Travel Blog

Around each bend of the river, I imagined Lewis & Clark paddling along in their rugged canoe taking in the beauty of the area. Surrounded by the high peaks dotted with pine trees or the grassy plains, there is plenty to see. Each area is a photographer’s dream.

My husband came along with me. Our cruise started with an overnight stay in Portland. From the balcony of our hotel room, we could see our ship docked ready to take us down the river for our adventure. The ship we cruised on was the American Song. This was her inaugural run since she was recently relocated from the Mississippi River. It was quite a feat to get her here. She had to hug the shoreline since she is not an ocean going vessel. Only the captain, one crew member, and cook were on board. She went through the Panama Canal and up the coast of the western United States. Before the American Song was able to enter the Columbia River, it had to wait a few days for suitable conditions. Even then, a window was still broken on the lowest level in the dining area from the force.

The American Song holds 184 guests at capacity. It is contemporary in style with no paddlewheel. The ship has a four-story atrium and the largest staterooms in the industry, each with a private balcony. Our room was located on Deck 4 (Starboard), which is the top deck for rooms, and was clean, spacious, and the décor was light. There were several lounges, for relaxing, on different levels of the ship. A large lounge (Aft) located next to our room was really inviting in its décor. Skylights brought the warmth of the sun into the room, which made it a nice gathering place. There was also the main lounge (Deck 4 – Forward) where our guest lecturer would speak and where a variety of entertainment would be provided in the evening. If you didn’t want to participate, you could watch from the television in your room. There was no pool or spa and the exercise room was very small. There was a small laundry room with a washer and dryer.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were served in the dining room area. There was an option to eat on Deck 4 (Aft) at the snack area where pizza, nachos, and hot dogs were served. Fresh products from the farms of the Pacific Northwest such as fruits and vegetables as well as beef, dairy, nuts, and the famous Tillamook cheese from Oregon, were served. Our food was delicious and eye-pleasing on the platter.

I had not realized until I did this cruise that where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean is one of the most dangerous waters in the world because of the force of the river meeting the ocean. There are also sand bars in this area. Freighters come from all around the world to load their cargo of wheat and lumber. A certified pilot has to guide the freighter in through the river.

After all the guests were on board, we left the City of Portland and cruised to the City of Astoria. This was the furthest city we could get to before the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean.

At each docking, shore excursions were complimentary, with the opportunity to upgrade to another shore excursion with a minimal cost per person.

Excursions we chose:

Astoria, OregonFort Clatsop and the Astoria Shuttle Experience where we got off and went to the Maritime Museum, downtown area, and Astoria Column.

Kalama, WashingtonMount St. Helens Experience. We saw the mountain earlier on the boat and by the time we got to the park, it was covered in clouds.

Stevenson, WashingtonMultnomah Falls in Oregon. I couldn’t wait to see these falls. I have seen pictures of the falls before. My husband climbed to the top of the falls and back just in time for the bus ride back.

Dalles, OregonColumbia Gorge Discovery Center

Richland, WashingtonDay of leisure on the ship.

Clarkston, Washington – Not able to take the ship to this area due to high water and not enough clearance for the ship to go under the bridges.

Each of our shore excursions had so much to offer and it was fascinating to learn about the history of each area.

For those who did not want to get off the ship and do the shore excursions, there were other activities provided such as an art class, movies, and games. On some days prior to docking, there would be a lecture from the onboard historian, Ian Sampson. Topics included “Lewis and Clark”, culture, and the history of the area.

We were not able to complete the planned trip based on the itinerary. Because of the high level of water in the river, our ship stayed the last night in Richland, Washington. As a result, they had to bus us to the airport in Lewiston, Idaho for our return flight. Even though it was a long bus ride, it was through some beautiful country.

I felt that the crew of American Cruise Line bent over backwards to accommodate its’ guests. I would highly recommend a cruise with this company.

Sharla Washburn

If I can help plan your next cruise vacation, please contact me!

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City: Orem, UT 84097

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I remember I was 12 years old when the original Star Wars movie debuted back in 1977. I must have seen the iconic show over 10 times that first year. I knew I was hooked and would be a Star Wars junkie for life! I was ecstatic back in 2015 when Disney announced they would be constructing a “Star Wars Land” at both Disneyland & Disneyworld. Fast forward into hyperspace to May 29, 2019 and the long-awaited attraction has finally arrived. Star Wars, Galaxy’s Edge!

I was honored to be able to attend the press event and the grand opening of Star Wars, Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland. I was totally amazed of how I felt like I had been transformed from reality to a “space land” far, far away! So much to see and do. Each nook in this vast 14-acre new expansion is filled with something to uncover including shops to purchase & build Star Wars memorabilia and restaurants featuring galactic food options. Then turns your attention to the masterpiece, the breathtaking display of the Millennium Falcon, which has been recreated to scale in the middle of the Black Spire Outpost. One could spend hours just staring at the attention to detail of this legendary spacecraft.

Disney pulled out all the stops for the world premier and opening of Star Wars, Galaxy’s Edge with appearances from Bob Iger, Disney’s Chief Executive, famed director George Lucas, and legendary stars including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Billy Dee Williams. After a short ceremony and traditional Disney fireworks, Bob Iger declared that Galaxy’s Edge was officially opened for business!

We then had the opportunity to experience one of the main two attractions, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. (The land’s second attraction, Rise of the Resistance, will not debut until later this year.) The entrance to the ride is as impressive as the ride itself. In classic Disney fashion, you are in awe and are mesmerized by all the decorations & decor in the hanger as you work your way through the queue to the cockpit. Smugglers Run is very interactive and feels like a cross between Star Tours and a video game. Six people are in the cockpit of the “Falcon” and each person has a job to do. There are two pilots, two gunners, and two engineers. Regardless of how well or lousy you do with your assigned task, you will make it back alive after your flight and you will actually feel like you’ve been inside a Star Wars movie!

Disney has certainly hit a home run on the planet Batuu with Star Wars, Galaxy’s Edge. Be prepared to relive your fondest Star Wars memories and create new experiences with family and friends. It’s literally a different world with so much to explore. As you visit this magical destination you will greeted with such phrases as “Bright Suns” & “Rising Moons” and you’ll learn the meaning behind the mantra “Unite the Spark, Light the fire!”

Brent Jenson

If we can help plan your next Disneyland to Disney World vacation, please contact one of our Morris Murdock Disney specialists!

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Are you ready for something new in cruising? How about taking it a step further, and start an actual adventure.

I recently experienced something completely unique in the cruising world, at least to me. I spent two exciting weeks aboard Hurtigruten’s Explorer vessel, the MS Fram. This beautiful, small, expedition style ship is specifically designed to take explorers to unique sites. In my time aboard the MS Fram, as they transitioned from the Antarctic to the Arctic Sea, we visited the San Blas Islands, San Lorenzo in Panama, Boca del Toro, Nicaragua’s Corn Islands, Isla de Provencia (Colombia), Cayos Cochinos in Honduras, a couple of days in Belize, and Cozumel.

Even though I’ve been on many Caribbean Cruises, everything about this was new to me. Hutigruten has been around since 1893, mostly in the Norwegian area. They have developed into a line with a highly trained and educated crew that specializes in exploring the unexplored, more difficult to visit, areas of our beautiful planet. Instead of a Cruise Director, they have an Explorer Team. This is made up of Biologists, Geologists, and Zoological Specialists from all over the world. There were daily lectures in both English and German, on the many experiences we were about to have. These included marine life, local birds, plants, geological structures, history and indigenous people of each area to be explored.

Each area was pristine, beautiful, and still full of the flavor of the native people. With only 150-175 passengers, and 85 crew members (total, including room stewards, kitchen and other hotel workers, and the exploration team) there was never an over-crowded feeling. With only a few people in each group, it was easy to feel like I was the first person to explore this island, reef, or cay.

Where Hurtigruten really shines is in exploring the far reaches of our planet. In the Southern Hemisphere’s Summer (Dec-Feb) they take adventurous groups onto Antarctica itself, to wander with the Penguins, and walk on the ice flows. Due its size, it is permitted to make actually landings on the continent itself, something the larger cruise ships are banned from doing. In the Northern Hemisphere’s Summer (Jun-Aug) they cruise the entire Arctic Circle, touching Canada, Russia, Iceland, Greenland, and Norway. They have polar bear and whale spotting competitions and walk out on the icebergs. The cruise itself includes ocean kayaking, snorkeling (for the Caribbean relocation cruises), paddleboards, and motorboat coastal explorations. All of these activities are included in the price of the cruise.

The Chef on board The Fram is very careful to prepare dishes to please every palate. They were composed of organic and high quality produce, seafood, and meats. Though they do not have the 24 hour food availability many other cruise lines offer, I never felt hungry or lacking in meal options.

Hurtigruten is starting to market more and more in the U.S.A. and many of the ships are, or will soon be, undergoing extensive rehabbing, including the MS Fram. They have just launched their premier ship, the MS Roald Amundsen, a green hybrid, which runs mainly on electrical batteries that are charged by small diesel generators. This hybridization makes these wonderful ships the greenest, most earth-friendly ships sailing today.

From the crystal clear turquoise Caribbean waters, to the humid rainforest, this was an expedition I will never forget. It was an experience that has opened up so much of this beautiful planet to explore and love.

Elaine Beckstrom

If I can help plan your next vacation, please contact me:

Street: 101 South 200 East, Suite 100
City: Salt Lake City, UT 84020
Phone: 801.483.6331

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When planning a trip to Europe for myself and my 3 sisters, we wanted a stress free trip that would provide the active lifestyle we wanted along with the absence of trying to choose where we were going to stay and most importantly….where were we going to eat! Having only been on large cruise ships before, getting onto a European river cruise with only 81 staterooms is a delightful surprise. I chose AMA waterways for several reasons, first the itinerary and dates fit perfectly for me and my sisters. Secondly for the reviews and comments made by my fellow co-workers, letting me know AMA is an amazing product. And finally the beautiful pictures on the AMA website, which come to find out after being on the ship is such a true representation of the product.

We arrived 2 days before our cruise so we could explore Zurich and Lucerne. What a magical city Lucerne is, it is a must see if you are traveling in this region. Taking the train up to Basel, we left early so we could explore the city before sailing, train time was right around 50 minutes from Zurich. The AMA staff were very accommodating since we arrived around 9:00 am and they were still disembarking passengers from the previous cruise, they took our luggage and told us that it would be in our stateroom once we returned. Sure enough, once we returned around 2pm, our luggage had been placed in our stateroom and they had a lunch buffet set up that was perfect after a morning of sightseeing.

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Interest in Iceland has exploded over the last few years. I plan many trips a year to Iceland and thought I knew it pretty well based on research and suggestions from DMCs. I was totally amazed on this trip with all I didn’t know. This educational experience was sponsored by Iceland Travel, Signature Travel Network’s number one destination manage company for Iceland. They are based in Iceland and know the product better than anyone. Started out flying on Delta through JFK. Arrival is about 630 am and it is about an hour from the airport to downtown Reykjavik. We saw and had breakfast at the interesting Viking museum on the way. They have a beautiful Viking ship replica inside. Then on to the city. After seeing some nice Icelandair hotels we checked into the Ion hotel. The location was great. I had a wonderful suite with a sauna and city view. We then visited Hallgrimskirkja the beautiful Lutheran cathedral and took a city tour. Dinner was on our own so we visited some of the fun pubs and nightlife for dinner. Who knew you could get some of the best pizza of your life in Reykjavik!

We were up early the next day to visit Krauma the geothermal baths. The experience was going between very hot baths then plunging into ice cold. I definitely felt invigorated! We enjoyed a wonderful lunch. Next on to Husafell Hotel, an amazing resort at the base of the glacier. We then got to go into the heart of a glacier. We tracked up the glacier in super Jeep’s with huge tires made for the climb. Inside the glacier was amazing. It was incredible to hear the history of glaciers in Iceland and how they are shrinking drastically due to climate change. The Husefel restaurant that evening was a treat with such fresh salmon and cod. We went to Thingvellir National park the next day to see some breathtaking waterfalls and geysers then on to Fridheimar Greenhouse. Iceland is famous for lots of greenhouses because of all the geothermal energy used to heat them. They grow the most delicious tomato’s. We were treated to a fantastic tomato soup and fresh bread lunch. On to more incredible waterfalls and lava fields. This night was my favorite hotel Hotel Ranga on the Eystri-ranga river. The rooms were so cozy and the views were astounding. This was one of the best places to see the northern lights. We enjoyed a fresh seafood experience that evening.

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