Sun. Oct 2nd, 2022

Finally, we’re able to get out of the house and enjoy a world we’ve almost forgotten.

“There is,” says Charles B. Robertson, “a resurgence for exploring America.”

And he should know. As CEO of American Cruise Lines, he is witnessing the maiden voyage of American Symphony, a modern river cruiser joining the fleet’s 15 other ships as the country’s largest river cruise line.

For me, there was a fantasy I harbored for some time—a perfect way to leave the confines of the neighborhood and yet not be far from home.

The answer: a river cruise.

Once upon a time the only significant such cruises available to those of us in the States were on the Mississippi. You know, those retro paddlewheelers and steamboats. They have a rich American history.

In fact, a fellow named Nicholas Roosevelt (yes, an ancestor of Teddy’s) introduced the steamboat to the Mississippi in 1811. He was at the helm of the New Orleans. He waved to the folks on shore, who had never seen anything like it and they applauded and cheered as he chugged by.

But look what’s happened now, courtesy of American Cruise Lines:

You can cruise the Hudson River, the East Coast, California, the South. You can do it virtually in your backyard, or if you’re still adventurous travel a bit to reach the cruise of your dreams. American Cruise Lines wends its way through 34 states, with itineraries from five to 22 days. Who needs the Danube or the Rhone when we’ve got the Hudson, the Mississippi, the Atlantic coast (and more).

Today’s river cruises also provide a luxurious, fun experience, while being in a significantly smaller setting than a massive 1,500-passenger ship.

In fact, every American Cruise Lines ship, says Robertson, hold under 200 people. “We are absolutely committed to that.” All have gyms, outdoor dining. There are land excursions included, even hotels before the cruise begins. Every sailing has an onboard expert and nightly entertainment.

If this seems like the amenities you get on a classic ocean-going vessel—well, you’re right. But this is an intimate experience. You’re not lost in a sea of faces or subjected to the somewhat rigid schedule. It’s all about you, the river and the boat.

“Personalization is important,” explains Robertson. “And so is education and an itinerary.”

I was surprised to learn that there even is a national parks itinerary.

Imagine an eight-day sailing on the Columbia and Snake Rivers—and a seven-day exploration on land of three national parks. While you’re at it, you can join an art workshop in The Dalles, and enjoy a wine-tasting on the Hood River.

Still want more? How about a boat ride through Hells Canyon, summoning up memories of old cowboy movies and the myths of the American West. How about visiting Yellowstone National Park (when I was last there the Old Faithful geyser had a momentous belch of boiling water); Glacier National Park and Grand Teton National Park.

To get on board, or learn more about the experience, visit americancruiselines.com.

It looks as if I’m not the only one hankering to get into the great outdoors. Since 2016, American Cruise Lines has more than doubled its fleet. It now has 16 small ships, and more coming in 2023.

“We’re proud of the fact we sail what we build,” says Robertson.

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