Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Cruise your Hobbies and Passions

Cruising the Columbia River. Photo © by Judy Wells.
What piques your interest? Art or astronomy, music or motorcycles, golf or gardening, film or food, wine or wellness?
Combine those and many, many more with your love of travel and cruising with a theme cruise.

The Snake River, one of two "Rivers of Wine." Photo © by Judy Wells.
I recently took one, UnCruise's "Rivers of Wine," along the Columbia, Snake and Willamette Rivers. From Portland, Oregon, we cruised aboard S. S. Legacy, a replica of a Victorian steam packet.

White, red and in between, we swirled and swished it all. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Passengers were a mix of wine connoisseurs and wine curious. Chris Arora, the ship's sommelier, and Casey Cobble, winemaker for Robert Ramsay Cellars in Woodinville, Washington, guided us through daily tastings at Oregon and Washington wineries and cellars and with daily afternoon tasting tutorials aboard.

UnCruise's S.S. Legacy. Photo © by Judy Wells.
It was an eye- and palate-opening experience. Two heritage guides entertained with stories and details about the area through which we traveled, either by boat or by bus. This is Lewis and Clark, Cayouse, Palouse, Nez Perce, Oregon Trail, Kennewick Man and Hanford Project country so there was much to tell.

Mt. Hood looms large over Mount Hood Winery. Photo © by Judy Wells.
The scenery is spectacular. We cruised through the Cascade Mountains, desert gorges and lush valleys. Snow-covered volcanic Mounts Adams and Hood made frequent, unexpected appearances.

Multnomah Falls, Oregon. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Short distances away on land we visited Multnomah and Palouse Falls, one through dense forests,  the other rain-deprived gorges.

Palouse Falls, Washingto. Photo © by Judy Wells.

We learned a lot about wine and even more about our own palates. Casey summed it up simply, our Yum or Yuck wine. Chris's goal sounded simple, too: "I want to help you discover what you like and why."

Preparing for a tasting at Archer, Newberg, Oregon. Photo © by Judy Wells
We gazed, sniffed, swirled, re-sniffed, slurped, swirled, burbled on tongue-tip, swished and tasted, mentally logging with all of the senses.

Meals furthered our assessments. Chef, pastry chef and sommelier conferred in advance, deciding the fare according to wines -  white, red and dessert - to be served so that each made the other taste better.

Vineyard at Domaine Serene in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Photo © by Judy Wells.
And yes, we figured it out.The ultimate test will arrive this fall, when heat abates and temperatures are safe to ship the wines we chose to ship home.

Tasting of syrahs and cabernets at Terra Blanca Winery & Estate Vineyard, Benton City, Washington. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Now that's a souvenir.

I highly recommend UnCruise "Rivers of Wine." Even the occasional wine drinkers enjoyed the cruise. All beverages, including those on the top shelf, are included on the all-inclusive cruise. if you prefer a different theme, check out

Summer Sales

What: Amelia Island "Seize the Summer" deals such as credits of up to $100 per day, 20 percent off of summer rates, special packages, free days.
When: Through Sept. 30.
Who: Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island; Omni Amelia Island Plantation; Amelia Rentals; Addison on Amelia;  Fairbanks House; Days inn and Suites; Hampton Inn at the Beach; The Surf Beach Motel; Hoyt House; Blue Heron Inn; Seaside Amelia Inn; Beachside Motel; Amelia Hotel at the Beach; ERA Fernandina Beach Realty rentals.

For complete list of "Seize the Summer" offers, go to

Tuscany for 600 bucks per person?

Gate 1 says that includes flights on Emirates, 5 nights in Montecatini, 1 night in Milan near the airport, manual car rental (automatic upgrade available),taxes and fees.

Depart on Nov. 13, 14, 15, 27, 28: Dec. 4, 5, 6; Jan. 15, 22, 29 (over Carnivale); Feb. 5, 14, 28 from New York. Aug.-March also on sale.

Must book by Sept. 1, 2017, online at Gate 1 or at 800-682-3333 (ask for 8 Day Tuscany Fly and Drive with Milan package).  At end of booking process use promo code TZTSC150.

Blue Ridge Bargain 

 How about a luxury bed and breakfast package in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains for $69 per person per night?  

Stay at Wintergreen Resort, enjoy breakfast at The Copper Mine Bistro, take advantage of unlimited access to the Aquatic and Fitness Center or try your clubs on 45 holes of golf, treat yourself at the Wintergreen Spa (I did and it's great), hike  or watch the annual song bird migration. It's apple cider time, too. or  (434) 325-2200.