Porthole’s Five Faves
Cruise, American Style!
We crown the good… from sea to shining sea!
One of the joys of cruising is getting to visit exotic places in faraway lands, whether tropical islands or icy fjords. But those distant ports of call are not the whole picture. In honor of Independence Day, we’ve picked five favorite all-American cruise destinations, each showing off something special about the land of the free and the home of the brave.
1. Heritage Cruises
Explore America’s rivers – and the river of time – with Un-Cruise Adventures and their “heritage leaders.” These re-enactors bring the characters of the past to life in the places they knew best, from naturalist John Muir in Alaska’s Inside Passage to road builder Sam Hill on the Columbia and Snake Rivers.
Aboard the refurbished coastal steamer S.S. Legacy, surrounded by then same natural beauty seen by the first pioneers, it’s not hard to feel like you’ve traveled into America’s past.
2. Unexpected America
Everyone knows that Hawaii is part of the United States. If you’re quick enough, you can usually get one of your fellow cruisers on a Caribbean itinerary with the old, “Did you exchange your Puerto Rican money?” gag… but only once.
To get a real sense of America’s expanse from sea to shining sea, book passage on lines like Princess Cruises and P&O Cruises and visit one of the United States’ most far-flung territories, the South Pacific island of Guam.
Submarine trips here will take you past battleships from two world wars, and scuba excursions can investigate wrecked Spanish galleons. Above the water, take in a local barbecue, mixing flavors from American, Spanish, Asian and Chamorro cultures.
3. Cradle of Democracy
In the 1600s, Captain John Smith sailed around Chesapeake Bay and the York river, establishing the colony of Jamestown and having a famous romance with Pocohontas. Today, Yorktown Sailing Charters offers Historic Yorktown Cruises aboard the schooners Alliance and Charity. The wind catches the sails and you ride past the Revolutionary War battlefield of Yorktown, only a short distance from the Jamestown Settlement and Colonial Williamsburg. Passengers don’t have to help winch the sails into place, but if the need strikes you, you’re welcome to. (And in the open air, with the ospreys flying overhead, it just might!)
4. Cruise the Catskills
There’s no city in the world like the Big Apple, the beginning and end of American Cruise Line’s 8-day trip up the Hudson. Once outside the range of skyscrapers and city noise, the beauty of upstate New York unfolds with rolling mountains, historic mansions (the Astors and Vanderbilts had weekend places on the riverfront) and museums like the Hudson River Maritime Museum and the West Point Museum. In fall, the greatest attraction is just leaning on the rail and watching a rainbow of autumn leaves climbing up the hillsides.
5. America’s River
The Mississippi earns the name “mighty” not only because of its physical width (and cultural weight) as it rolls past New Orleans to the Gulf. It’s also one of the world’s longest river systems, with headwaters in Minnesota and tributaries flowing from Montana (the Missouri), Ohio (the Ohio) and Colorado (the Arkansas). That’s a lot of countryside.
One of the best ways to take in the spirit of the Mississippi has to be aboard a paddle wheeler like American Queen or Queen of the Mississippi. It was while crewing on riverboats like these that Samuel Clemens got his famous pen name, Mark Twain – meaning “two fathoms,” the minimum safe depth for steamboat travel – and Mississippi River trips often make a point of calling on Clemens’ hometown of Hannibal, Missouri.
Keep an eye out for theme cruises – American Queen hosts baseball greats and garden tours, while Queen of the Mississippi celebrates the history of the Civil War and the blues heritage of Memphis.