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American Empress 9/22/2019 Sailing

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Hot, humid and stormy here in VA. 

I am reading Steven E. Ambrose's "Undaunted Courage", about the opening of the American West.  Interesting section about the Columbia and Snake rivers.  This is giving me a framework in choosing tours and activities.  Good read!

 

Bop

 

72 days!

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1 hour ago, Bop said:

Hot, humid and stormy here in VA. 

I am reading Steven E. Ambrose's "Undaunted Courage", about the opening of the American West.  Interesting section about the Columbia and Snake rivers.  This is giving me a framework in choosing tours and activities.  Good read!

 

Bop

 

72 days!

 It’s getting warmer even up here at 6500 ft elevation (mountains of Arizona) where I’m at for the summer.  Projected to be 90 degrees today.  Of course that is still better than 113 for Phoenix where I live the rest of the year.  !!

 

Stay Dry.  !

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It just hit 92 degrees F here. Severe thunderstorms forecast. Friends flying in any minute. At least rain will cool things off.

 

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42 minutes ago, Bop said:

It just hit 92 degrees F here. Severe thunderstorms forecast. Friends flying in any minute. At least rain will cool things off.

 

 

You probably have a lot more humidity than we do.  Ours as the say here in Arizona  is ‘A Dry Heat’.   I hate humidity, thus our attempt at doing cruises to places without much humidity or at a time of the year when it is not too bad.  The exception to that is our 1st Panama Canal Cruise - hot, hot, and humid our first trip - but luckily the 2nd Canal Trip we took was very nice and a lot cooler/drier. 

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Buck,

 

Yep, VA and humidity go hand in hand.  It is 92 F again today.  Had some storms yesterday but nothing severe and it cooled off briefly.  Late Sept should be on the cool side at night on our trip. 

 

Our first and only trip through the Panama Canal was hot as Hades.  I think i spent most of the trip in and out of the pool.

 

Just paid for my flights with Cap One Venture miles.  Just ate a BLT with our first home-grown tomato. 

 

I'm really looking forward to this trip.  This has been the longest period without a big trip in the last 20 years.  Our friends and TA came and went.  She is setting up a Civil War itinerary and maybe a Christmas market cruise.  "Can't take it with you," right!

 

More Later,

Bop 

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On 7/13/2019 at 11:58 AM, Bop said:

Buck,

 

Yep, VA and humidity go hand in hand.  It is 92 F again today.  Had some storms yesterday but nothing severe and it cooled off briefly.  Late Sept should be on the cool side at night on our trip. 

 

Our first and only trip through the Panama Canal was hot as Hades.  I think i spent most of the trip in and out of the pool.

 

Just paid for my flights with Cap One Venture miles.  Just ate a BLT with our first home-grown tomato. 

 

I'm really looking forward to this trip.  This has been the longest period without a big trip in the last 20 years.  Our friends and TA came and went.  She is setting up a Civil War itinerary and maybe a Christmas market cruise.  "Can't take it with you," right!

 

More Later,

Bop 

 

I envy your Home Grown Tomatoes. Our winter was so wet, cold and long which is unusual, that Spring plantings are running about a month behind normal.  A lot of our produce (tomatoes included) come from Mexico anyway so while we have an abundant amount they are not as good as home grown.  

 

We booked our flights into Spokane and from Portland about 2 months ago.... using flight miles.  We will hopefully be using flight miles for our Feb/Mar flights in and out of New Orleans for our Western Caribbean cruise.  After New Orleans we are going to have to start using $$ as our points will be pretty well gone. 

 

Just chatted with an old work buddy yesterday who took this exact same cruise about a year ago and about the same time period.  He and his new wife absolutely loved it. 

 

They mentioned that they did a lot of walking in the various ports and did not opt for any of the ‘premium’ tours.  Another thing they mentioned was that they ate Breakfast and Lunch almost everyday in the upstairs restaurant and not in the Dining room.  They only ate dinner in the Dining room.  So another encouraging vote of approval. We are really ready to do this river cruise.  

