River Cruising in the U.S.

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River cruising is a great product for travel consultants to sell for so many reasons. River cruises are great for our clients that have exhausted the ocean cruise itineraries, without dipping into the longer itineraries of 30 nights or longer. They’re also a great alternative for the client that is worried about motion sickness. Like the Alaska inside passage, river cruises are operating in waterways that aren’t subjected to significant wave action, reducing the feeling of movement. And then there are the itineraries.

The general traveling public may be aware of European river cruising. A smaller portion may be aware that they can cruise the rivers of Africa or Asia as well. But the rivers of the United States seem to go unnoticed. We don’t see a large television advertising push for them. So clients rely on their travel consultant to clue them in on the hidden gems of the world, including U.S. river cruises.

If you aren’t familiar with the river cruising options in the U.S., check out American Cruise Line, American Queen Steamboat Company, and Blount Small Ship Adventures. The itineraries vary by cruise company as well as the time of year that your clients want to sail. Primarily you’ll find itineraries the the Northwest (New England, Canada), Northwest (Washington, Oregon) and along the Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee rivers. Depending on where your clients are located, it’s possible to find a river cruise that does not entail flying anywhere to board the ship.

For me, as a resident of Nashville, Tennessee, I was excited to hear recently that the American Queen Steamboat Company will operate two round trip itineraries out of Nashville later this year. Other itineraries are a relatively short flight away, with starting or ending ports of New Orleans, Memphis, St Louis, and more. Not to be outdone, the American Cruise Line is also beefing up their Nashville presence. In past years they have appeared in Nashville once a year. They had one sailing for a week from St Louis to Nashville, then they’d turn the ship around the same day and return to St Louis on another one week itineary. For 2017 and 2018 they are operating the St Louis – Nashville itineraries for six weeks, tripling their appearance in Nashville.

The American Cruise Line also operates a river cruise itinerary in Florida, round trip out of Jacksonville. I am willing to be that many travel consultants would never think of Florida, land of The Mouse, as a river cruise destination. Other US destinations that the American Cruise Line includes in their itineraries are the Columbia and Snake Rivers (Northwest) and the Hudson River (Northeast).

Whether the reason is a resistance from clients to travel abroad, or it’s a matter of having a “been there, done that” attitude with ocean cruising, clients are looking for unique opportunities to travel throughout the United States. Don’t miss the boat, and check out domestic river cruising for your clients!


Susan SchaeferSusan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at susan@shipsntripstravel.com or by phone at (888) 221-1209.

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