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Oregon/Washington

Columbia River Explorer: An Easy-Paced Riverboat Adventure

Program No. 22612RJ
Voyage along the Columbia River to learn about its unique history and breathtaking nature. Trace the path of Lewis and Clark, explore the landmarks of Portland and sample local wines.
Length
11 days
Rating (4.91)
Activity Level
Starts at
6,499
Special Offer
Click on Dates & Prices below to see special offer details.
Flights start at
FREE

Your well-being is our #1 priority

To make your experience as safe as possible, we require all participants to be fully vaccinated. See our Safety Roadmap

Enroll with Confidence

We want your Road Scholar learning adventure to be something to look forward to—not worry about. Learn more

Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
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itinerary
Please Note:
The itinerary for this program is different on certain dates.
Select your type of room
Price will update based on selection
Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.

DATES & PRICES

Ship Balcony
Accommodation Details

A cabin featuring a verandah, or balcony, that allows you to step outside without going to a public deck.

Apr 15 - Apr 25, 2023
Ship Balcony 6,799
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

Apr 29 - May 9, 2023
Ship Balcony 7,299
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

May 13 - May 23, 2023
Ship Balcony 7,299
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

May 27 - Jun 6, 2023
SOLD OUT
Ship Balcony 7,299
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

Jun 17 - Jun 27, 2023
Ship Balcony 7,699
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

Itinerary Note

This is a large group date with a max of 48 participants.

Jun 24 - Jul 4, 2023
Ship Balcony 7,699
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

Jul 8 - Jul 18, 2023
Ship Balcony 7,699
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

Jul 29 - Aug 8, 2023
Ship Balcony 7,699
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

Itinerary Note

This is a large group date with a max of 48 participants.

Sep 2 - Sep 12, 2023
Ship Balcony 7,699
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

Sep 16 - Sep 26, 2023
Ship Balcony 7,699
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

Itinerary Note

This is a large group date with a max of 48 participants.

Oct 14 - Oct 24, 2023
Ship Balcony 7,499
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

Oct 28 - Nov 7, 2023
Ship Balcony 7,499
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

Nov 11 - Nov 21, 2023
Ship Balcony 6,499
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

DATES & PRICES

Ship Balcony
Accommodation Details

A cabin featuring a verandah, or balcony, that allows you to step outside without going to a public deck.

Apr 15 - Apr 25, 2023
SOLD OUT
Ship Balcony 8,299
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

Apr 29 - May 9, 2023
Ship Balcony 8,699
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

May 13 - May 23, 2023
Ship Balcony 8,699
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

May 27 - Jun 6, 2023
Ship Balcony 8,699
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

Jun 17 - Jun 27, 2023
Ship Balcony 9,299
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

Itinerary Note

This is a large group date with a max of 48 participants.

Jun 24 - Jul 4, 2023
Ship Balcony 9,299
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

Jul 8 - Jul 18, 2023
Ship Balcony 9,299
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

Jul 29 - Aug 8, 2023
Ship Balcony 9,299
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

Itinerary Note

This is a large group date with a max of 48 participants.

Sep 2 - Sep 12, 2023
Ship Balcony 9,299
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

Sep 16 - Sep 26, 2023
Ship Balcony 9,299
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

Itinerary Note

This is a large group date with a max of 48 participants.

Oct 14 - Oct 24, 2023
Ship Balcony 8,999
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

Oct 28 - Nov 7, 2023
Ship Balcony 8,999
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

Nov 11 - Nov 21, 2023
Ship Balcony 7,699
Special Offer

Enroll by Feb. 28, 2023 and receive free round-trip airfare from many cities! Availability may vary by date. Ask about low-cost air from other cities.

At a Glance

Float up the Columbia River on a classic riverboat for a one-of-a-kind adventure with minimal exertion and maximal learning! Sail past lush forests and rugged mountains, and trace the route of Lewis and Clark on leisurely excursions. On comfortably paced field trips, experience bountiful vineyards and verdant landscapes, and explore the historic landmarks of Portland — the “City of Roses.” Join experts at renowned museums to learn about the geology, flora and fauna of the Columbia River, and discover the long history of human settlements in the area.
Activity Level
Easy Going
Short distances on mostly paved paths to visit points of interest and museums. Some of the ramps at sites in Portland are relatively steep. Must be able to get on and off motorcoach and on and off jet boat for excursion into Hells Canyon.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Explore the historic sites of the Lewis and Clark expedition, including Fort Clatsop, a replica of the fort built by the expedition where they spent the harsh winter of 1805-1806.
  • Learn about the natural and human history of the magnificent Columbia River in the state-of-the-art Columbia River Maritime Museum.
  • Experience Multnomah Falls, Oregon’s tallest waterfall.

