The 6 Places In America You Must Cruise
North America… Once hailed as the promised land, North America does indeed promise cruise enthusiasts a world of opportunity from wildlife encounters in Alaska, to the hip-swaying hula in Hawaii or the toe-tapping rhythm and blues of the Mississippi.
But there’s probably more to North America than you think when it comes to cruising. There’s the West Coast from Los Angeles to Mexico and there are a multitude of cruises to choose from departing Miami and heading to the beautiful waters of the Caribbean and beyond. If you head further north along the East Coast, you can check out the Big Apple and the historical and romantic Nova Scotia (think Anne of Green Gables).
The options are many so we’ve picked out our favourite six for this article that might just set your travel taste-buds tingling!
1 - Alaska
Of course, Alaska is always going to be on the hit list when it comes to cruising. Spectacular scenery, fantastic wildlife and up-close encounters with whales and marine life make Alaska an ideal cruising destination. There are several cruise lines to choose from and voyages of varying lengths. Our recommendations for Alaska are simple: spend as much time as your schedule and budget allows. We recommend the smaller ships as they can get in closer to the coast line where the larger ships can’t, and they’re more flexible so they can detour if, for example, a pod of whales decides to put on a performance. You also get more personal service and the shore excursions are generally smaller.
2 - Columbia and Snake Rivers
This area is a little less known but breathtakingly beautiful. You can follow in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark – famous for their expedition across America in 1804-1806. On a mission from President Thomas Jefferson to explore the Missouri River and ascertain if there was any viable water path across the continent to the Western part of the country, via which goods could be transported, they discovered there was not. However they did prove successful overland travel to the Pacific. They also facilitated positive relationships with the indigenous people as well as detailing the flora and fauna in the area, many of which had never been recorded before.
Cruising the Columbia River is spell-binding. Depending on when you travel, Oregon’s rainfall makes for a lush, green vista with beautiful tramps and hikes for exploring. The majestic Multnomah Falls is always a favourite and the walk to the bridge is pretty easy going. For the more active, a steeper hike to the top of the falls is well worth the effort.
Autumn in the Gorge is quite simply beautiful. The changing colours of the trees would tempt any landscape artist to take up their palette and the cool crisp air is welcome relief from the dry, arid summer.
Along this route, you’ll be able to sample some excellent wines from the vineyards. Portland and the surrounds is known for its craft beer and arty culture. Be sure to also allow some time for some shopping at the outlet malls!
Voyages in this area typically cruise between Clarkston, Washington and Astoria, Oregon with embarkation in Portland. You can relive the charm of yesteryear aboard refurbished riverboats or choose the small, expedition style ships with kayaks and zodiacs onboard.
3 & 4 - Mississippi
Civil war history, antebellum plantations, jazz, blues and rock ‘n’ roll… America’s South has an undeniable magnetism and you can’t help but be caught up in the music, Cajun and Creole cuisine and the old-world charm. Mississippi River cruises have been operating for years and still they captivate visitors as they take guests rollin’ down the river on a voyage through the country’s history back to the early 1800’s.
The question, however, is which part of the river to cruise? The Mississippi is 3,734 kilometres long so unless you’ve got several weeks to spend on the river, the first thing to decide is whether to do the upper or lower half of the river.
Lower Mississippi cruises can be round trip from New Orleans, or choose a one way cruise leg between New Orleans-Memphis-St Louis (or in reverse). On a Lower Mississippi cruise, you’ll be able to lap up the Civil war history and for music lovers, this is the place to be. Scarlet O’Hara-like plantations abound, with mansions and historic homesteads with tree-lined driveways and expansive lawns that once played host to many a garden party. Music and dancing is an intricate part of life here and you can’t help but get caught up in the flamboyance of the Deep South. Hot days stretch into long summer evenings – so if you’re travelling in summer be prepared for high humidity and some nasty mosquitos! Avoiding those peak summer months is definitely advisable.
