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With travel agents reporting that more American travelers want to stay in North America this year, it’s good news to see that many 2017 river cruises are offering lures beyond the traditional Lower Mississippi itineraries. From the Great Lakes, Erie Canal and rivers of Florida to the Mississippi, Snake and Columbia rivers, there is an unprecedented range of journeys onboard Victorian-style and modern ships to satisfy the demand for domestic cruising.
Following are a few examples.
American Cruise LinesThe company’s Great Rivers of Florida cruise follows the route taken by 19th-century travelers in the state. It runs from St. John’s River, a designated American Heritage River and one of the few north-flowing rivers above the equator, to Lake George. The cruise includes a visit to the Ocala National Forest to spot wildlife such as alligators and manatees, as well as a stop at historic St. Augustine.
The eight-day itinerary is offered in February/March and November/December onboard the 100-passenger American Star.
American Queen Steamboat CompanyArchitecture and the arts are highlighted on American Queen Steamboat Company’s Aug. 13 sailing onboard the new 166-passenger American Duchess from St. Louis to Ottawa, Ill. There’s also a Chicago Blues-themed cruise on the same itinerary, in reverse, departing Aug. 20. Along the nine-day cruise, there are opportunities for guests to sample experiences from creating ceramic pots to learning the role of hops.
Blount Small Ship AdventuresThe cruise line will send both the Grande Caribe and Grande Mariner on 15-night cruises between Warren, R.I., and Chicago in May, June, July and September. Blount’s Great American Waterways itinerary combines the historic Erie Canal and four Great Lakes: Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario. Culturally, it’s quite a journey, from bustling Chicago to classic New England.
The two ships also sail a 13-night Locks, Legends & Canals itinerary between Manhattan and Montreal, with an overnight in Quebec City. It combines distinctive ports with fall color in September and October.
Lindblad Expeditions – National Geographic The line’s Harvests, History and Landscapes cruise can be booked for September and October on the new 100-passenger National Geographic Quest, the National Geographic Sea Bird or National Geographic Sea Lion. The seven-day Columbia and Snake rivers cruise follows a route between Portland, Ore., and Clarkston, Wash. Guests can hike and bike along the Columbia River Gorge’s trail and visit locations used by famous explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. The ship goes through eight locks that raise it more than 700 feet.
UnCruise AdventuresOn the cruise line’s eight-day Rivers of Wine sailing, guests visit five Oregon and Washington American Viticulture Areas for wine tastings and tours. If that isn’t enough, they sail with a local wine expert who gives presentations, leads onboard tastings and answers guests’ questions.
The 88-passenger Legacy sails roundtrip Portland, Ore., with departures April 15 and 22; June 24; July 29; Aug. 5 and 26; and Oct. 14 and 21. The dramatic scenery and historical sites are in addition to the focus on wine.