General Notes

This program is limited to 24 participants and the ship holds 221 passengers.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Fire, Faults & Floods: A Road & Trail Guide Exploring the Origins of the Columbia River
by Marge & Ted Mueller
This handy guidebook offers an overview of the mighty, historic floods that carved the landscapes of Washington and Oregon. It also provides practical information to explore these regions, including maps and illustrations, photographs, and travel tips. This is an excellent resource for understanding the geological features of the Pacific Northwest.
National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Sixth Edition
by Jon L. Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer
A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia
by Blaine Harden
An insightful look into the many changes the Columbia River has undergone as a result of human exploitation. Harden weighs the pros and cons of river development and provides his unique perspectives, in addition to those of Native Americans, environmentalists, & individualist locals.
Native Peoples of the Northwest
by Jan Halliday and Gail Chehak
Northwest Passage: The Great Columbia River
by William Dietrich
People of the River: Native Arts of the Oregon Territory
by Bill Mercer
Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West
by Stephen E. Ambrose
Bound for Glory
by Woody Guthrie
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11 days
10 nights
28 meals
10 B 8 L 10 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Portland, OR
D
Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 4:00 p.m. Remember to bring your nametag (sent previously).

Afternoon: Program Registration: After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff, get any updated information, and confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please locate your Group Leader and let them know you have arrived.

Dinner: In our private meeting space at the hotel.

Evening: Orientation. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. We will review COVID-19 protocols and will adhere to local COVID-19 guidelines and requirements throughout the program. This is a Road Scholar Adventures Afloat program. In addition to lectures and field trips exclusively for our Road Scholar group, you are invited to take advantage of activities and events aboard ship that are separate from the Road Scholar program. Please note that routes, field trips, and excursions are subject to change as weather and river conditions could require altering the itinerary and/or the progress of the ship, making it run late and possibly miss ports if it cannot dock. The cruise itinerary should therefore be regarded as provisional. The operators reserve the right to change the itinerary without prior notice. Throughout the program, we will be accompanied by a Study Leader who will present educational content. During the land portion, transportation will be provided via motorcoach unless specified otherwise. Some lectures and field trips will be exclusive to Road Scholar while others will be open to all passengers. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like according to your personal preferences. The group leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Chinese Garden, Portland Art Museum, Oregon Historical Soc.
Portland, OR
B,L,D
Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 5 miles, approximately 1/2 hour riding time. Walking and standing at field trip sites; paved walkways.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will board a motorcoach and ride to the Lan Su Chinese Garden for an expert-led exploration. The Lan Su Chinese Garden is one of Portland’s greatest treasures: a powerfully inspiring experience that takes us through time, offering a window into Chinese culture, history, and way of thinking.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: We will reboard our motorcoach for a field trip to the Portland Art Museum where a docent will lead our exploration. The Portland Art Museum is the oldest in the Pacific Northwest. Its collection includes works of European painting and sculpture, American painting and sculpture, English silver, Asian art, Native American art, pre-Columbian art, Cameroon and other African art, contemporary art, sculpture, prints and drawings, and photography. We’ll then walk across the street for a field trip to the Oregon Historical Society Museum. This museum offers an in-depth history of the State of Oregon, with both permanent and temporary installations. A docent will provide insightful commentary as we explore the museum.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
Rose Test Garden, Hoyt Arboretum, Embark American Empress
Portland, OR
B,L,D
American Queen Voyages' American Empress

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 20 miles, approximately 1 hour riding time. Walking and standing at field trip sites.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will board our motorcoach and ride to the iconic International Rose Test Garden for a docent-led field trip. The garden boasts more than 9,500 rose bushes, representing 600 varieties of roses. Next, we will ride to Hoyt Arboretum. Founded in 1928, the Arboretum is home to more than 2,300 diverse tree species covering 189 acres. Today, the Hoyt Arboretum is a rich biological resource for scientists and conservationists, as well as an important green space for the community. We’ll go on a self-directed exploration to see what interests each of us most before going to lunch.

Lunch: At a restaurant offering a variety of locally sourced foods.

Afternoon: We will assemble for a lecture on topics related to the program theme. Next, we’ll ride to the Port of Vancouver and embark the American Empress. After completing embarkation procedures and getting cabins, take some time to become familiar with the ship before dinner. When announced, we will participate with everyone on board in the required safety drill.

Dinner: Each evening, we will dine with fellow Road Scholars at a specific time in the Astoria Dining Room.

Evening: Enjoy entertainment in the Show Lounge and Paddlewheel Lounge, explore the ship, spend time with fellow Road scholars discussing the day’s activities, or just relax.