Upper Missisippi cruises travel from St Louis to St Paul, or vice versa. The scenery along the upper Mississippi is different to the lower Mississippi and you’re likely to see more birdlife and wildlife along the upper Mississippi - occassionally you may even spot an otter. The main drawcard, aside from the beautiful scenery, for the upper Mississippi is travelling through the locks. You’ll pass through more than 20 locks which always gives us Australians and Kiwis a bit of a kick. It’s not as hot or humid on the upper Mississippi as it is on the lower, but you do run the risk of having your travel plans disrupted if there is more rainfall or flooding because if the water levels on the river are too high, the riverboats can’t pass under the many bridges that cross the river.
5 - Victoria and Vancouver
Coastline This is a beautiful part of Canada and cruise ships abound here! The gateway to Alaska, Vancouver is alive with cruise passengers eagerly anticipating their cruise or happy, relaxed and abuzz from their Alaskan encounters. But let’s not forget Vancouver itself and Victoria.
Vancouver is a modern, energetic city with a lively restaurant and café scene. Yet it is fringed with beautiful mountains and forests and offers everything from museums to a spectacular suspension bridge, Grouse Mountain to grizzlies. It’s definitely worth allowing a few days to explore here!
Victoria, just an hour and a half ferry ride from Vancouver, is a delightful blend of colonial England and contemporary Western Canada. Here, you can sit down to high tea, stroll the waterfront or enjoy brunch in a local café. You can spend hours wandering the incredible Buchart Gardens, take a whale watching cruise, hike, cycle or explore the Parliament Buildings.
Cruises in this area (not including those heading to Alaska), will often depart Vancouver, travel via Victoria and the US West Coast and end in San Francisco or Los Angeles. They vary in length from three days to a week, so it’s a great option to add on to the end of an Alaskan cruise before heading home.
6 - Hawaii
Hawaii is always a hot destination but for those who have been before, it’s the outer islands that really are the drawcard. Flying between islands can get quite costly, not to mention time consuming, so cruising the Hawaiian Islands is a no-brainer. Cruising is definitely a more cost-effective way to see several islands and you don’t have to spend hours transferring to and from, and waiting in airports.
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to cruise lines operating in Hawaii, so it really depends whether you want a large ship or smaller and what you want your experience to be. From top notch luxury to expedition, there’s plenty of options to choose from.
Starting on the main island of O’ahu, allow time to visit Pearl Harbour, stroll the famous Waikiki Beach and, of course, indulge in a spot of shopping. This is the hub of Hawaii – busy and energetic with restaurants, bars, beaches and high-rise hotels. Yet there are plenty of forest walks and less crowded beaches available too – you just have to get out of the main towns.
When it comes to the outer islands, Maui is probably the most famous. Laid-back but with a whole heap of things to do if you feel like it, Maui attracts visitors who want to escape the crowds of Honolulu but still soak up the tropical Hawaiian atmosphere. Surfers and beach lovers flock to Maui every year to enjoy the sun, surf and sand. There’s also a bamboo forest, spectacular hikes through the mountains with waterfalls and incredible views and a volcanic national park to explore.
Kauai is more relaxed again and is a favourite for those wanting to get away from it all and spend quality time with friends and family. The scenery here is spectacular with lush gardens, dramatic coastal cliffs and beautiful, uncrowded beaches.
On Hawaii, the Big Island, you’ll find the active Kilauea volcano and you’ll often see dolphins and turtles, as well as spectacular fish and coral.
Then there’s remote Lana’i and Moloka’i – less touristy and a treat for those wishing to see the uncommercialised side of Hawaii. Check the cruise itineraries as to how long each voyage spends on each island – some will only stay for a quick stop, others will overnight. Cruises can either depart from Honolulu or you can cruise from mainland US to Hawaii or return. Or perhaps cruise from Hawaii to Tahiti or even to New Zealand or Australia.
If you are thinking of America as your next desintation, drop us a line to discuss what area suits your needs best.
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