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CruiseReportUn-Cruise Adventures S.S. Legacy4A cruise review of Un-Cruise Adventures S.S. Legacy in U.S. River
by C. Dikmen and
R. Richardson
Journalist  90
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  S.S. Legacy Editorial
Un-Cruising Columbia & Snake
September 2013
Reviewer Rates This Cruise
Itinerary: Portland, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, River Cruising, Clarkston/Hell's Canyon, Walla Walla, The Dalles, Astoria

There are so many things to love about river cruising: no rocking or rolling motion to contend with; smaller, more intimate ships; going through interesting locks; docking right in the middle of a town, and more. And, when you don't have to fly 10 hours to Europe to experience a river cruise, it's even better! The two most popular river cruises in America are the Mississippi River and the Columbia & Snake Rivers. We experienced our first Columbia & Snake River cruise in 2006 aboard a sternwheeler (which is no longer in operation). We enjoyed the destination so much that we jumped at the opportunity to sail on Un-Cruise Adventures' S.S. Legacy for a 7-night "un-cruise".


The S.S. Legacy was built in 1983 by Bender Shipbuilding, and until its demise, was operated by Cruise West as the Spirit of '98. The ship was acquired by Un-Cruise Adventures and underwent a major refurbishment. As soon as you step aboard Legacy, it is evident that the ship has been adorned with fresh paint over the entire exterior. A bold black smoke stack with gold star contrasts with the bright white hull. The ship's design has a retro "old-timey" look that really sets it apart from anything else on the river, or anywhere else she sails (Legacy is also scheduled to sail in Alaska during summer months.)

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The Legacy has 45 staterooms to accommodate up to 88 guests. A crew of 34-35 gives a 2.5:1 guest-to-crew ratio. At 192 feet long and 40 feet wide, S.S. Legacy is small by cruise ship standards, but this is an "un-cruise", so those rules don't apply. The ship underwent a massive refurbishment which consisted of the aforementioned fresh paint, the addition of a few new public spaces (e.g. The Pesky Barnacle), new dining room carpet, a new owner's suite, a lot of mechanical and engineering overhauls, new bridge electronics and some new carpet and wallpaper in some cabins, just to name a few.

We boarded the vessel on Deck 4 (Bridge Deck), the topmost deck. Deck 4 is where you will find the Wheelhouse (bridge) forward, and a makeshift fitness center/exercise area aft. Amidship on Deck 4 you will find two hot tubs and some comfortable seating. There are stairs leading to Deck 3 which primarily consists of staterooms and a promenade deck that wraps around the entire ship. If you like taking a morning walk, this would be the deck. Deck 2 is where you will find The Grand Salon, the ship's main lounge that is the hub of activity on Legacy. The Grand Salon features a very well-stocked bar serving complimentary cocktails and soft drinks throughout the day. There is a small "gift shop" with some logo items here and a shelf with a selection of DVD movies available for guest use. There is also self-serve coffee and tea available 24 hours a day.

Deck 1 is where everyone congregates three times a day for meals in the Klondike Dining Room. The dining room is comfortable, with tables set for 4 or 6. There are no two-top tables. Just forward of the dining room is The Pesky Barnacle Saloon. The Pesky Barnacle is an interesting little retreat with a poker table, some other game tables and a selection of self-serve whiskies along with beer on tap.

Whiskey and Beer on tap in The Pesky Barnacle

The ship does have an elevator that traverses decks 1 through 3, but not Deck 4. Getting to/from Deck 4 requires the use of the somewhat steep stairs.

The ship maintains an "open bridge" policy and guests are invited to visit the Wheelhouse while the vessel is underway. However, when the ship is going through locks or docking procedures, the wheelhouse is restricted to crew only.


There are six stateroom categories aboard the S.S. Legacy: Master; Commander; Captain; Admiral; and Junior Commodore Suite, and Owner's Suite. Depending on the category, singles, doubles, triples, or quadruples can be accommodated. Our stateroom (105) was a Commander category located on Deck 1. By any standard, this cabin is small, perhaps the smallest cabin we have ever occupied. The "queen" bed, which looks and feels more like a full-size bed, is positioned up against the hull side of the cabin below a small curtain-covered window and up against the wall at the head and foot of the bed, too. This makes for some interesting maneuvers should the person sleeping "against the wall" need to get out of bed in the middle of the night. They have to crawl over the person sleeping on the outside. As the person sleeping on the outside, I can attest to how painful this "knee in the groin" operation can be. A better choice for couples would be to book the two twin beds, which are separated by a small nightstand.