 

Take care, 

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 Buck,

59 days for us!  Leaving on 9/20/19!

 

It's 99 degrees F here and climbing.  Hotter than Phoenix at 98!

 

Paddle wheeling it along the Columbia sounds very appealing right now.

 

BTW, I wonder if we are the only ones on this thread right now?  Anyone else who's going?

 

Well, it will be here before we know it.

 

Take care and keep cool.

 

Bop

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Bop said:

 Buck,

59 days for us!  Leaving on 9/20/19!

 

It's 99 degrees F here and climbing.  Hotter than Phoenix at 98!

 

Paddle wheeling it along the Columbia sounds very appealing right now.

 

BTW, I wonder if we are the only ones on this thread right now?  Anyone else who's going?

 

Well, it will be here before we know it.

 

Take care and keep cool.

 

Bop

 

Sounds like lots of places all over the globe are warmer than normal.  I have a friend who lives outside Regensberg Germany who has been complaining about the equivalent of near 100 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures.  

 

Appears as if we are the only ones here - or at least posting to the thread.  That is the unfortunate thing about river cruises - fewer passengers thus less interaction on Cruise Critic.  I never did check to see if anyone started or posted on other social sites which has been the case a lot of times now.  Since the ‘upgrade’ (or in my opinion the downgrade) of how Cruise Critic works a few months ago our local Arizona Cruisers site that has existed for many years here used to have 100 plus postings a week and now has maybe 5-10.  Most have gone to much easier to manipulate social media online to chat. 

 

Oh well,  I think that while I am almost always willing to carry on a cruise (or any kind of) conversation here on Cruise Critic,  I have gotten enough information to decide what things we might like to do during this cruise.  Still like to chat and will still be here until cruise time !

 

Take care - also stay cool !!

Edited by Buck1949
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Had a thunderstorm with gulleywasher. It has cooled off to 78 degrees.

My granddaughter just returned from 2 weeks in Salamanca Spain. Temps reached 115 degrees F. 

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1 hour ago, Bop said:

Had a thunderstorm with gulleywasher. It has cooled off to 78 degrees.

My granddaughter just returned from 2 weeks in Salamanca Spain. Temps reached 115 degrees F. 

 

Im in the mountains of Arizona right now at 6500 ft and it is 90 degrees at almost 5pm. Normally this time of year we would be 80-ish.   

 

Glad you are cooler right now.  Not surprised with the Spain temps - as all of Europe seems affected too! 

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On 7/14/2019 at 10:34 PM, Buck1949 said:

 

I envy your Home Grown Tomatoes. Our winter was so wet, cold and long which is unusual, that Spring plantings are running about a month behind normal.  A lot of our produce (tomatoes included) come from Mexico anyway so while we have an abundant amount they are not as good as home grown.  

 

We booked our flights into Spokane and from Portland about 2 months ago.... using flight miles.  We will hopefully be using flight miles for our Feb/Mar flights in and out of New Orleans for our Western Caribbean cruise.  After New Orleans we are going to have to start using $$ as our points will be pretty well gone. 

 

Just chatted with an old work buddy yesterday who took this exact same cruise about a year ago and about the same time period.  He and his new wife absolutely loved it. 

 

They mentioned that they did a lot of walking in the various ports and did not opt for any of the ‘premium’ tours.  Another thing they mentioned was that they ate Breakfast and Lunch almost everyday in the upstairs restaurant and not in the Dining room.  They only ate dinner in the Dining room.  So another encouraging vote of approval. We are really ready to do this river cruise.  

 

Take care, 

 

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56 Days before liftoff!  Suffering from mild cruise deprivation.  Is this a great country, or what?

 

Bop

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22 hours ago, Bop said:

56 Days before liftoff!  Suffering from mild cruise deprivation.  Is this a great country, or what?

 

Bop

 

I kind of feel the same way.....

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Sorry to be a bit late coming on the thread, but we have been very busy post-cruise with some house issues due to a very close lightening strike between us and our neighbors while we were on the Empress in  June.  Small but expensive issues even with surge protector, lightening rods, unplugging of many electrical items, etc.  But now we are back on track! 

