Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond
U.S. - Canada

Columbia and Snake River Cruise Tips

Columbia River. Credit: Pixabay license
Columbia River. Credit: Pixabay license

Columbia and Snake river cruises aren’t quite as popular as Mississippi River cruises, but they have one big advantage. They are easier to reach for people who live in western United States and Canada.

The Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. It begins in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia and curves back and forth more than 1,200 miles southwest throughout British Columbia and the states of Washington and Oregon. It empties into the Pacific Ocean just north of Portland, Oregon.

The Snake River is a tributary of the Columbia and is almost as long at more than 1,000 miles. It begins in western Wyoming and curls through Idaho and Oregon before emptying into the Columbia River at the Tri-Cities in Washington.

Columbia and Snake cruises usually last between five and 11 days. An example cruise may begin on the Columbia River in Portland, go up to Tri-Cities, access the Snake River and end in Clarkston, Washington. So these cruises usually do not begin and end in the same port.

Ports of call may include Astoria, Pendleton and The Dalles in Oregon along with Mount St. Helens, Stevenson and Richland in Washington.

Noteworthy sites include the Columbia River Gorge and Multnomah Falls, the second tallest waterfall in the United States at more than 600 feet high. Onshore experiences include visits to Mount St. Helens, a replica of Fort Clatsop and Columbia River Discovery Center.

Unlike sea and ocean cruises, a Columbia and Snake river cruise is about viewing the mountains, gorges and other natural landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. It is about the journey rather than the destination.

River Cruise Cabins

Unlike large cruise ships, river cruise ships offer balconies with almost all of the cabins on the ships.

Ships typically have about seven or eight cabin options depending on their size and location. For example, a “single” cabin has one room with about 275 square feet of space. At the opposite end, a “grand suite” may offer a separate dining room and bedroom in addition to 650 square feet of space. Cabins in between these two examples offer a wide range of available space.

Prices reflect cabin size. For example, one cruise showed the difference between the price of a single versus a grand suite of about $4,000 for seven nights.

River Cruise Costs

Hell's Canyon
Hell’s Canyon is a major river cruise attraction on the Snake River. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Several companies offer cruises on the Columbia and Snake rivers. Prices depend on amenities. For example, one company had a nine-day, eight-night cruise starting at $3,799 per person or $475 per night. But amenities include an extra night in a hotel (which lowers the per-night cost to $422) plus complimentary alcohol at dinner.

Another company had seven-day, six-night cruises with prices starting at nearly $600 per person per night. Shorter cruises usually have higher prices per night.

River cruises in general are more expensive than sea and ocean cruises. River cruise boats are smaller than their ocean counterparts and have higher fixed costs, which pushes up their prices.

By comparison, Columbia and Snake cruises are sometimes more expensive than Mississippi river cruises. Mississippi cruises have more demand, more ships and larger ships, which helps lower their prices. Likewise, European river cruises are even less expensive in general than U.S. river cruises because they have higher demand and more ships.

So cruise lovers may choose the Columbia and Snake rivers if their budget allows it and if they want to enjoy the scenic views of the Pacific Northwest.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
July 01, 2022

Columbia River Cruise Tips

Columbia River
Columbia river cruises aren’t as popular as Mississippi River cruises, but it has a big advantage.

Mississippi River Cruise Tips

Paddle wheel
A 2,000-mile Mississippi river cruise offer a much different experience than ocean cruises.

Honolulu Cruise Port Tips

Pearl Harbor Memorial
Honolulu is Hawaii’s largest city, its capital city and its main cruise port.

Best and Worst Times to Visit Hawaii

Hawaii Cruise Planning Tips

Best Times to Take Mississippi River Cruise

New England Cruise Excursions

New England Cruise Ports of Call