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Cruise Views

Floating Through Wine Country

November 19, 1995|SHIRLEY SLATER and HARRY BASCH

Two fishermen sitting in a skiff in the Sacramento River gaped in astonishment as a small cruise ship, the Spirit of Alaska, approached.

The confusion was compounded when a passenger shouted: "We're lost! Can you show us the way to Juneau?"

Alaska Sightseeing/Cruise West has been making big waves in West Coast cruising for the past several years, as its fleet has expanded to eight ships cruising far beyond Alaska into the Columbia and Snake Rivers, Canada's Inside Passage and Washington's San Juan Islands.

Now a brand-new cruise itinerary for California's Napa Valley wine country is being introduced for spring. We sampled it on a sun-filled preview sailing the first weekend in November and think it's great for a short getaway.

The spring series of sailings begins March 1 and continues through April 5 with three- and four-day programs that depart from San Francisco and begin at $375 per person, double occupancy, including most shore excursions and transfers. Air fare to San Francisco is extra, as are gratuities and personal expenses.

The Spirit of Alaska carries 82 passengers. All cabins are outside rooms with windows, except for the lowest-priced accommodations, which have a port light.

The three-day cruises sail Friday evenings from San Francisco, cruising the bay before dinner, then heading toward the Sacramento Delta. The cruise runs along the Sacramento River into Old Sacramento. Guests visit the California Railroad Museum.

Sunday morning, the Spirit of Alaska arrives at a quiet dock on the Napa River, where morning options include a hot-air balloon ride or a spa treatment in Calistoga. All passengers visit Trefethen Vineyards for a tour and wine-and-food tastings.

The four-day itinerary sails Monday from San Francisco and offers a free motor-coach tour of Sonoma, its mission and a homestead.

Wednesday's itinerary follows the same Old Sacramento program as the Saturday sailing, but Thursday is wine country day with visits to three wineries, Schramsberg, Trefethen and Merryvale.

If you book one of these sailings, we'd encourage you to select a Category A (twin lower beds with windows, $599 on the three-day, $799 on the four-day ), AA (double beds with view windows, $675 on the three-day, $899 on the four-day), deluxe room (double beds with mini-refrigerator, sofa and TV/VCR, $825 for the three-day, $1,099 for the four-day) or suite (slightly larger versions of the deluxe cabins, $975 for three days, $1,299 for four days).

For a free brochure, call Alaska Sightseeing/Cruise West at (800) 426-7702.

*

Slater and Basch travel as guests of the cruise lines. Cruise Views appears the first and third week of every month.

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