 

We loved our Empress Spokane-Portland trip.  We truly enjoyed the Davenport Hotel and were very glad we came in a day early to experience it and Spokane.  Downtown Spokane is clean, safe, walkable, and full of lovely places to sample both NW craft beers and Washington wines.  There is a city park area down at the river and 2 gorgeous waterfall areas as well. The hotel is beautifully renovated and my architect husband was enthralled.   Our room was very large, had a huge bathroom area, and 2 very comfy reading chairs.  Food in the hotel is very good and lots of nearby eateries.  Take the hotel van from the airport...  $25 per room billed to you and well worth it. 

 

We checked in the afternoon before departure on the second floor.  Very easy and fast and got breakfast buffet arrangements and bus assignments for the next day's trek down to the ship/river in Clarkston 2 hours away.  All very organized and fast. 

Nice morning buffet on ship day, a bit of free time (we did not have to leave our room till noon, but large luggage left at 8am), and a gorgeous rural drive thru some large farms and mountains down to the Empress on our AQ buses. 

 

We were lucky on weather for the vast majority of the trip.  The ship is definitely older in style and decor, but service was terrific, food was plentiful and very good to excellent, and our room steward outstanding!  Rooms are very small, our balcony on level 3 a delight, and lots of outdoor areas to view and photograph the scenery.  Yes, walls are very thin, and you can hear next-door conversations easily and vacuum toilets!  But they are well-equipped (even a small single serve coffee maker) and very clean.

 

We too ate most of our meals upstairs (where soft serve is available 24/7!), as breakfast in the dining room was very slow, and we ate lots of lunches off ship, but we also enjoyed 2 nights upstairs when it is converted from casual outdoor/glass-enclosed to white tablecloth and a fancier menu.  You sign up for those two times upon arrival on the ship, if you wish.  We really enjoyed the piano lounge in the evenings, took in some area talks, and met many interesting people.

 

We did lots of our own touring using the HOHO buses in some towns (number and timing of buses varies with each port) and each night you can sign up for the first ones of next day after 5pm and get an excellent map with times and stops.  We did three premium tours, such as the Washington Wines/Distillery and the WAAAM one in The Dalles and found them worth the money. Lots of info from the local on-board historians on every HOHO and Premium trip. 

 

All in all, we really had a great time, met/saw 230 interesting and delightful people to spend time with, experienced the cultures, history and beauty of the NW United States in a different atmosphere from our European river trips and many ocean cruises in various parts of the world.  More casual, personal in a different way, and "easy".  The crew is very experienced with mobility issues, for example, and everyone had the opportunity to do as they wished in each spot. 

 

We would do another AQ trip and are also looking at their new Victory ships, tho they are very expensive!

 

Hope some of this helps you!  Enjoy

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Thanks DiamondDiva, for the great information.  Sure glad you liked the cruise.  We are on Deck 3 also and hope to make good use of the veranda.  

 

Happy to hear that the excursions were enjoyable.  I have looked around the Internet to find specific information about the sights that the HoHo buses took people to but did not have any luck. 

 

Thanks once again ! 

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Hey DD,

Thanks for the info and tips. I was beginning to think no one was using the thread.

 Buck and I have been holding down the fort for some time.  I was happy to read that you enjoyed the paddlewheeler. How does it compare to the European river boat cruises? We have taken several on the Danube, Rhine, etc. We sailed on Amawaterways and service, food, ports were superb. How did AQSC compare?

Thanks for your review and tips.

Happy cruising.

Bop

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Have a bit of time to answer your questions.  If I do not finish today, will try later today or tomorrow, as I have a meeting later.

 

HOHO trips:  We made use of these most days for at least a while.  The 4 buses traveled with us from Spokane till the end, with usually the same drivers and always a new historian on each bus each day, a trained local from the port city area.  Drivers were excellent; historians equally so, and gave information throughout the bus travels.  Some days the buses ran very frequently, sometimes all four of them, in a range of 15 to 45 or so minutes apart, depending on how many were available.  This is because each town's attractions are a different mileage apart, sometimes clustered and sometimes not. 