DAY
4
Astoria Column, Maritime Museum, Fort Clatsop
Astoria, OR
B,L,D
American Queen Voyages' American Empress

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 20 miles, approximately 1 hour riding time. Walking about 1/2 mile; paths, flat trails. Elective climb at Astoria Column, 164 stairs.

Breakfast: Aboard ship in the River Bar & Grill.

Morning: We will step off the ship, board a motorcoach, and set out on a field trip to the Astoria Column. This pillar, located in the heart of Astoria, presents local history in mural form on the exterior walls of the column, with breathtaking views from the top. A local expert will give us a welcome and brief history when we arrive, followed by an elective opportunity to climb the column and enjoy the view from the hill. Following the Astoria Column field trip, we’ll head back down to the ship, stopping at the Columbia River Maritime Museum on the way. Founded in 1962, the Columbia River Maritime Museum has become one of the top maritime museums in the country. Its mission is preserving the maritime heritage of the Columbia River region and the Pacific Northwest. A highlight is the Lightship Columbia, a National Historic Landmark. It was the final lightship to be moored at the mouth of the Columbia River. We will have an opportunity to roam through the collection of more than 30,000 items, experience what it was like to pilot a tugboat in the tugboat simulator, and hear stories of Coast Guard rescues on the Columbia River Bar.

Lunch: Aboard ship in the Astoria Dining Room or the River Bar & Grill.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll board our motorcoach and head to Fort Clatsop, where the Lewis & Clark expedition spent the harsh winter of 1805-1806 after realizing no ship was coming to pick them up and take them East. The fort was named in honor of the local Clatsop Indians. The 33-member party spent the winter of 1805-06 learning from the Clatsop people, making moccasins and buckskin clothing, storing food, and reworking their maps and journals in preparation for their long journey back to St. Louis.

Dinner: Aboard ship.

Evening: Enjoy entertainment or other activities, spend time with fellow Road Scholars to discuss the day’s events, or just relax.

DAY
5
Columbia River Cruising
Columbia and Snake Rivers
B,L,D
American Queen Voyages' American Empress

Activity note: Full day aboard ship.

Breakfast: Aboard ship.

Morning: During our full day aboard ship, we will see picturesque canyon walls, mountains, and fertile fields. We will learn about the area through discussions and interpretation by our Study Leader and onboard expedition staff.

Lunch: Aboard ship.

Afternoon: As we continue through this area of vertical canyons and scenic views, we’ll gather in a private meeting area for a lecture by our Study Leader.

Dinner: Aboard ship.

Evening: Enjoy entertainment or other activities, spend time with fellow Road Scholars to discuss the day’s events, or just relax.

DAY
6
Bonneville Dam, Chanticleer Point, Multnomah Falls
Stevenson, WA
B,L,D
American Queen Voyages' American Empress

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 35 miles, approximately 1 hour riding time. Walking up to 1 mile and standing during field trips; paved walkways, groomed paths.

Breakfast: Aboard ship.

Morning: We will make port in Stevenson on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge. Boarding a motorcoach exclusively for our Road Scholar group, we’ll ride to the Bonneville Dam for a ranger-led exploration of the dam and powerhouse. Bonneville Dam, completed in 1938, is a hydroelectric generator for the surrounding cities. The ranger will tell us about its progression and improvements over time and the exhausting building project that encountered numerous obstacles due to the area’s unique geology. Its fish ladders offer a unique way for the dam to assist spawning salmon to pass through the dam to the upstream river. This ladder has a viewing area, allowing us to see the salmon passing by as they are counted. We’ll return to the ship after our field trip.

Lunch: Aboard ship.

Afternoon: We’ll board a motorcoach for a scenic drive along what has been called the “King of Roads,” the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway. Our Study Leader will provide in-depth commentary while we imagine the trials of the Corps of Discovery as they continued their journey on the river below. The Historic Columbia River Highway was built in 1913 and specially designed to complement the region’s stunning landscape without interrupting it. Next, we will ride into the mountains and stop at the Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint, a National Historic and Engineering Landmark. Once known as Chanticleer Point, it was this view that inspired the builders of the Historic Columbia River Highway. We will hope for clear skies to get a spectacular panoramic view of the river and the 13 million year old gorge. En route back to the ship, we will ride to Multnomah Falls The second-highest year-round waterfall in the nation, it plummets 620 feet from its origins on Larch Mountain. At the base of the falls is the Historic Multnomah Falls Lodge with a Forest Service Visitors Center we will explore. Trails from the lodge get you close up views of the falls and tie into trails to other waterfalls in the area. Those who wish to walk on the trails are welcome to do so. Returning to the motorcoach, we will ride back down the highway to the American Empress.

Dinner: Aboard ship.

