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6 ways to explore the USA by cruise

Destination Reviews

In recent years the contrasts in the US tend to have been manifested in terms of politics, but the differences across the states of this fascinating country go well beyond whether they are red or blue.

Whether it be the vast wilderness of Alaska, the cosmopolitan cities of the east coast, the sun-kissed beaches of California, the paradise islands of Hawaii or the bayous of the Mississippi, the USA offers travellers a wealth of options...

1. Alaska

Perhaps one of the most popular destinations to visit, and certainly a cruising highlight, is the rugged coastline of Alaska. Here you'll travel along scenic fjords and channels lined by temperate rainforest, spotting golden eagles and foraging bears. Discover fascinating frontier history and native American culture in the most sparsely populated state in the US. On a ship, you can access otherwise unreachable inlets and waterways, and a variety of operators offer a surprising amount of choice, from the larger cruise giants to smaller luxury vessels and tiny expedition ships.

Windstar's Star Legend in Alaska

2. New England

On the east coast, the confident style of New York and Boston gives way to the beautiful countryside of New England, best enjoyed when the fall colours light up the woodland with bright oranges, bold reds and soft yellows. The vivid fall foliage provides an unforgettable highlight as you travel to neighbouring Canada, visiting charmingly rustic fishing towns such as Bar Harbor, Halifax and Sydney where you can get your fill of lobster bakes. Itineraries are bookended with the cosmopolitan cities of Québec and Montréal to complete a trip filled with one of nature's brightest shows.

Bar Harbor, Maine

3. Hawaii

The islands of Hawaii have long been a favourite for US travellers, and for good reason. Beyond Honolulu's boisterous and touristy Waikiki beach there are lush landscapes with spectacular waterfalls and jungle-clad mountains. Visit Kaua'i, used as a backdrop in films including 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' and 'Jurassic Park'. Explore Maui's beaches and verdant volcanic hills from the lovely harbour town of Lahaina. On the Big Island's west coast you'll find luxury resorts and seas rich in turtles, manta rays, dolphins and humpback whales, whilst the east coast has verdant rainforests, gushing waterfalls and botanical gardens. Only a handful of luxury small ship operators offer cruises to the islands and availability is usually short-lived, so book early to avoid disappointment.

Kaua'i, Hawaii

4. Great Lakes

Connected to the Atlantic Ocean by the Saint Lawrence River, the Great Lakes are accessed by navigating a series of locks and canals, so only the smallest of ocean cruise ships are able to sail in these huge inland seas. For the lucky few that do operate, itineraries combine the steely skyscrapers of Chicago, surprisingly trendy Milwaukee and outright hipsterville Minneapolis, in contrast to the forested wilderness and lighthouse-dotted islands, home to a wide variety of wildlife from moose and deer to bears and eagles. The pristine waters and scenic backdrops are perfect for outdoor activities such as kayaking, diving, boating and fishing.

Thunder Bay, Great Lakes

5. The Mississippi River

Century-old oak trees, indigenous wildlife, Civil War memorials and vast plantations await you on a Lower Mississippi river cruise. Travelling between the delightful cities of New Orleans and Memphis, the paddlewheelers of the Mississippi are a perfect base to learn about the area's history and landscape whilst experiencing the very best of Southern culture. Sail further upriver and you'll travel through America's heartland between St Louis and Minneapolis.

Paddle steamer in New Orleans

6. West Coast

America's west coast stretches from the rain-drenched, forest-clad hills of Washington state to the Golden Gate of San Francisco, then southwards towards Mexico's sun-scorched Baja Peninsula. Cruise itineraries along this coast are as varied as the landscape. In the Pacific Northwest, expedition ships navigate waters home to orca and offer hiking through forests where bears roam and eagles nest. Cruises in the sunny central section include laid-back cities, beautiful beaches and the country's famed wine region. Travelling south of the US border the barren shores of Baja give way to the extraordinary wealth of wildlife under the water in Mexico's Sea of Cortez, an area that Jacques Cousteau called 'the world's aquarium'.

Griffith Park, Los Angeles
Meet the author

Alex is Director of Sales & Marketing at Mundy Cruising, having worked with the company for 10 years and in travel for over 18 years. Most recently he's cruised on Silversea and has also sailed with Seabourn, Crystal, SeaDream, Tauck, Regent Seven Seas and Ponant. His favourite destination is South America however he's also enjoyed cruises in the Western Mediterranean, Middle East, East Africa & Indian Ocean, India, Myanmar, South East Asia and Antarctica. When he’s not travelling he loves walking holidays; a favourite included a trek to Everest Base Camp.

More about Alex

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