See America the Beautiful: American Cruise Lines Sets Sail to National Parks
See America the Beautiful: American Cruise Lines Sets Sail to National Parks - Take In Breathtaking Views Along Alaska's Coast
From mighty glaciers calving into the sea to breaching whales and roaming bears, Alaska's coastline offers some of the most spectacular scenery and wildlife viewing opportunities in North America. A cruise along Alaska's intricate network of waterways with American Cruise Lines provides the ideal vantage point to take in the state's rugged natural beauty.
As you thread through narrow fjords flanked by snowcapped mountains, look for seals, sea lions and puffins gathered on floating icebergs. With luck you may spot moose grazing along the shoreline or even catch a glimpse of brown bears fishing for salmon. The Alaska coast nurtures an abundance of marine life including humpback whales, orcas and sea otters. Listen for the spray of blowholes or watch a tail fluke slip beneath the waves.
Your ship will ply the protected waterways of the Inside Passage where early European explorers first mapped the northwest coast of the continent. Pass by small fishing villages and Tlingit communities unchanged through centuries. Native culture remains vital here through art, dance and oral tradition. Learn about indigenous lifeways at tribal centers or step ashore to browse locally made crafts.
In Glacier Bay National Park, marvel at tidewater glaciers—living remnants from the last ice age—that stretch from mountain peaks down to the sea. Watch and listen as chunks of ice crash into the water below. Shore excursions by small boat bring you up close to inspect deep crevasses and icy pinnacles. As the glaciers retreat, follow freshly revealed land reborn after centuries beneath the ice.
Further north, the remote bays and islands of the Aleutian chain extend toward Russia. This wild and windswept landscape provides sanctuary for an astonishing range of seabirds. More than 40 million nest here during summer months. Zodiac tours land you amid raucous colonies of horned and tufted puffins. Photograph seabird rookeries alive with kittiwakes, murres, cormorants and auklets.
What else is in this post?
- See America the Beautiful: American Cruise Lines Sets Sail to National Parks - Take In Breathtaking Views Along Alaska's Coast
- See America the Beautiful: American Cruise Lines Sets Sail to National Parks - Immerse Yourself in the Untouched Wilderness of Glacier Bay
- See America the Beautiful: American Cruise Lines Sets Sail to National Parks - Experience the Rugged Beauty of Grand Canyon's Waterways
- See America the Beautiful: American Cruise Lines Sets Sail to National Parks - Marvel at Yellowstone's Geysers and Wildlife from Lake and River
- See America the Beautiful: American Cruise Lines Sets Sail to National Parks - Drift Down the Mighty Mississippi Through Mark Twain Country
- See America the Beautiful: American Cruise Lines Sets Sail to National Parks - Step Back in Time Exploring Civil War History on the Potomac
- See America the Beautiful: American Cruise Lines Sets Sail to National Parks - Appreciate Natural Wonders Along the Columbia and Snake Rivers
- See America the Beautiful: American Cruise Lines Sets Sail to National Parks - Savor Local Flavors and Cultures Along the Coasts and Waterways
See America the Beautiful: American Cruise Lines Sets Sail to National Parks - Immerse Yourself in the Untouched Wilderness of Glacier Bay
Glacier Bay remains a place apart, cloaked in primal wildness despite the modern world speeding by just outside its borders. As your ship navigates the bay's iceberg-strewn waters, escape to a realm unchanged since nature sculpted this edenic landscape. Savor days unbound by schedules or deadlines amid snowy peaks, emerald forests and tidewater glaciers streaming from mountain heights to sea.
Trekking across Flower Island reveals virgin forest draped in lichen and moss. Massive spruce and hemlock thrive in the cool damp climate, nourished by endless days of summer sun. Delicate orchids and showy lupine adorn the understory, butterflies and hummingbirds flitting between blossoms. Listen for whistles and trills from hidden birdsong. Inhale earthy scents of decaying leaves and fecund life. Lose yourself in undiscovered beauty.
Paddling a kayak beneath soaring cliffs fronting the Lamplugh Glacier plunges you into profound stillness. Icebergs drift in the green water, calved from the frozen ramparts looming ahead. Dip a paddle and listen to drips echoing off the rock walls. A thunderous crack rends the silence as another chunk breaks free and crashes down. Feel the raw power of the earth's elements unleashed.
From the deck, scan Glacier Bay's waters for bubbles betraying the presence of feeding humpbacks. A fluke lifts and disappears followed by the unmistakable puff of a blowhole. Zodiacs zip over to float alongside the leviathans. Cameras click and whales spout as curious creatures approach the inflatables. Smile and laugh witnessing the extraordinary.
As your ship anchors, watch the Margerie Glacier transform before your eyes. Fissures yawn wider and ice ramparts lean precariously. Suddenly, a deafening crack rends the air. An avalanche of cracked ice tumbles down the frozen facade amid a cloud of powder. The bay's waters shudder with displaced waves as house-sized blocks smash and roll. Gape in awe at nature's awesome display of might.
