Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cruise West Resurrects Mississippi River Cruises

If you've always romanticized about a cruise down America’s heartland on the Mississippi River, renewed hope is on the horizon. Cruise West, a leader in small-ship explorations, recently announced two new itineraries sailing on the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, and Cumberland Rivers, beginning in March 2011.

The Spirit of Adventure, formerly known as Spirit of Glacier Bay, will fill the gap left with the demise of Magic America Line and her fleet of long-sailing “Queens,” including the popular Delta Queen paddlewheeler. For centuries, America’s Great River Road played a major role in commerce as a vital transit route for passengers and freight alike. Although Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn traversed the river the hard way—on a raft—you’ll hardly be roughing it on the Spirit of Adventure.

Known primarily for up-close-and-personal Alaska itineraries, Cruise West recently revitalized the overall guest experience on the fleet with several enhancements, including a more robust enrichment program and an updated wine list with food pairings complete with US Sommelier Association-certified onboard servers.

Though small in size, every stateroom features a wide picture window or porthole, bathroom, a writing desk and ample storage. The newly-added Explorer Class cabins feature eco-friendly amenities, including soft bamboo fiber linens and towels, and water-conserving shower hea ds. The ship’s decor is sleek with light wood accents and plenty of public space for presentations, viewings, and getting to know fellow passengers.

The focus of Cruise West itineraries, however, is always the destination itself. There is no casino or lavish entertainment, and dress is casual. Ships have been known to divert from an itinerary to accommodate a wildlife sighting. See something outside the window during dinner? Watch passengers and crew alike abandon their tables and head to the best viewpoint. The onboard Exploration Leaders bring years of experience as naturalists and educations and delight in sharing their knowledge with passengers. On these ships, you’ll wear your jeans and gain new insights about each port of call...without the throngs of people vying for attention. We’re talking a max of 102 passengers here. In general, it's really not a kid-friendly line, although there is a Kids' Package offering a 50% savings for ages 2-18. Cruise West caters mostly to well educated adults who simply love to learn while traveling. 

The price tag is not cheap, however. After all, this is an American product paying American wages and catering to American tastes. On the other hand, prices are pretty inclusive, covering many shore excursions, transfers, and gratuities.

In addition to Alaska and the new Mississippi River itineraries, Cruise West sails in the Galapagos, British Columbia, Europe, Patagonia, Panama Canal/Costa Rica, the Sea of Cortes, the St. Lawrence Seaway, Hudson River, the Eastern Seaboard, and the Columbia & Snake Rivers. Also newly added are Voyages of the Great Explorers around the world.

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