Bed in 105

A single armoire with three drawers on the bottom and a small closet on the top provide the majority of storage for the room. There is also a nightstand with three drawers and there are two wide drawers built into the bed base. The drawers themselves are designed so that you have to lift up before they will pull out. This takes some getting used to. Obviously, they were built this way to prevent the drawers from inadvertently flying open in rough seas. There is some additional storage behind the headboard, which folds forward. This is where the life vests are stored, but there is room for a backpack or other gear you may need to stow. There is ample room under the bed to stow empty luggage. However, if you are occupying a Commander stateroom, pack light.

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The bathroom, too, is small with a toilet adjacent to the small shower enclosed with a shower curtain. Other than a shelf above the toilet, there is no storage to speak of in the bathroom. Shampoo, conditioner and liquid soap are available from dispensers mounted to the shower wall, but a horizontal bar positioned below the dispensers makes it very difficult to get the desired liquid out. If you use body lotion, bring it with you. None is provided. Also, it would be wise to bring along a pair of house shoes (like some hotels provide.) Bathrobes are provided but not slippers.

Grab bar under liquids makes it difficult to dispense liquids

The first night, we noticed the cabin was very warm, in spite of the A/C being set to its coldest setting and the fan on Hi. We mentioned this to the Hotel Manager on Day 3 and when we returned to the room it was nice and cold. Apparently, the fan switch was not working in the Hi position, Medium and Low worked fine. Problem solved. Well, not quite. On the last two days of the trip, none of the fan settings worked. Fortunately, outside temps had cooled so that it was not a big issue. I am confident that if we had mentioned it to the Hotel Manager it would have been fixed straight away.

There is small flat screen television mounted on the wall at the foot of the bed. The TV has a built-in DVD player and the ship has a selection of complimentary DVD movies available. We didn't have any TV channels available on our voyage. On the nightstand, there is a digital alarm clock with an iPod dock. There is no telephone in the cabin but, should you need help, there an emergency button you can push which goes directly to the Bridge. Two reusable water bottles are provided and you can fill them from the tap in your bathroom or the bartender will fill them for you if you take them to the Grand Salon. A pair of binoculars is provided for guest use, a nice addition for Alaska cruises. There were two 110 outlets in our cabin located near the floor in front of the armoire. This made it necessary to place items being recharged on the floor or inside one of the drawers. Location of outlets probably varies in each cabin. There were two additional outlets in the bathroom that you could use to plug in the provided hair dryer.

110 Electrical Outlets

Each cabin has a loudspeaker system through which you can hear announcements or narration about the scenery where you are sailing. There is a switch that you can use should you want to hear music or you can choose to turn the system off entirely. If you choose to leave the system turned on, you will be advised by an announcement each morning that it is thirty minutes before breakfast is served and another when it is time to eat. The "do not disturb" designator is a piece of rope tied into a knot that you slip over the outside handle of your cabin door. This "No Knock Knot" means just what its name says. However, even with the knot deployed on our door, a stewardess walked into the cabin one morning to make up the room. You can lock the door from the inside but apparently we had neglected to do this. On the positive side, you don't have a room key that you have to keep up with!

"No-Knock" Knot

Anyone occupying a cabin on Deck 1 should be aware that you will be exposed to a LOT of mechanical noise. When the ship lowers or raises the anchor, you will know it. In addition, you will think the world is coming to an end when the bow thrusters are in use. And, the bow thrusters are engaged whenever the ship passes through the locks on the river, which can occur at four in the morning, as we learned on our second night. If a restful night's sleep is of utmost importance to you, book a cabin on Deck 2, 3 or 4.


Dining on S.S. Legacy, and all Un-Cruise vessels for that matter, is very simple and straightforward. A substantial Early Riser's Breakfast is set up in The Grand Salon at 6:30am consisting of cereals, fruit, toast, pastry and a couple of hot dishes that change each day.

Early Riser's Breakfast

A full breakfast is served each morning at  7:30am* in the Klondike Dining Room. Each morning a daily special is offered for breakfast, or you can always order eggs made-to-order, bacon, sausage, toast, etc. Lunch is served at 12:30pm in the dining room and generally consists of a choice between a salad and a sandwich. We had lunch on four days out of seven and everything we ordered was very good. Each afternoon at 5:30pm the Grand Salon is set for the Cocktail Hour before dinner. Each night features a variety of snacks to enjoy along with your favorite cocktail. These "snacks" can be pretty substantial. One night there were two huge platters of crab claws with drawn butter and cocktail sauce. I did not make it to dinner that night! Dinner is served each evening at 6:30pm and the menu, which changes daily, consists of a salad or soup, a choice of three main courses, and dessert. We went to dinner four evenings, and again, everything we had was very good. The Prime Rib the first night was very tender and flavorful, as was my New York Strip steak on the third evening.

