The Voice of the Cruise Industry

US river cruises: the all-American adventure

America, USA, river cruising, American rivers,

Following in the footsteps of pioneers and cruising the world’s most iconic rivers is an unforgettable experience for modern travellers, which is why US river cruises are so popular today.  

Ol’ Man River, stately paddlewheelers, Mark Twain’s classic tale The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and the birthplace of jazz – these are the evocative images inextricably linked with America’s best-known waterway.

The mighty Mississippi, winding 2,340 miles from northern Minnesota to the music-filled streets of New Orleans, offers a big experience in every sense. For clients looking for a cruise destination with a difference, American rivers serve up unforgettable sights coupled with a timeless way to travel.

Mississippi river cruises are aplenty and are brimming with diverse history, ranging from Civil War battlefields to slavery, outlaws and Graceland, the Memphis home of Elvis Presley. The main cruise route is a seven-night sailing between Memphis and New Orleans, where other highlights include St Francisville, one of America’s most beautiful small towns and renowned for its 19th century antebellum mansions. There are also two other week-long cruise segments; Memphis to St Louis and St Louis to St Paul, the latter covering the prettiest stretches of the river with a greater concentration of wildlife.

In Oregon, there are seven-night itineraries on the lesser-known Columbia and Snake Rivers. They follow the historic route used by 19th century explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark when they journeyed across the US in search of the Pacific Ocean. Alternatively, another option is to combine a New York city break with a sailing along the Hudson River.

Statue of Liberty, American rivers, river cruise, cruise, America, USA
Take in the Statue of Liberty

The full package

American Cruise Lines boasts the newest fleet of authentic paddlewheelers and the only modern riverboats in the US, and selling the product has never been easier following the appointment of Fred River Cruises as UK general sales agent. In addition to commission rates and training, agents making an American Cruise Lines booking will receive a £10 Love2Shop voucher.

Fred River Cruises head of UK sales Dave Chidley – who has recently been joined by Lucy Hone in the role of business development manager – said: “We are looking forward to helping agents and their customers experience new and exciting river cruises on some of America’s most iconic, and lesser-known, waterways.”

Cruise ships operated by the American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC) include the 426-guest American Queen, said to be the largest steamboat ever built. Managing director at Light Blue Travel – UK representatives for AQSC – Rupert Thomson, explains: “We have been working with the company since its early days in 2012, when there was just the one luxurious paddle steamer with its distinctive red paddlewheel, the American Queen.

“Next year the fleet will have grown to four riverboats, three on the Mississippi and one on the Columbia River. In addition, this year saw AQSC’s acquisition of the two small Victory Cruise Line’s ships, which will cruise the Great Lakes. We’ve seen a year-on-year sales growth of more than 30 per cent, with awareness growing and repeat river cruisers who’ve done the European rivers, looking for something different.

“America’s Deep South is of huge cultural and historical interest. On-board lectures, visits to plantation houses, Civil War battlefields and monuments bring the history to life – with some Gone with the Wind and Mark Twain thrown in to set the scene.”

CLIA UK & Ireland director Andy Harmer says emphasising destinations and experiences are top tips for selling American river cruises. “America offers some truly magnificent river cruises,” he tells Cruise Trade News. “Whether it’s on the Mississippi, Tennessee, Ohio, Snake or the Columbia River, guests can be guaranteed lush landscapes, pretty port towns, colourful characters and an exploration into the country’s history. The Columbia and Snake Rivers are two of the most beautiful waterways in America.”

New Orleans, river cruise, American rivers, USA, streetcar
Streetcars are a big attraction in New Orleans.

Selling tips

  • Choice of classic paddlewheelers and modern-style vessels
  • Less tiring than taking a land tour
  • Culture-rich itineraries that will appeal to history buffs
  • Relaxed cruising with more scenic sailing time than European trips
  • Large ships with plenty of public space and amenities

Sample itineraries

American Cruise Lines offers an eight-night Columbia and Snake River itinerary on Queen of the West with one-night pre-cruise stay in Portland, departing 2 June 2019. Prices from £4,775pp including flights. 0800 035 0237;

Titan offers a 15-night Journey on the Mighty Mississippi land cruise itinerary with seven nights in hotels and a seven-night sailing on AQSC’s American Queen, departing 4 December 2019, from £4,399pp including flights. 0800 988 5823;

American Cruise Lines offers a seven-night New York round-trip sailing on the Hudson River on American Star, departing 26 October 2019, from £4,295pp including flights. Add a three-night hotel stay in New York from £550pp. 0800 035 0237;

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