River Cruises You Can Take Without Leaving the US

river cruises in united states
There are a large variety of river cruises right here in the United States. - Photo by American Cruise Lines

When most people think of a river cruise, their mind’s eye usually pictures small, charming European towns along the Rhine and Danube Rivers. European river cruises are overwhelmingly popular for a reason, but there are actually plenty of river cruises throughout North America you can take without packing a passport. Here are seven river cruises that you can set sail on without even leaving the United States. 

1. Snake & Columbia Rivers

columbia snake river pacific northwest river
Safari Quest in the Pacific Northwest - Photo by UnCruise Adventures

Lines That Sail Here: Lindblad Expeditions, American Cruise Lines, UnCruise Adventures, and American Queen Steamboat Company

Common Routes: Portland, Oregon roundtrip and Portland to Clarkston, Washington or vice versa

Highlights: Passengers on these itineraries travel along the route that Lewis and Clark explored over 200 years ago. Activities ashore include visiting waterfalls, tastings at a local winery, and wandering around small Pacific northwest towns. Outdoorsy travelers will enjoy Hells Canyon, the Columbia Gorge, Multnomah Falls, and Cape Disappointment State Park in particular. 

Typical Ports/Destinations: Hood River, The Dalles, and Astoria, Oregon; Richland, Washington; and the Columbia River Gorge which runs through both Oregon and Washington


2. Lower Mississippi

oak alley plantation mississippi river cruise
Oak Alley Plantation - Photo by Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Lines That Sail Here: American Queen Steamboat Company and American Cruise Lines  

Common Routes: New Orleans to Memphis or vice versa

Highlights: Travelers can look forward to exploring the National Military Park in Vicksburg, visiting the Frogmore cotton plantation in Natchez, strolling through antebellum mansions in St. Francisville, and seeing 300 year old oak trees at the Oak Alley Plantation. 

Typical Ports/Destinations: Oak Alley and Nottoway plantations, Helena, Arkansas, Baton Rouge and St. Francisville, Louisiana; and Natchez, Vicksburg, and Greenville, Mississippi


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3. Upper Mississippi

queen of the mississippi riverboat paddlewheeler
American Eagle (now Queen of the Mississippi) in Hannibal, Missouri - Photo by Brian S./Shutterstock

Lines That Sail Here: American Queen Steamboat Company and American Cruise Lines

Common Routes: St. Louis to St. Paul or vice versa

Highlights: The upper part of the Mississippi River is considered its most scenic stretch, and settings along it were the inspiration for some of Mark Twain’s most famous books — including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. These sailings also stop at Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, Missouri, a quiet village that provided the inspiration for many of his most famous characters. Other points of interest along the way include the Black Hawk State Historical Site in Illinois, bald eagle’s nests in Red Wing, and charming streets in the small towns along the river.  

Typical Ports/Destinations: Hannibal, Missouri; Clinton, Davenport, and Dubuque, Iowa; Red Wing, Minnesota; and La Crosse, Wisconsin


4. Hudson River Cruise

hudson river cruise american cruise lines
American Constitution - Photo by American Cruise Lines

Lines That Sail Here: American Cruise Lines

Common Routes: New York City round trip

Highlights: This cruise through eastern New York departs from New York City and heads up to Albany before turning around and stopping at a number of upstate towns on the way back. Travelers might visit the Vanderbilt Mansion, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s home, the Clermont Estate, West Point Military Academy, and Sleepy Hollow — a town made famous by the great short-story writer Washington Irving. 

Typical Ports/Destinations: Albany, Kingston, Hyde Park, Catskill, West Point, and Sleepy Hollow, New York


5. Historic South & Southern Isles

charleston south carolina river american cruise
Charleston, South Carolina - Photo by Shutterstock

Lines That Sail Here: American Cruise Lines

Common Routes: Charleston to Jacksonville or vice versa

Highlights: In the historic, charming city of Charleston, history buffs can visit Fort Sumter National Monument, architecture lovers can admire pastel antebellum houses, and those who are drawn outdoors can explore beautiful gardens. Other high points of the cruise include a stop at the prestigious Hilton Head Island, a visit to the extravagant Millionaire’s Village on Jekyll Island, shopping in the undeniably southern city of Savannah, and exploring plantations on St. Simon’s Island. 

Typical Ports/Destinations: Beaufort and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina; Savannah, Cumberland Island, Jekyll Island/St. Simons Island, Georgia; and Amelia Island, Florida


6. Islands of New England

newport rhode island new england cruise
Newport, Rhode Island - Photo by solepsizm/Shutterstock

Lines That Sail Here: Blount Small Ship Adventures, American Cruise Lines 

Common Routes: Blount sails roundtrip from Warren, Rhode Island, and American sails roundtrip from Providence, Rhode Island. 

Highlights: Travelers on these voyages make their way through quaint oceanside towns, both on the mainland and on little islands in southern New England. Some highlights include exploring the rich marine history of New Bedford (the scalloping capital of the world), sightseeing the “Avenue of the Mansions” or taking a ride on an America’s Cup boat in Newport, visiting storybook villages in Martha’s Vineyard, and enjoying the immaculate beaches of Block Island. 

Typical Ports/Destinations: Nantucket Island, Martha’s Vineyard, and New Bedford, Massachusetts and Newport and Block Island, Rhode Island


7. Alaska Passages

alaska passages cruise uncruise glacier expedition
Wilderness Explorer - Photo by UnCruise Adventures

Lines That Sail Here: UnCruise Adventures, Discovery Voyages

Common Routes: Many UnCruise voyages are roundtrip Juneau, Juneau to Ketchikan, and Sitka to Ketchikan. Most cruises with Discovery Voyages are roundtrip from Anchorage. 

Highlights: These small-ship, expedition-style cruises focus on the natural beauty and wildlife of Alaska. Cruisers can take kayaks or Zodiac inflatable boats out when the ship anchors to explore closer to shore and spot wildlife, touch a glacier, or go hiking. Both lines lean towards the “non-touristy” side of cruising, with Discovery in particular rarely visiting heavily populated or commercialized areas. UnCruise, though, does visit some typical Alaskan port towns along the way such as Sitka, Haines, and Ketchikan. 

Typical Ports/Destinations: Tracy Arm Fjord, Icy Strait, Prince William Sound, Glacier Bay, Whittier, Barry Arm, Sitka, and Chicachagof Island — UnCruise and Discovery’s itineraries are quite different, so each itinerary includes its own unique stopping places and scenic cruising.

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Have you ever taken a river cruise in the US?

1 Comment

Posted by WeCruiseToo

Great stuff – thanks! We’ve been on 12 river cruises so far and have the next 3 booked, but none have been in the US yet. Hopefully soon!

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