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If you’ve seen the movie Wild or read Sheryl Strayed’s book, you know about the Bridge of the Gods. It’s a steel truss cantilever bridge that connects Washington and Oregon via the Columbia River, between Cascade Locks, Oregon. On a recent small ship cruise, we sailed under that very bridge. It was our last night aboard UnCruise Rivers of Adventure cruise. Our 8-night adventure cruise on the Columbia and Snake Rivers offered gourmet dining, wine tasting and countless outdoor activities. While we may not have hiked the Pacific Crest Trail our Rivers of Adventure cruise gave us a deeper dive into Pacific Northwest waters and a glimpse into the history of explorers Lewis and Clark.

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UnCruise S.S. Legacy with kayaks on Washington’s Snake River. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

UnCruise Rivers of Adventure

Our river journey began in Clarkston, Washington after a quick bus ride from Spokane International Airport. We whizzed by fields of Washington wheat from the Palouse Valley before we boarded the 86 passenger S.S. Legacy, a replica 1898 coastal steamer. Built in 1983, she boasts an elegant Victorian decor, but her exterior reminds me of a rubber ducky on steroids. With 43 cabins, 2 on-deck hot tubs, 2 massage rooms, an open-air exercise room, indoor card room, dining room, bar and portable activity launch platform, she’s ready for any mission impossible assignment.

Should you choose to accept this assignment, you’ll be able to paddle board, kayak or step directly onto a skiff right from the ship. If you’re wondering how you’ll be able to get 10,000 steps in daily while on a small ship cruise, have no fear. Expedition leaders will have you hiking up scenic inclines or bike riding through Oregon and Washington wine country. However, if you’d rather sit back and watch the scenery pass by, that’s an option, too. There’s plenty of time to take a leisurely stroll on this rivers of adventure cruise or visit a museum. You can even stop and smell the roses at the Portland Rose Garden, but I’m getting ahead of myself!

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Palouse Falls State Park in Eastern Washington. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

What to expect on Rivers of Adventure cruise

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“This is our fourth UnCruise in five years,” said Peter Youngblood of Portsmouth, Virginia. “Although there are many options for our travel time and dollars, we come back to UnCruise because they most closely match our desire to actually do something, be it a nature hike, snorkeling, kayaking, bike riding or experiencing a native culture. We also enjoy the small ship cruise experience where we actually get to know the other travelers, as well as the crew. Speaking of the crew, UnCruise seems to have a knack for finding the most educated, articulate and helpful crew members in the market. They make us feel welcome and special. We’ll do this cruise again!”

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Take a jet boat up Hells Canyon, North America’s deepest river gorge. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

Our first morning on the river had us roaring up Hells Canyon and the Snake River with River Quest Excursions. Prior to our departure JR Spencer, a Nez Perce tribe member, shared song and stories with us about his people and the early Pioneers in this part of the country. The experiences of Lewis & Clark came to life both in his presentation and from our jet boat guide. We watched bighorn sheep traverse steep basalt cliffs as easy as kids playing hopscotch on the playground. After a stop for lunch in a nature conservancy some of us swam in the river and splashed in a waterfall.

Another morning offered a short drive to Palouse Falls State Park where we could hike above the waterfall or walk the Great Washington State Birding Trail. That afternoon we kayaked the Palouse River after a short skiff ride to the Sea Dragon. This one-of-a-kind boat was designed to work seamlessly as a kayak launch.

I fell in love with UnCruise on their Glacier Bay National Park small ship cruise during a kayak excursion. The guides make first-time kayakers very comfortable, while experienced paddlers are able to go at their own pace. It’s a unique way to explore a destination without getting your feet wet.

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Salted caramel cream brulee topped with fresh fruit. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

Pacific Northwest Cuisine

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Food and wine are major components of small ship cruises on UnCruise Rivers of Adventure. Each morning after breakfast the chef comes out to discuss the evening meal and answer questions about the regional cuisine. The food has a Pacific Northwest focus and is very fresh and beautifully prepared. I was very impressed with the fresh breads and desserts produced by Amanda Randall, a highly skilled pastry chef who excels in gluten free offerings.

“One of the incredible gifts I experienced aboard the S.S. Legacy was the generous, thoughtful gluten free and lactose free meals…and desserts!” remarked Cheryl Bourne Murray of Solana Beach, California. “They were very delicious, creative and healthy, too. The delight and nurturing will be with me a long time into the future.”

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Private vineyard tour & wine tasting Terra Blanca Winery.

Washington and Oregon wine country

We had several opportunities for wine tasting on this Pacific Northwest cruise. While I’ve explored SLO wine country like a local,  Washington state’s Red Mountain American Viticultural Area was an undiscovered AVA for me. It was harvest time on our visit to Terra Blanca Winery & Estate Vineyard. Typical of UnCruise small ship cruises, we enjoyed a private tour and tasting with Terra Blanca Winery owner Keith Pilgrim.

When we reached the Oregon border we also enjoyed a day of wine tasting. Some of us opted to explore Oregon’s Mount Hood Territory on bikes. Mount N Barrel took us on an easy bike ride through orchards and vineyards and we enjoyed a picnic lunch at a boutique winery with stunning views of Mount Hood.

Another day brought us to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area where we cycled the Twin Tunnels trail. To say that this small ship cruise Rivers of Adventure offered an Instagram moment at ever river bend would be an understatement!

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Hike Rowena Plateau with Columbia Gorge views. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

Hiking the Pacific Northwest

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For the hikers in the group, UnCruise offered several levels of difficulty; from a simple walk to a strenuous 3.6 mile hike. Even the difficult hikes were paced nicely and the expedition leaders always carried snacks and sunblock. Not only were we rewarded with gorgeous views, we didn’t feel too guilty eating the fresh baked cookies that awaited us on the ship.

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Whitewater rafting Lower Deschutes River with UnCruise Rivers of Adventure. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

UnCruise Rivers of Adventure

There’s a reason UnCruise called this small ship cruise the Rivers of Adventure. We rafted the Lower Deschutes River one morning and toured Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River the next. From the mountains to the sea, we learned how a fish became the foundations of a culture from one of our expedition guides during a nightly talk.

Like all incredible adventures, our 8 night small ship cruise would come to an end. But not before we disembarked in Portland, Oregon to enjoy Hotel Rose in downtown Portland. We said our goodbyes to the crew and continued on for one more night with our new friends met at UnCruise Rivers of Adventure. We shared contact information and phone numbers and began to plan our next small ship cruise with this one-of-a-kind adventure company.


If You Go UnCruise Rivers of Adventure (888) 862-8881

3826 18th Ave W
Seattle, Washington 98119

UnCruise Rivers of Adventure review, YouTube videos and all photography by travel writer Nancy D. Brown. As is typical in the industry, Nancy received a complimentary media stay, however, all opinions are my own.