A Lindblad river itinerary mixes Food & Wine with exploration

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Breakfast aboard Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic ship the Sea Lion. The vessel will operate a series of cruises in the Pacific Northwest that will focus on wine and cuisine.
Breakfast aboard Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic ship the Sea Lion. The vessel will operate a series of cruises in the Pacific Northwest that will focus on wine and cuisine. Photo Credit: Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic
Nicole Edenedo
Nicole Edenedo

Nature. Exploration. Lewis and Clark. Those are just some of the words that might come to mind when thinking of a river cruise through the Pacific Northwest on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

But if wine and culinary aren't on your radar when thinking of this somewhat lesser-known U.S. river cruising region, a new itinerary on the market aims to change that.

Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic has teamed up with Food & Wine magazine to offer a weeklong wine cruise that next year will take guests on a deep-dive exploration of the vineyards, harvests and other culinary aspects found along the Columbia and Snake rivers and the surrounding region.

The eight-day Columbia and Snake Rivers Journey Presented by Food & Wine will launch next spring and will join the small pool of wine-and-food-focused river cruises on those waterways.

Lindblad's ships on the route will be the expedition-like National Geographic Sea Bird and the National Geographic Sea Lion, which will offer the itinerary in 2024 between March and April and September and October.

What's so interesting about this itinerary is how it will mix relaxing elements guests might find on a European river cruise together with the features of an expedition cruise experience.

Culinary-forward programming, such as wine tasting shore excursions and nightly wine-paired meals, will be interspersed with activities like kayaking or Zodiac trips on the Palouse River. Both ships are equipped with Zodiacs, kayaks, paddleboards, remote-operated vehicles, snorkeling gear and wetsuits.

Guests can hike the trails that explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark once blazed; later, they can partake in a different kind of exploration: the vineyard valleys of Walla Walla and Lewiston with local winemakers.

Ana Esteves, vice president of hotel operations at Lindblad, collaborated with Food & Wine's executive wine editor, Ray Isle, to curate the more than 40 regional varietals that are included on the wine list. Esteves is an award-winning chef known for her sustainability-focused initiatives and implementing responsible food management practices. Last year, she was among the three recipients of USTOA's Future Lights award for the culinary program she introduced to Lindblad's fleet that uses ethically, sustainably and locally sourced ingredients and eliminates food waste.

"With the opportunity to source fresh ingredients directly from farmers along the way, this new itinerary perfectly captures the best culinary delicacies of the region," Esteves said, calling the Columbia and Snake rivers region a chef's dream. "The immensity of the canyons and gorges with miles of wheat fields and grains paired with the most stunning orchards in central Washington, the fresh wild-caught seafood of the coast, and the lush Oregon forests where our partners forage mushrooms, all make this one of my favorite culinary itineraries and a place on Earth that every food lover should visit."

Isle will join the inaugural journey when it sets sail from Portland, Ore., on March 31 aboard the Sea Bird.

"The expedition follows the Columbia River through some of the Pacific Northwest's most beautiful wine [regions], like the Columbia Gorge, Walla Walla and others," Isle said. "It's been an adventure in itself choosing the wines for this series of exclusive expeditions, and being able to taste them while in the heart of the landscape they come from should be an extraordinary experience for anyone on the trip."

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