 

The second reason is because the Premium tours use the same buses, so they did not have all 4 of them all day.  You can get info on the following day after 5pm each day, with a map and a chance to get a ticket for the first 3 HOHO bus runs or so each morning for the earliest departures.  After those first ones, no ticket needed to start at the ship nor during the day. 

The attractions they visit are mostly in small towns and the museums are smaller and more compact than you find in a city.  Some were excellent and needed a longer visit or were of great interest to some people and not others.  Some chose to not use then at all; some only took these buses and no premium tours.  In Astoria, which we had visited before, we used the HOHO to just go in and out of the city, as we were at the distant pier there.  We were there on a Sunday and there is a terrific City Market in Downtown and most stores are open for tourists in that area.

 

When researching what we would do, I made use of Trip Advisor and the places' websites to see if a particular place was of interest to us.  In a few cases, tho we were based in a port, the attraction was in a near-by town, not the port, and it was harder to find information.  This is true of the Nez Perce Historical Museum, for example, which is in Lewiston, ID , not Clarkston, WA. We also had some Premium trips scheduled and had to work around that timing as well, as we needed to be at the ship for those paid-for tours for sure! 

 

Premium tours that we used were Wine and Spirits of Red Mountain (2 wineries and a distillery), Vintage America Museum (WAAAM) out of The Dalles (5 huge hangers of restored airplanes, cars, and other assorted items that all function!) , and the Multnomah Falls and Vista House.  We completely enjoyed all three and found them worth the cost.  But these were our interests and YMMV. We heard great reviews of others, such as the jet boat.  

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I just saw this posting...I did the same cruise last Sept. and agree with Diamond Diva about everything. When you get to Astoria, the boat docks next to a Maritime museum. There is an admission, but it’s worth every penny. I went because my husband wanted to, but I enjoyed it also, we spent hours there. 

     I always take a small white noise generator when we travel, and we had no problem with noise from other rooms. You can also download an app for that (of course😉)

     Someone asked how this compares to Europe river cruises. We have done 2 Viking river cruises in France and we were worried we would be disappointed with this cruise, but it was just as good, even my foodie husband agreed. I liked the HOHO concept of touring better in that you could make your own schedule. Some of the small towns were not as spectacular as the European towns.... no ancient cathedrals and castles, but the rivers and towns weren’t over run with other boats and lines of tourists , so there’s the trade off. 

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Posted (edited)
45 minutes ago, LEAFEATER said:

I just saw this posting...I did the same cruise last Sept. and agree with Diamond Diva about everything. When you get to Astoria, the boat docks next to a Maritime museum. There is an admission, but it’s worth every penny. I went because my husband wanted to, but I enjoyed it also, we spent hours there. 

     I always take a small white noise generator when we travel, and we had no problem with noise from other rooms. You can also download an app for that (of course😉)

     Someone asked how this compares to Europe river cruises. We have done 2 Viking river cruises in France and we were worried we would be disappointed with this cruise, but it was just as good, even my foodie husband agreed. I liked the HOHO concept of touring better in that you could make your own schedule. Some of the small towns were not as spectacular as the European towns.... no ancient cathedrals and castles, but the rivers and towns weren’t over run with other boats and lines of tourists , so there’s the trade off. 

 

Thanks LEAFEATER,

Appreciate your insight also. This may have been asked before - too lazy to go check 😜- but since we are doing our cruise in September,  how did you find the weather overall.  I know that climates change, but assuming a fairly constant weather pattern did you have issues with cold or hot days/nights?  My wife is very susceptible to cold so am trying to figure what best to pack for her besides the standard rain coat/poncho and maybe a light sweater etc. 

 

Also, how formal are the dinners?  

 

Thanks once again. 

