Travel insights from Jenna Buege, contributing editor of The Compass

How to Cruise Stateside

Travelers don’t have to sail the seven seas to have the cruise adventure of a lifetime. With its many long and winding waterways, the U.S. is home to a plethora of domestic river cruise options for travelers looking to experience ship life without crossing international borders.

Mississippi River

  • Upper: Travelers can experience the Upper Midwest on a Mississippi River cruise from St. Paul to St. Louis. Cruisers will marvel at the natural beauty of the bluffs in La Crosse, Wisconsin; learn about John Deere’s agricultural accomplishments in Davenport, Iowa; and explore Mark Twain’s boyhood home of Hannibal, Missouri. In addition to an abundance of notable stops, those departing in late summer or early fall will be treated to a canvas of red and gold as the leaves begin to change their color for the season.
  • Lower: A Lower Mississippi River cruise from Memphis to New Orleans is sure to be a treat filled with endless music, culinary delights and lively culture. Passengers will make stops at historic plantation homes and legendary battle fields as they sail the winding waters of the Mississippi.

Travelers can see the best of both halves of the Mississippi with cruise liners like American Cruise Lines and the American Queen Steamboat Company.

Columbia and Snake Rivers

Outdoor lovers and history buffs won’t want to miss their chance to reenact Lewis and Clark’s epic journey in the Pacific Northwest with a cruise along the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Travelers will experience some of the country’s most jaw-dropping natural landmarks like America’s deepest canyon, Hells Canyon, and the historic Mount Hood, a stratovolcano in Oregon’s Cascade Volcanic Arc. In addition to fabulous outdoor fun, cruisers can also visit the homelands of the Nez Perce tribe and enjoy local wines. UnCruise Adventures and USA River Cruises are two fantastic options for booking this journey of a lifetime.   

Hudson River

Say “goodbye” to the hustle and bustle of New York City with a trip down the enchanting Hudson River. With the Catskill Mountains to the west and the Taconic and Berkshire Hills to the east, the Hudson River has plenty of beauty to go around. The cities and towns along the river have Dutch and English roots and are home to some of the most impressive architecture in the country. A few notable stops include the Vanderbilt Mansion, the Clermont Estate and the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt. For shorter jaunts down the Hudson travelers can book a two-hour trip with Hudson River Adventures or they can embark on an eight day voyage with larger cruise liners like American Cruise Lines.  

Alaskan Waterways

In addition to the out-of-this-world landscape of glaciers and ice fields, travelers will get a close-up view of impressive wildlife such as eagles, bears, whales and seals when they book a cruise to Alaska. For an extra special trip, have travelers arrive or depart via Alaska’s Inside Passage, a water route between the Gulf of Alaska and Puget Sound that provides access to over a dozen state and national parks and reserves. FYI, most cruise ships traveling through the Inside Passage only run from May through September. Viking Ocean Cruises and North Pacific Expeditions are two fantastic options for travelers looking to experience this wild adventure.  

Cumberland River

Help travelers experience a taste of all things Southern with a trip down the Cumberland River from Nashville to St. Louis. Whether you’re a fan of country music or not, it’s hard to deny the magic that is Nashville, Tennessee. Visitors can stroll through Music City USA, tour the Country Music Hall of Fame, experience Honkey Tonk Row and marvel at a full-size replica of the Parthenon. After embarking, cruisers can expect historical stops along the river, a beautiful shoreline and maybe even a special stop in “the City of Popeye.” Music-buffs and party people can book this trip with the American Queen Steamboat Company for the adventure of a lifetime.  

The Great Lakes

The fun doesn’t stop at river cruising; did you know that travelers can also explore the Great Lakes by cruise? That’s right, cruise liners like Victory Cruise Lines offer what they call “immersive and all-inclusive coastal cruising” complete with on-shore excursions and exciting itineraries. From Chicago to Niagara Falls, the Great Lakes area is jam-packed with bustling cities, breathtaking nature and unforgettable memories waiting to happen.

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