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"Left side, back paddle! Right side, forward! Dig in hard!”
My whitewater rafting guide, Larry, shouted instructions to our group of five over the roar of Class III rapids as we attempted to “surf” the inflatable vessel, positioning it to face upstream in a “hole” behind a rock on Oregon’s Deschutes River.We landed the move like pros, but Larry — a jack of all trades in summer and winter sports and a guide with River Drifters, which offers rafting trips in Oregon and Washington — wasn’t quite done with us. Next, we paddled in unison to make the boat spin 360 degrees in the hole; we laughed riotously as the boat twirled like a lopsided merry-go-round and the churning river soaked us with spray.
It was a wild ride for our group of paddlers, but activities such as whitewater rafting are just par for the course during UnCruise Adventures’ Rivers of Adventure itinerary on the Columbia and Snake rivers through Washington and Oregon.
The eight-night sailing onboard UnCruise’s Legacy is truly well-rounded, encompassing everything from hiking, biking and jet boat rides to wine tasting at local vineyards, cultural performances and educational lectures. And because all excursions and activities are included — and tweaked day-to-day based on feedback from passengers — guests can decide each morning what they would like to do, and how active they would like to be.
For example, on our sixth day, while docked in The Dalles, Ore., our expedition leader, Megan, organized a longer, steeper hike on the Rowena Plateau for a handful of passengers who had expressed interest in a more difficult trekking option. While other guests soaked in views of the Columbia River Gorge with expedition guides Bobby and Jessie, Megan led us up the Tom McCall Point Trail — a 4.5-mile hike with an elevation gain of about 1,300 feet. The payoff (besides a great workout) was incredible vistas of the breathtaking gorge — the formation of which we had learned about the night before — as well as views of both Mount Hood and Mount Adams.
Indeed, one of UnCruise’s greatest strengths lies in its ability to give guests hands-on learning opportunities. On a morning hike in Washington’s Palouse Falls State Park, for instance, expedition guide Sarah explained how the ice age-era Missoula Floods carved the Channeled Scablands of the area as we walked to the top of the only remaining waterfall formed by the once-torrential waters. As we looked down into the canyon and its scarred landscape, I recalled the waterfall’s creation story, as told to us onboard the ship the previous day by Nez Perce tribal member J.R. Spencer: According to the native Palus tribe, Big Beaver tore out a huge canyon with his tail during an epic battle with four giant brothers. Later that day, during a kayaking excursion down the calm waters of the Palouse River, Sarah — an ornithology expert and an endless well of knowledge — pointed out the different birdlife of the area, enthusiastically regaling us with tidbits about each creature.
Beyond providing true destination immersion, what also defines the UnCruise experience is its incredible staff. I felt cared for by the ship’s employees in a way even the most ultra-high-end companies don’t always match. DeeDee, the goofy and affable bartender, was always eager to concoct a new drink for me during happy hour (ask for a “Jim Jam” cocktail, made with Averna bitters, lemon juice and apricot liqueur), while housekeeping supervisor Kelsey was unfailingly ready with almond milk every morning for my self-made latte. There were only a handful of passengers with food allergies (myself included), but chef James consistently had a vegan and gluten-free alternative ready for us for each course. There was even homemade vegan ice cream available — some of the best I’ve ever had — if the daily vegan dessert option didn’t appeal.
And when it comes to meals, UnCruise does a fantastic job, providing healthful, fresh options sourced locally when possible, including fruit, meat and produce from local farms. I was quite impressed that the kitchen staff perfectly delivered even minute details, such as how I would like my steak cooked — rare, a feat not often accomplished.
While amenities and accommodations onboard Legacy are more basic, and the UnCruise vibe is more relaxed and self-serve than most lines, plucky travelers who value independence will want to dig their oars in deep on this thoughtful, deeply moving experience in the Pacific Northwest.
The DetailsUnCruise Adventureswww.uncruise.com