Typical Dinner Menu

It would appear that Un-Cruise attempts to focus on executing a simple menu very well as opposed to offering a complicated "fancy" menu that is difficult to deliver. The dishes are straightforward American cuisine for the most part. No heavy sauces or French influence here. This is a smart strategy. A lot of "cruise" lines attempt to execute a menu that is above the tastes of most guests, and beyond the skill level of the galley brigade. The food offerings follow the "un-cruise" theme in that this is not like a traditional "cruise".  The Un-Cruise Adventure dining experience is not a culinary journey, it is just good food that is well executed. As for a dress code for the dining room, there is none. On our voyage, it was not unusual to see people having dinner wearing shorts. Jeans were commonplace attire. This is a very casual cruise.

*times may vary depending on daily schedule


As with most river cruises, and small ship cruises in general, entertainment is limited compared to large cruise ships. But then, this is an "un-cruise", right? On most evenings, after dinner, guests are invited to gather in the Grand Salon for an enrichment lecture or video presentation about the area and its people during the time of Lewis and Clark. On one evening, we were treated to a lively talent show where crew members and guests entertained us with song, comedy and story telling. Another fun treat occurs when Heritage Guides, Ryan Downs and Erica, portray characters from the rich history of the area by dressing in period costumes and performing "vignettes" about things occurring during the time in history when the riverboats were prevalent. Heritage Guide, Larry West, who dresses in period garb each day, is very knowledgeable about the area where we are sailing and narrates about the environment, wildlife, history and culture of the region. Ryan and Larry also provide a lot of information while we are traveling on the motor coach regarding what we are seeing and will see at our destination. During mealtime, the wait staff even get into the spirit of things and dress up with the women wearing feather boas, fancy hats and tiaras and the men wearing bow ties, suspenders and fedoras.


The main activity on an Un-Cruise adventure centers around the destination. On all but one day, the Legacy was docked in a different port and guests were invited to attend a shore excursion or local tour. All excursions are included in the cruise fare, making an Un-Cruise adventure a real value. Motor coaches are provided for the tours and extra attention is given to those with special needs or mobility issues. For details about the various tours, read our daily blog entries (see below). There are two hot tubs on Deck 4 and a small covered exercise area with two stationary bicycles and two elliptical machines. This is the area where the daily yoga sessions are held. A dry sauna is found on Deck 3. If you are up for a little pampering, a complimentary massage is available, either full body or neck and shoulder chair massage provided by the Wellness Staff. DVDs, books and board games are available in the Grand Salon and a poker table and chess board could be found in the Pesky Barnacle Saloon.


To read our daily cruise blog, click here


No matter what you are looking for in an "un-cruise" experience, Un-Cruise Adventures most likely can meet your needs. Un-Cruise offers different styles of adventures intended to inspire and satisfy a curious nature. This includes Active Adventures focused on experiencing life on the outside. Luxury Adventures are voyages loaded with extra amenities, soft-adventure and exclusive outings. Heritage Adventures bring the past to life afloat and ashore with Interpretive and Living History programs. Our Columbia and Snake River voyage was a Heritage Adventure and seemed to attract, for the most part, an older clientele and is also well suited for this with mobility issues. Hiking, paddle boarding and kayaking are not offered on S.S. Legacy.


We base our ratings on our own experiences and our perceptions compared to our past experiences. In addition, we also take into consideration the comments we hear from other guests during a cruise. One thing is clear: Un-Cruise Adventures has a growing base of loyal followers. The company is purposely trying to appeal to those who find the traditional large ship cruise experience is not for them. Nearly everyone we spoke with said they would never go on a large cruise ship, or they had been on one and would never do it again. This is an interesting niche: a cruise for people who do not like to cruise, at least in the traditional sense. The "Un-Cruise" moniker seems fitting.

This was our third sailing with "Un-Cruise" and each one has been quite unique. We loved both the Alaska and Sea of Cortes experiences. The Columbia & Snake River sailing is much less "adventure" and more informational and sedate by comparison. The same will be true of this ship when she sails to Alaska. There will be no kayaking or paddle-boarding off the stern of S.S. Legacy. This ship is for those who want a more relaxing way to experience a destination. This sailing proves that there is an audience for such an experience and the S.S. Legacy is a perfect fit.

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It is common in the travel industry for journalists to be provided with complimentary cruise accommodations, and in some cases, hotel accommodations, for the purpose of a review. While it has not influenced this review, adheres to a strict policy of full disclosure to all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, please refer to our Ethics Guidelines




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