Evening: Enjoy entertainment or other activities, spend time with fellow Road Scholars to discuss the day’s events, or just relax.

DAY
7
Maryhill Museum of Art, Columbia Gorge Discovery Center
The Dalles, OR
B,L,D
American Queen Voyages' American Empress

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 50 miles, approximately 1.5 hours riding time. Walking up to 1 mile and standing during field trips; paved walkways. Extent of walking at Columbia Gorge Discovery Center according to personal choice.

Breakfast: Aboard ship.

Morning: The Dalles, known as the end of the Oregon Trail, has long been a destination point for pioneers and adventurers alike. We will board a motorcoach for a field trip to the Maryhill Museum, whose collections are housed in a castle-like chateau situated on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. Our Study Leader will lead the exploration of this museum with an eclectic collection of Native arts, European paintings and the Queen of Romania’s personal effects.

Lunch: Aboard ship.

Afternoon: Next, we will ride to explore the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, whose interactive displays bring to life the volcanic upheavals and historic floods that created the Columbia River Gorge. A member of the Discovery Center staff will give us an introduction followed by time for a self-directed exploration of the museum. Under the National Scenic Act of 1986, the incredible natural and cultural history of the region was protected to help preserve the magnificent landscapes, diverse flora and fauna, ancient Indian rock art, and more.

Dinner: Aboard ship.

Evening: Enjoy entertainment or other activities, spend time with fellow Road Scholars to discuss the day’s events, or just relax.

DAY
8
Sacajawea State Park, Franklin County Museum, REACH Museum
Richland, WA
B,L,D
American Queen Voyages' American Empress

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 30 miles, approximately 1 hour riding time. Walking up to 1 mile and standing during field trips; paved walkways, groomed trails.

Breakfast: Aboard ship.

Morning: We will board the motorcoach with our Study Leader and set out on a field trip to Sacajawea Historical State Park and Interpretive Center that features fascinating exhibits on the Lewis & Clark expedition. At this location, the Columbia and Snake rivers converge. We’ll then ride to the Franklin County Historical Society Museum where a docent will lead our exploration. The museum, built in 1910, provides a unique view of local history through a vast collection of artifacts and information, painting a vivid picture of life and history in the Eastern Gorge.

Lunch: Aboard ship.

Afternoon: We will re-board our motorcoach for a field trip to the REACH Museum. As a gateway to the Hanford Reach National Monument, the museum showcases local agricultural history, advancements in technology, the Manhattan Project, Ice Age Floods, and other stories of the community through the lens of the Columbia River. Museum staff will give us an introduction, followed by time for self-directed exploration.

Dinner: Aboard ship.

Evening: Enjoy entertainment or other activities, spend time with fellow Road Scholars to discuss the day’s events, or just relax.

DAY
9
Road Scholar Lecture, Hells Canyon Jet Boat Study Cruise
Clarkston, WA
B,L,D
American Queen Voyages' American Empress

Activity note: Getting in/out of a jet boat.

Breakfast: Aboard ship.

Morning: We will gather in a private meeting area aboard the ship for a lecture by our Study Leader.

Lunch: Aboard ship.

Afternoon: We will set out on a study cruise by jet boat through Hells Canyon with commentary by onboard expedition staff. Hells Canyon is North America’s deepest river gorge at 7,993 feet. Protected as a National Recreation Area since 1975, it preserves a world of fascinating natural and cultural elements. Vertical cliffs carved by the river now hem in the rushing waters. Watch dramatic scenery unfold as we jet upriver. We’ll watch for big horn sheep and hawks throughout the journey. Along the route, we will view petroglyphs, reminders of the Nez Perce people who were the earliest inhabitants of the canyon.

Dinner: Aboard ship.

Evening: Enjoy entertainment or other activities, spend time with fellow Road Scholars to discuss the day’s events, or just relax. Prepare for disembarkation and transfer in the morning.

DAY
10
Disembarkation, Transfer to Spokane, Free Time
Spokane, WA
B,D
Oxford Suites Spokane

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 110 miles, approximately 2.5 hours riding time.

Breakfast: Aboard ship.

Morning: We’ll disembark the American Empress at the Port of Clarkston, where we’ll board a motorcoach for the transfer to Spokane, Washington, where we’ll be staying tonight. Upon arrival in Spokane, we’ll store our luggage at the hotel.

Lunch: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to have what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Afternoon: Free time. This period of time has been set aside for your personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Please note that the period scheduled for free time is subject to change depending on local circumstances and opportunities for independent exploration.

Dinner: In a private dining room at the hotel. Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for departure in the morning.

DAY
11
Program Concludes
Spokane, WA
B

Activity note: Hotel airport transfer included in program cost. Hotel check-out 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: At the hotel. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!






Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.