Edited by Buck1949

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Part 2  for today:

Before I forget, we stayed at the Dossier Hotel in Portland one night post cruise, as our travel friends were doing the Mt Hood post trip from the ship and spending the night there with AQS.  Very nice hotel right in the heart of downtown; we spent the day visiting a brewery, eating at Adina Peruvian restaurant and finding books at Powell's massive Bookstore.  A great walking city, with no concerns and demos at that time.  Mostly younger people everywhere and busy everywhere.  Lovely airport, but expensive to get to..

 

Comparing to other cruises:

Very laid back and casual compared to most ocean and river cruises (we are at 30+).  Room about the size of our two Uniworld river trips in Europe, but a nice balcony, not the :French balcony/ really a large door only of Uniworld and others.  Staff very American, open, and friendly.  Most cruisers were well-traveled and older, 55+, but not too many with difficulties.  Service is certainly very good, but not as "formal" as on some ocean lines.  "Down to earth" works.  Food is basic choices: chicken, fish, beef, pasta, with some exceptional dishes to our taste.  Huckleberry ice cream was outstanding! 

 

There is a list of the HOHO stops and also the Premium tours on the website.  One, the Pasco market, was closed the day we were in Richland.

 

 

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Our weather last September was spectacular. We’re early risers, having coffee on the outside patio by 6:30, and we would have to wear long sleeve shirts, my husband a lite jacket or sweatshirt. But after breakfast it always warmed up. In the evenings we were always on the top outside deck again, to watch as we sailed, going thru locks or to watch the stars, you can actually see the Milky Way, we were in jackets or sweaters. We had no rain the entire trip, Just beautiful blue skies.

       My husband took a pair of chinos and a couple lite sweaters for dinners, and I wore silky black pants with different blouses . No ties, jackets, a few  women wore dresses, but that’s not me. There were a few men who wore tee shirts with logos😾 and one who always wore a backward ball cap😼😒217E5AE7-0AC1-4766-A518-1B733905ED78.thumb.jpeg.1e6446eaee92d50d613f00823e1b652d.jpeguuupE6735B49-FE45-4A73-B28C-6AFE45A284AF.thumb.jpeg.697a9cd0effb12034e197de184a661f2.jpeg

637F6182-1F0B-4A03-BB5E-900D3788EBCC.jpeg

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Hi DD and Leafeater,

I apologize beforehand on my reply.  Having a hard time responding to the site for some reason.  Anyhow, thanks for all the pertinent information on the cruise.  Some of the nicest people anywhere are CCers!

 

I was relieved to hear that ANTIFA was not causing havoc in Portland.  Our flight leaves around 12:30 PM so we could not take advantage of the tour and transfer option.  Don't think we'll have time to do anything much in Portland.  Also happy to hear that the paddle wheeler compares favorably to the European riverboat cruises.  We really enjoyed our experiences on Amawaterways.  Haven't been on an ocean cruise in several years now.  Big crowds in port and tiresome flights take a lot of fun out of the big boats.  Lost count of the number but we've done a bunch.  Always meet memorable people.  We still hear from our Aborigine  guide from our Australia NZ cruise!  

 

Leafeater, thanks for the pictures.  Makes me want to leave now.

 

Will give these posts to my much better half for review.  The information will ease her concerns and, as usual, let her know what to wear.

 

BTW, is it necessary to contact the Davenport to schedule a van or is one on standby at the airport?

 

Thanks to all and happy cruising.  Diamond Diva, hope you have resolved the electrical problems by now and are over any post-cruise let down symptoms.

Bop aka Jim from VA  NCAA National champs!

 

 

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Call Davenport and reserve...well worth it..no cabs in Spokane, they say.  And we never saw one anywhere.  Very convenient to do their large and comfy van.

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Yes, I called The Davenport the week before we left and made a reservation for the shuttle. They’ll want to know when you will arrive. They’ll probably be other travelers as well.

   The Davenport is one of 3 or 4 hotels owned by the same company, so we actually ended up getting on the wrong shuttle, 😂 . The driver was very accommodating and we got a tour of the other sister hotels, all very beautiful.

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