboat Company just christened its American Empress in Portland, for new service on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

At the same time Un-Cruise Adventures announced it would increase its presence on the rivers in 2015.

Introducing American Empress

American Queen Steamboat Company’s 223-passenger, U.S.-built American Empress becomes the largest riverboat west of the Mississippi. It’s the second ship in the line’s fleet – which also includes the Memphis-based American Queen, which cruises on the Mississippi and its tributaries.

Doing godmother duties for American Empress was Claudette Waggoner, wife of chairman and CEO John Waggoner, who broke a bottle of local sparkling wine on the hull.

Also attending the ceremony and speaking at the event was former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, a champion of U.S. river cruising expansion.

“This is a celebration of public-private partnership and the American dream being lived today right here in Portland,” LaHood said.

Built in 2003 and purchased by American Queen Steamboat Company from the U.S. Maritime Administration, the ship had previously been operated by Majestic America Line as Empress of the North.

The christening ceremony also included a blessing from Sam Robinson of the Chinook Nation and a wine presentation by Willamette Valley Vineyards, to celebrate the line’s partnership with more than 40 local wineries.

American Empress’ maiden voyage is a 9-day cruise including complimentary excursions on the Walla Walla Wine Trail or to the volcanic crater of Mount St. Helens.

Meanwhile, Un-Cruise announced that in 2015 its 88-passenger S.S. Legacy would move from a spring/fall schedule to do a whole summer of cruises on the Columbia, Snake, and Willamette rivers. This year, the ship moved to Alaska in summer.

The 88-passenger, living-history-focused ship, a replica coastal steamer, will do 32 weekly departures from Portland, April through November 2015.

Highlights include a boat tour of Hells CanyonMultnomah Falls, and Bonneville Dam. There’s also a private tasting at a Washington winery and transit of eight locks.

Also cruising on the Columbia and Snake are American Cruise Lines and Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic.