American West Steamboat Company announces new 8 and 11-night Alaska cruises aboard sternwheeler Empress of the North
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American West Steamboat Company announces new 8 and 11-night Alaska cruises aboard sternwheeler Empress of the North
Beginning in May of 2004, American West Steamboat Company's new luxury sternwheeler Empress of the North is offering 8 and 11-night cruises featuring Alaska's Inside Passage. Its new Alaska homeport will be Sitka, once the Russian capital of America and now a bustling seaport rich in history and culture as well as easily accessible, with daily flights on Alaska Airlines. The Empress of the North's 8-night cruises will operate round trip from Sitka, while the 11-night cruises will operate between Seattle and Sitka.

"Sitka is a perfect fit for the Empress of the North," states Joel Perry, vice president of marketing.
"Like the Empress of the North, it is a celebration of cultures, a unique blend of Russian, Native and Gold Rush history. Plus, as a small ship operator, our itineraries are carefully crafted to avoid the herds of large cruise ships. Turning in Sitka each weekend keeps us out of the typical flow and congestion of big ships," adds Perry.

Highlights of the 8-night cruise include a performance by the New Archangel Russian Folk Dancers, visits to the Raptor Rehabilitation Center, Saint Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral and a traditional Tlingit clan house in Sitka. In Petersburg, guests enjoy the town's quaint Norwegian charm before cruising Le Conte Bay and Wrangell Narrows.
In Ketchikan, passengers are treated to the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show and a tour of Totem Heritage Park before cruising scenic Misty Fjords. Also included is a port call in Wrangell, with shore excursions to Chief Shakes Tribal House and Petroglyph Beach.Empress of the North

The Empress of the North also cruises through the narrow and winding Tracy Arm Fjord to the face of South Sawyer Glacier followed by an afternoon port call in Juneau, Alaska's capital city. In Juneau, included shore excursions feature the Mendenhall Glacier and an authentic salmon bake. Also featured is a scenic ride on the White Pass Yukon Railway in Skagway followed the next morning by a full day excursion into Glacier Bay National Park.

Highlights of the 11-night cruise include everything in the 8-night itinerary plus cruising through Lake Washington and the San Juan Island archipelago with stops in Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, where passengers enjoy included shore excursions to Butchart Gardens and the Royal Museum in Victoria and a city tour and visit to the Aquarium in Vancouver, plus two full days cruising Canada's Inside Passage.

Throughout the cruise, the ship's onboard entertainment captures the excitement and atmosphere of the great showboat era. Two elegant showrooms present unique music of early Americana, Golden Oldies, Best of Broadway, Country Western, Dixieland Jazz and the Big Band Era. The region's history comes alive as well in song and dance, from the Gold Rush Follies, to Russian American Cossack Dances, to the legends, crafts, songs and dances of the Native Americans.

A historian/naturalist delivers an ongoing interpretive program and is curator for the vessel's gallery of paintings, sculptures, pictures and historic artifacts featuring the heritage, cultures and natural history of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. Over 700 pieces of exquisite art and artifacts line each of the ship's corridors including a rare collection of Russian nesting dolls, Faberge' eggs and Alaska Native masks and carvings in addition to photographs and paintings depicting Gold Rush history, frontier exploration, Alaska wildlife and 19th century paddle wheelers.

8-night Alaska cruise rates range from $3,399 to $5,779 and 11-night cruise rates range from $4,399 to $7,819, depending on cabin category and cruise date. All cruises include featured shore excursions in every port, fine dining and live showboat-type entertainment included in the price of the cruise.

Following her summers in Alaska, the Empress of the North repositions to Portland, Oregon, where she operates 8-night cruises between October and May on the Columbia, Snake and Willamette Rivers. 2004 cruise rates range from $1,859 to $5,309, depending on cabin category and cruise date. All cruises include shore excursions, fine dining and live showboat-type entertainment in the price of the cruise.

Since 1995, American West Steamboat Company has operated the 163-passenger Queen of the West year round on the Columbia, Willamette and Snake Rivers, along the Lewis & Clark route, Oregon Trail, and Columbia River Gorge. Highlights of the nearly 1,000 mile long cruise include traversing eight locks and dams, a close up view of 620-foot high Multnomah Falls, visits to the Mt. St. Helens Volcanic National Monument, Lewis & Clark's Fort Clatsop, a jet boat ride into Hells Canyon, a rodeo demonstration in Pendleton and excursions to Astoria and Cannon Beach, Oregon. 2004 7-night cruise rates range from $1,076 to $5,039, depending on cabin category and cruise date.

(Source: American West Steamboat Company)

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