Cruise the mighty North American rivers

The rivers of North America have long been transport routes.  They helped the early travellers explore the continent.  Today they are a marvellous way to slowly explore the countryside. Is it the Mississippi in the south or the St. Lawrence in the north that pulls at your heart strings?  let us look at the options.

Mississippi River

The St. Lawrence River sweeps in from the Atlantic into Canada and is navigable all the way to the Great Lakes.  The replica Heritage Style Steamboat, the Canadian Empress is the only cruise ship dedicated to the St. Lawrence. She plies her way between Kingston, Ontario and Quebec City stopping off  in Montreal, the 1000 Islands and Ottawa along the way and is a true “river cruise”.   Full of character, she offers three to seven night voyages which can easily be combined with city breaks in Montreal, Quebec or even Toronto.  Most of the major cruise lines offer voyages from the Eastern seaboard ports such as Portland, Maine up the river some as far as Toronto, but most to Montreal.

Canadian Empress

The Mississippi

Two cruise companies compete on Ol’ Man River, both using modern and comfortable paddlewheelers:  The American Queen and American Cruise Lines.  They broadly have the same itineraries, cruising the Lower Mississippi during spring and autumn and retreating to the Upper Mississippi during the hot summer months.   American Queen are launching the American Duchess on August 13, 2017, a luxury vessel which will complement their already very comfortable American Queen.  Soak up the sounds of New Orleans Jazz, the food and the scenery on an unforgettable holiday tracing the lines of Civil War, old plantations and the laid-back lifestyle

American River cruise vessel on the Mississippi

The Hudson River

The Hudson is best enjoyed during the colourful autumn months and cleverly this is when the American Cruise Lines’ Independence sails from New York up to the Catskill Mountains.  Marvel at the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park, take a tour around West Point and Sleepy Hollow where you can visit the home of Washington Irving but the star of the show will be the amazing colour of the Upper New York State maples and birch trees.

Hudson River Cruise

The Florida Rivers

American Cruise Lines (America’s largest cruise company) also have a lovely itinerary exploring the rivers of Florida. First explored by river back in the 19th century, adventurers were searching for a tropical paradise. Easier for us as you board the American Star in Jacksonville to cruise the St John’s River, a designated American Heritage River, unusual in that it flows north rather than south.  You will visit Palatka full of restored plantation homes and on to Lake George and the heart of the Ocala National Forest where, with a bit of luck, you will see alligators, manatees and bald eagles. Explore the narrow streets of St. Augustine with its 19th century Victorian houses and beautiful cathedral.

Alligator St Johns River Lake Monroe Deltona Gators

The Columbia & Snake Rivers

Finally across to the West Coast and to perhaps the most spectacular of all the river cruises as you sail through the Columbia Gorge surrounded by soaring cliffs, waterfalls and vineyards.  Like all the rivers, the Columbia was vital to the Lewis and Clark Expedition and you will learn much of their exploits on your voyage.   Several ships make the round trip voyage from Portland; my favourite is the SS legacy belonging to Un-cruise, small ship specialists. I love their itineraries especially as they extend into the vineyards of the Willamette Valley and the fact that the Legacy only holds 88 guests makes for much better viewing and all excursions, including a thrilling ride down Hell’s Canyon, are included.

Columbia River Gorge

I hope you have enjoyed reading this.  Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Sandra Potter is Founder of Frontier Travel.

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Comments (2)

  1. Rachel says:

    Hey! Thanks for sharing, sometimes it’s nice to just be on water and sit back looking at the views. I’ve been on a tiny cruise on the Mississippi in Minnesota and it’s so beautiful. Now I’m in New York I’d love to do the Hudson one!

  2. Mark Gill says:

    Hey Sandra! Great post – I haven’t had a chance to tour these rivers, but your writing has really piqued my interest! North America doesn’t get much credit for wildlife tourism; when it comes to Florida, this is a huge mistakes! From gators to snakes, there’s a whole lot to see in the Baiou.

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