Our Journey Comes To A Close

Adventures in Wine Country with American Queen Steamboat Company. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Adventures in Wine Country with American Queen Steamboat Company. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Sometimes, not all voyages go according to plan. That was the case this morning aboard American Queen Steamboat Company’s American Empress.

A letter slipped under our cabin doors – personally signed by the Captain – told guests that we’d suffered a mechanical problem during the evening that affected the ship’s propulsion system. As a result, we were docked not in Portland, Oregon, but 90 minutes away, in a small town called Longview, Washington.

Sure enough, we were tied up at a nondescript container port; a classically-styled paddlewheeler sandwiched in between two grubby looking cargo ships. A few guests joked with me. “You’ll really have something to write about now!” they chuckled. And it’s true – I would. But it wasn’t the accident. Instead, I want to write about how amazingly well the crew of the American Empress handled things.

The Crew of the American Empress Saves the Day

Re-routed from Portland, our coaches arrive in Longview, WA to take us on our originally-scheduled tours. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Re-routed from Portland, our coaches arrive in Longview, WA to take us on our originally-scheduled tours. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Truth be told, I honestly thought that, being the last day of our voyage, they’d just bus us to local area hotels and put us up for the night. But the crew of the American Empress (and the American Steamboat Company) had worked diligently through the night. They re-routed the coaches and woke the drivers up early in order to have them at the pier by 9:30 in the morning. They called the local guides and advised them there would be a change of plans. And they began making plans to get guests to Portland International Airport the next day, since it became clear we wouldn’t be sailing back to Vancouver, Washington.

I’ve seen some cruise lines really botch things up when everything doesn’t go according to plan; that wasn’t the case here.

Every step of the way, Captain Andrea Mickelson kept us appraised of what was going on, as did our shore excursion team. They spoke plainly and honestly about the mechanical issues affecting the vessel’s propulsion. They didn’t try to hide, or pretend it didn’t happen. Instead, they focused on actually ensuring that our cruise could go on as planned.

American Empress, docked at the very industrial port of Longview. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

American Empress, docked at the very industrial port of Longview. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

New daily activities were created on-the-fly for guests choosing to remain onboard. Tours were altered to accommodate our increased driving distance. The bar was opened for complimentary drinks – courtesy of American Queen Steamboat Company – for several hours this evening.

And an amazing thing happened: I didn’t see a single guest complain. Not one. Not even a hint of complaint. Guests took it in stride, joked with the crew, and had a fantastic time.

In the end, I got to do my wine tour of the Willamette Valley. It ended up being far too much driving for my liking (2.5 hours from Lonvgiew each direction), but I’m still glad I did it. However, the tour itself I feel was overshadowed by just how amazing the crew of the American Empress were.

Our tours today took us on a wine-tasting trip to the Willamette Valley. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Our tours today took us on a wine-tasting trip to the Willamette Valley. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Cheers! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Cheers! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Back on the bus...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Back on the bus…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...and to the second of our three wine tasting events. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…and to the second of our three wine tasting events. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Our wine-tasting events proved to be a great way to close out this voyage...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Our wine-tasting events proved to be a great way to close out this voyage…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...even with today's challenges. Racing back to the American Empress for one last night onboard. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…even with today’s challenges. Racing back to the American Empress for one last night onboard. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

That’s what I’ll remember on this voyage: the way the crew and the American Queen Steamboat Company rose to the challenge in the face of adversity.

I’ll be recapping this voyage in a future post, outlining all the aspects of it that future river cruisers should know. But for now, know this: I always think you should judge a cruise line not by its best day, but by its worst.

American Queen Steamboat Company impresses me more now than ever before. Today might have been problematic and unexpected, but few companies could have handled it this well.

Our Live Voyage Report aboard the American Queen Steamboat Company’s American Empress has sadly come to a close, but be sure to tune in soon for our Voyage Recap! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog.

American Empress - Cruising the Columbia River

DAYPORTARRIVEDEPART
November 20, 2016Vancouver, WAEmbark American Empress18:00
November 21The Dalles, OR05:00Overnight
November 22Stevenson, WA16:00Overnight
November 23Stevenson, WAOvernightOvernight
November 24Astoria, OR19:00Overnight
November 25Astoria, OROvernight21:00
November 26Portland, OR08:0020:00
November 27, 2016Vancouver, WA06:00Disembark
 

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