To much fanfare, cruise ship is christened in Clarkston

May 2—The Champagne flowed Sunday afternoon when the American Jazz cruise ship docked in Clarkston was christened by Stacia Morfin, the vessel's "godmother."

Morfin, CEO of Nez Perce Tourism, was selected for the longstanding "godmother tradition" to bring good luck and protection to the vessel. She was joined by her mentor, Michelle Peters, CEO of Visit Lewis Clark Valley, and the ship's eldest passenger, a woman in her 90s.

"I'm honored to be the godmother of this vessel and will continue to pray for it for the rest of my life," Morfin said before breaking the traditional bottle of bubbly on the first swing.

More than 150 people gathered aboard the boat to celebrate its arrival to the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley. Officials from federal, state, county and city governments were on hand for the ceremony, along with Charles B. Robertson, the president and CEO of American Cruise Lines.

Robertson, 35, of Connecticut, said he's been to this area "more times than he can count" since the cruise ship industry was established. His first trip to the valley was for the Queen of the West's arrival in 2008, when his late father was at the helm of the business.

"It's very special to christen this boat here," Robertson told the Lewiston Tribune. "It ran one season on the Mississippi, but it's going to live here now. We built it during the pandemic — plus three more — which shows our confidence in the U.S. cruise market."

Three cruise lines now serve the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley along the Snake-Columbia River system. American Cruise Lines is one of the companies, and it has five vessels that will call on the valley this year.

Passengers from all over the country were on board. Many stopped to tell crew members how much they enjoyed the ceremony and the beauty of this region. Patriotic songs performed by the "Victory Belles" also proved popular with the crowd.

Robertson said the history and adventure offered here are big draws, along with having a commercial airport that's 10 minutes from the docks.

By conservative estimates, more than 30% of the travelers using the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport in 2022 were "our passengers," Robertson said.

"They really should be flying in and out of Lewiston," he said. "I hope to see that number increase a lot this year."

The majority of cruise boat passengers are mature and affluent. The costs vary, depending on routes, staterooms and excursions, but most are in the $5,000 per person range.

Addressing the crowd, Robertson said "it takes a whole lot of people to get a boat 800 feet above sea level to the Idaho border." He thanked the crew for their hard work, and port officials and other dignitaries in the audience who welcomed American Cruise Lines to the valley 15 years ago.

"I just love it out here," Robertson said as a breeze blew across the sun deck. "You can do it all here. I think there's a huge market for this area."

Sandaine can be reached at kerris@lmtribune.com.