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Courtesy Quad Cities CVB

Celebration River Cruises
The Celebration Belle, with four decks and the capacity for 770 passengers, is the largest nongaming excursion vessel on the upper Mississippi River.

“Two of those decks are enclosed dining areas, and two are for observation. Bank groups appreciate that we not only have an elevator on board but a jewelry outlet store,” said Susan Yarolem, tour and travel manager.

Most cruises depart from Moline, Illinois, in the Quad Cities, among them a two-day adventure that allows passengers an overnight stay in a hotel in Dubuque, Iowa. Tom Sawyer fans will enjoy the pastoral scenery on an all-day cruise featuring narration and live entertainment. These cruises include three freshly prepared meals a day.

“Our 29-year-old family business takes pride in guaranteed sightings of spectacular wildlife, often including bald eagles, beautiful bluffs, informative discussions about the fascinating river towns along the way and the experience of passing through locks and dams, as many as three per cruise,” said Yarolem.

Theme cruises revolve around big bands, classic oldies, fall foliage, Broadway music, Oktoberfest and more.

“Our nearly three-hour captain’s dinner cruise is such a group favorite with the full prime-rib dinner buffet,” said Yarolem.

800-297-0034, ext. 204

American Cruise Lines

The Queen of the West is a 120-passenger authentic paddle wheeler that cruises the scenic Columbia and Snake rivers on seven-night adventures. “She was just renovated in 2011,” said Britt Rabinovici, public relations manager.

Departing from Clarkston, Washington, or Portland, Oregon, groups experience 10 lock and dam elevations and enjoy the view from 740 feet above sea level. “You really feel like you’re in the West when you witness the river’s energy at that point,” Rabinovici said.

The Wild West is headlined on the Queen of the West’s Lewis and Clark-themed cruise, where passengers follow these pioneers’ route. Included on the itinerary are an excursion to Astoria, Oregon, to Fort Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark spent the winter, and the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

“Passengers cruise through Volcano Alley, with views of Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens, and through the Columbia River Gorge that cuts through the Cascade Mountain Range. They witness Multnomah Falls, the second-highest waterfall in North America, and take a jet boat ride through Hells Canyon, just to name a few of the adventures,” Rabinovici said.

Other excursions include a winery tour in Richland, Washington, and a tour of the Bonneville Fish Hatchery and Dam in Stevenson, Washington.

On all cruises, guest speakers offer enlightenment, and resident onboard experts accompany groups’ shore excursions. Rabinovici added that the cruise line also takes pride in sourcing the freshest seafood.

“Wild sturgeon and steelhead trout are just a few of the local specialties on the menu,” he said.


Gateway Clipper Fleet

With six ships that offer passenger capacity of from 150 to 1,000, the Gateway Clipper Fleet is the largest inland riverboat fleet in the nation, according to Kristin Mitchell, public relations liaison for Visit Pittsburgh.

“For more than 50 years, they have sailed the three rivers of Pittsburgh offering a wide variety of dining, sightseeing and entertainment,” she said.

Starting with a view of the city from its dock at historic Station Square, a popular shopping and dining destination housed in a one-time railroad depot, groups have the opportunity to enjoy different city and rural sites on one-hour or all-day cruises.

“Bank groups love our special-event cruises. They have an oldies dinner cruise, holiday dance cruises, sightseeing luncheons, barbecues and fall foliage cruises — the autumn colors are spectacular in western Pennsylvania.

“Many are held on the authentic paddle wheel, the Majestic, but grandparents may want to investigate the fun on the Good Ship Lollipop,” Mitchell said.

The Pittsburgh skyline, Point State Park and the mountainous surroundings are highlights on every tour. Groups may also want to take advantage of the fleet’s roundtrip journey to the Rivers Casino on the North Shore, where they can have lunch and enjoy the slots.

In addition, the fleet offers a shuttle service to the city’s major league sports events, including Steelers football games at Heinz Field and Pirates baseball at PNC Park.

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