10 Amazing Ways to See the U.S. by Cruise Ship

Cruises around the U.S.
Photo: Courtesy of Linblad Expeditions

The right cruise can put joy back into the journey, making everything from departure to the final destination and return trip part of the actual vacation. Maximize relaxation time by keeping close to home — because you don’t have to go far to find wonder in this world. “Domestic cruising is brilliant,” says Lisa Niver, a Virtuoso travel advisor and cruising expert who spent seven years working on cruise ships. “For a while, travelers felt they had to fly far away to see something interesting or exciting, and now they’re realizing how much the United States and nearby has to offer.” One major benefit: Because you won’t have to deal with jetlag for the most part, you won’t spend part of your vacation in recovery mode. In some cases, you can even drive to your departure port. “Everything is just easy,” Niver says. “You get on the ship, you unpack once, and you go to many destinations.” Ready to say “Bon voyage!” and let someone else do the sailing? Here are 10 amazing excursions that touch all corners of the United States.

01 of 10

See the leaves change from New York to Quebec

Cruises around the U.S.
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A highlight reel of the Northeast, Crystal Cruises’ Fall Foliage Sojourn departs from New York City during peak leaf-changing season and follows those warm autumnal hues through nautical New England and into Canada. Along the way, you can get lost in Newport, Rhode Island’s historic district; find the Freedom Trail in Boston Commons, America’s oldest public park; and salivate over Bar Harbor, Maine’s legendary lobster rolls. A lighthouse-dotted coast along Prince Edward Island keeps the cozy vibes alive before a little slice of Europe brings you back to earth in Quebec. (From $2,699 per person for eight days.)

02 of 10

Set your watch to Hawaiian Islands time

Cruises around the U.S.
Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Once you make it to Hawaii, island hopping is a must. There’s Pearl Harbor on Oahu, Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii Island, the twisty Road to Hana on Maui — and there’s no need to book flights between them. Norwegian offers year-round roundtrip departures from Honolulu that hit all of the above plus rainforest-covered Kauai. And they come with big booking bonuses, like free airfare and shore excursion credits. No wonder it’s an award-winning trip. (From $1,449 per person for seven days.)

03 of 10

Discover wine regions of the Pacific

Cruises around the U.S.
Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Booze cruising gets the grown-up treatment on the West Coast, where Princess Cruises’ Pacific Wine Country itineraries whisk wine enthusiasts from one wine region to another. In Santa Barbara, venture into the Funk Zone, a trendy downtown neighborhood packed with tasting rooms, galleries, and chef-driven restaurants, where you can drink in the Santa Ynez Valley. But make sure to save room in your suitcase: In Vancouver, you’ll have access to British Columbia’s top-rated wines, many of which aren’t available outside the province. (From $689 per person for six or seven days with departures from Los Angeles or Vancouver.)

04 of 10

Time travel with Lewis and Clark

Cruises around the U.S.
Courtesy of Linblad Expeditions

For a fresh way to see the Pacific Northwest, take a note from history and go back in time 215 years to when explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark first set eyes on the region during their now-famed expedition. Launching from Portland, the Columbia and Snake Rivers Voyage travels through the Columbia River Gorge to the Idaho border, where adrenaline junkies can jet boat down rapids into Hells Canyon. Because every National Geographic–Lindblad departure comes with its own expedition team of industry pros, you’ll get insider info along the way on everything from culture and wildlife to photography tips for perfecting your shot. (From $4,990 per person for seven days.)

05 of 10

Sail under the Northern Lights in Alaska

Cruises around the U.S.
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The world exists differently in Alaska, particularly at sea where it’s somehow more pure, more primal. The Northern Lights hang overhead while the Queen Elizabeth, your Cunard ship, pulls through a sea maze of fjords and glaciers to Victoria, Anchorage, Kodiak, and beyond. The journey comes to life with grizzly sightings and stories detailing First Nations heritage. (From $2,659 per person for 17 days.)

06 of 10

Leave New York behind for golfing greens and pink-sand beaches

Cruises around the U.S.
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A golfer’s dream, the Bermuda and the Old South departure from Azamara Club Cruises gives passengers plenty of time to tee up in Charleston, South Carolina, and Hamilton, Bermuda — the only two stops on this 11-day cruise. There’s also an option to attend the 83rd Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, for those who fully live the link life. For everyone else, there’s Civil War history and Southern hospitality to find in Charleston, while pink-sand beaches and pastel-hued colonial architecture line Bermuda — and then there’s the award-winning ship itself. (From $1,399 per person for 12 days.)

07 of 10

Go with the flow of the Mississippi

Cruises around the U.S.
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Just before the Mississippi River joins the Gulf of Mexico, it hits Louisiana — and Louisiana hits back with such mesmerizing character that you’ll feel wonderfully at her mercy. With USA River Cruises, you can float from New Orleans to the immaculately preserved historic river towns of St. Francisville and Nottoway in true Southern style: aboard the all-suite paddlewheel steamboat American Duchess. As Louisiana reveals her gifts in turn — be it antebellum remnants, a truly intoxicating melting pot of cultural influences, or a brass-tinged nightlife that wakes up the sun — just sit back and go with the river’s flow. (From $1,199 per person for six days.)

08 of 10

Test the crystal-clear waters of the Eastern Caribbean

U.S. Cruises
Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line

An ideal place to catch the travel bug, the Eastern Caribbean comes with a certain ease that’s hard to replicate — and you’ll be hard-pressed to find nicer waters to dip your toes into. With Carnival, you can take turns at tropical adventure and idyllic leisure, whether that’s swimming among waterfalls in the Dominican Republic’s Rio Damajagua, rum tasting on St. Thomas, or exploring Puerto Rico’s Central Mountains by horseback. (From $399 per person for seven days.)

09 of 10

Join the revolution in Chesapeake Bay

Cruises around the U.S.
Courtesy of American Cruise Line

Ghosts of the American Revolution stir off the coast of Baltimore and the nation’s capital, particularly in Chesapeake Bay aboard the American Constitution. The new 175-passenger ship from American Cruise Lines docks at a new port every day, putting the Revolutionary War’s most important sites — like Yorktown’s monumental battlefield and the Founding Fathers’ homes — at your doorstep, with period experts on hand both at sea and on shore. (From $4,805 per person for 11 days.)

10 of 10

Discover what makes the Great Lakes so great

Cruises around the U.S.
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Traveling between Chicago and New York entirely by boat feels like getting backdoor access to a trendy nightclub, only without the secret handshakes. As you traverse 12 waterways — from the Great Lakes to the Erie Canal and on into the Hudson River — Great Lakes Cruising’s Great American Waterways tour makes you feel like you’re getting exclusive access to a side of America that doesn’t often get seen. The cruise connects industry with interest, with excursions to a working Blacksmith shop and the Henry Ford Museum, along with the opportunity to marvel at master engineering each time your ship passes through the canal locks. (From $5,149 per person for 16 days.)

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