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Learn about cruises on the Great Lakes, along the Mississippi and on the east and west coasts of the U.S.

Cruises offer a chance to relax and take in the view. [© Jupiter Images, 2009]
© Jupiter Images, 2009
Cruises offer a chance to relax and take in the view.

While Caribbean and international cruises may dominate the cruising market, there are a variety of unique and interesting cruise opportunities right here in the United States. Travelers can enjoy a riverboat cruise along the Mississippi, a grand cruise of the Great Lakes, set sail in a tall ship or venture off the coast on a luxury cruise. Golf cruises or wine tasting cruises are some of the specialty trips that offer memorable experiences for all aboard.

River Cruises

The Hudson River is one of America's most historical and enchanting rivers. American Cruise Lines offers a unique opportunity to explore the Hudson on an eight-day cruise that commences in New York City. The boat stops in Catskill, Albany, Kingston, Sleepy Hollow and Manhattan. Cruise departures are in September and October to optimize fall foliage views.

Mississippi River cruises offer another unique cruising opportunity to explore some of America's cities. The Great Lakes Cruise Company operates boats throughout the great lakes. During the cruise, passengers have the opportunity to meet and interact with the captain and other crew members. Travelers can also tour the Mississippi on a riverboat, such as the Mississippi Queen, operated by Mississippi River Cruises. Passengers on the Mississippi Queen tour the Mississippi in a traditional paddlewheel boat with turn-of-the-century décor.

Sunstone Tours and Cruises offers cruises along the Columbia and Snake Rivers in the Pacific Northwest. The cruise starts in Portland and takes passengers on an eight-day adventure that includes places such as the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, the underground tunnels of Pendleton, Hells Canyon, Walla Walla and Mount St. Helens.

Cruising the Great Lakes

There are a variety of cruising opportunities throughout the Great Lakes Region. In fact, the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition is a nonprofit organization devoted to increasing overnight cruising opportunities throughout the Great Lakes. Aboard the Celia II, run by Great Lakes Cruising, passengers cruise from Toronto to Duluth, Minn. The ship heads across Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Lake Superior, with stops at Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Mackinac Island and Thunder Bay.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises operates the MS Columbus, which cruises to cities like Chicago, Detroit and Toronto. The ship also takes passengers to waterfalls, forests, locks and canals.

Tall Ships Cruises

Cruising at sea in a tall ship is a one-of-a-kind experience. Windjammer Mystic Whaler, located in New London, Conn., offers three- and five-day sailing vacations on their tall ship, the Mystic Whaler. Ports of call in the summer season include Block Island, Newport, Shelter Island, Sag Harbor, Mystic, Cuttyhunk and Martha's Vineyard. Fall season ports of call include Baltimore, Annapolis, Rock Hall, Chestertown and St. Michaels.

Children may enjoy the five-day Kids' Cruise with Black Dog Tall Ships. On these summer cruises, kids become a part of the crew and learn sailing skills. It is an opportunity to be away from modern conveniences and learn about America's maritime history.

Sailing Ship Adventures runs domestic and international tall ship sailing adventures. In the United States, travelers can choose from a Hawaiian cruise, Atlantic Coast cruises or cruises that take passengers from the U.S. Pacific Coast to Central America. These sailing vacations offer passengers the opportunity to get to know the crew and captain. Often, passengers participate in the actual work of sailing. The ships' capacity varies from 6 to 300 people.

Coastal and Ocean Cruises

The United States has an extensive coastline with numerous cruising opportunities. Travelers seeking a unique opportunity in Florida should consider Florida Yacht Charters, which offers cruises ranging from three to eight days. Three-day cruises take passengers along the intercoastal waterway, while eight-day cruises offer excursions from Northern Florida to Southern Georgia, including several barrier islands.

Voyage of the Wanderbird has a variety of domestic coastal cruises, including a Maine Lighthouse Cruise, the Fishing Villages of Maine, the Maine Coast Expedition Cruise and the Maine Coastal Bird Watching Cruise. These small cruises allow no more than 12 passengers aboard. Two black Labrador retrievers accompany passengers and crew. The ship has a topside observation deck, below-deck saloon and cabins.

Discovery Voyages offers a variety of tours along the Alaskan coast. The Grand Alaska Journey takes a small group of passengers (no more than eight) on a 12-day adventure through Prince William Sound, Anchorage and Denali National Park. A photographer naturalist guide accompanies passengers and crew for the journey. Passengers eat meals with the crew and captain. Another option is the Birding and Wildlife Photo Voyage, which is a 13-day cruise with eight days at sea.

Travelers looking for sightseeing adventures in Hawaii may want to consider a cruise on Holland America Line. The ms Zaandam embarks from San Diego, stops at several ports in Hawaii and ends in Mexico. Another option is a 16-day circle of Hawaii, which starts in San Diego and ends in Vancouver. During this cruise, passengers visit Hilo, Honolulu, Kona, Nawiliwili and Lahaina.

Special Interest Cruises

Special interest cruises are a relaxing way to pursue a particular interest, such as golf, hiking, wine tasting, or music (some musicians have cruises for fans). For example, Celebrity Cruises offers an 11-night wine cruise aboard the Celebrity Mercury. The cruise takes passengers to Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Monterey, Catalina Island and San Diego.

During the summer months, Classic Golf Cruises offers a seven-day cruise through the Great Lakes. The cruise departs from Toronto and disembarks in Duluth, Minn. Along the way, golfers have opportunities to play at the Grand Niagara Resort, Essex Golf and Country Club, Cobble Beach Golf Links, Bay Harbor Golf Club and Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club.

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