Step ashore on icy sands revealed by the retreating Muir Glacier. Marvel that just decades ago, this land lay trapped beneath hundreds of feet of blue ice. Now life explodes across new terrain—hardy fireweed blooms at your feet while gulls wheel overhead. Imagine the earth still emerging, raw and naked, from its icy cloak.
See America the Beautiful: American Cruise Lines Sets Sail to National Parks - Experience the Rugged Beauty of Grand Canyon's Waterways
Drifting along the Colorado River through the depths of Grand Canyon provides an intimate look at one of the world's most awe-inspiring landscapes. As your raft glides through intricate rapids, you’ll gaze up at towering cliffs lined with spires and buttes revealing over 2 billion years of geological history. This timeworn chasm carved by the inexorable flow of the Colorado River exposes a cross-section of the earth’s crust dating back to the very origins of the continent.
While hiking the canyon’s rim delivers panoramic views, venturing into the inner gorge brings you face-to-face with the raw power of erosion and the elemental forces that shaped this natural wonder. Shooting the rapids along stretches of violent whitewater will get your heart pounding. The sensations of cold spray on your face and the roar of the river raging past heighten all your senses. Your raft may even flip, plunging you underwater for a thrilling ride through the rapids.
Yet between surges of adrenaline are moments of tranquility floating through sun-dappled side canyons blanketed in green. Frothy eddies swirl as your raft drifts silently beneath towering walls patched with desert varnish. Your guide may pause to point out bighorn sheep navigating precipitous trails or condors soaring overhead. Throughout your journey, the ever-changing interplay of light and shadow transforms the canyon into an endless gallery of natural art.
As night falls and your raft is lashed to the shore, gazes upward to behold a spectacle billions of years in the making. The milky sweep of the galaxy unfurls overhead as countless stars glitter in the moonless sky. Coyotes yip in the distance while you drift off to sleep beneath the celestial dome.
Veteran Grand Canyon guide Teresa Conway says, “I never get tired of watching people experience the canyon from river level. Their mouths hang open in disbelief seeing the grandeur up close. Folks think they know this landscape from the rim views high above, but paddling, hiking and camping inside the inner canyon is a perspective that can’t be matched.”
Writer and conservationist Ed Abbey chronicled his own life-changing journey down the Colorado River in his 1968 book Desert Solitaire: “Floating through the canyons in the rapid current of the muddy Colorado, surrounded by a billion years of geology..., I feel immeasurably lucky to be here, privileged to see all this.”
See America the Beautiful: American Cruise Lines Sets Sail to National Parks - Marvel at Yellowstone's Geysers and Wildlife from Lake and River
Drifting across Yellowstone Lake or rafting along the Snake River offers intimate access to the unique hydrothermal features and abundant wildlife that earned Yellowstone the distinction as America’s first national park. Paddling tranquil waters brings you near elk grazing marshy shores, bison roaming grassy meadows and moose wading through lily pads. Along the banks, steaming hot springs and erupting geysers bear witness to the dynamic volcanic forces still shaping Yellowstone’s landscape.
As your canoe skims across mist-shrouded Yellowstone Lake at dawn, listen for the haunting call of a loon echoing over glassy waters. Peer through binoculars, hoping to spot a grizzly or black bear foraging on a grassy shoreline. While paddling near West Thumb, witness the lake bottom churning from hydrothermal action just below the surface. Hydrogen sulfide bubbles erupt from vents that constantly reshape the lake floor.
Disembark to follow boardwalks passing burbling mud pots in colors vivid as rainbow sherbet. Crested pools belch and gurgle, reeking of rotten eggs from sulfur emissions. The ground trembles underfoot signaling the approach of an eruption. Suddenly, Old Faithful geyser shoots a towering plume over 100 feet into the sky right on schedule. Marvel as 350,000 gallons of scorching water spew forth then rain down upon awestruck crowds.
Afloat on the Snake River, scan the banks for moose wading out to feast on succulent plants at water’s edge. Herds of bison roam the floodplains, coats shedding heavy winter fur. Watch bull elk swell their chests and bugle challenges across the water to rivals on the opposite shore. Stop for lunch on sandy banks while pronghorn antelope drink warily upstream. Against the backdrop of craggy peaks, witness Yellowstone’s abundant species carrying on the cycles of life just as they have for ages past.
See America the Beautiful: American Cruise Lines Sets Sail to National Parks - Drift Down the Mighty Mississippi Through Mark Twain Country
Drifting along the mighty Mississippi River conjures up visions of paddlewheelers plying the waters in Mark Twain’s day. This legendary waterway winds through the heartland of America, past river towns and antebellum plantations that inspired Twain’s literary classics. A voyage down Old Man River is a journey back in time.
Meandering nearly 2,500 miles from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi carried early explorers into the interior of the continent. This mighty “Father of Waters” opened the way for fur traders, pioneers and ultimately commerce crucial to America’s growth. The Mississippi and its tributaries link the Midwest to the Gulf Coast navigable by barge traffic.
Aboard a paddlewheeler cruise, tales of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn spring to life as you pass the stretches of river where Twain spun his famous stories. In Hannibal, Missouri, explore the cave that became home to Injun Joe and witness Tom and Becky’s adventures firsthand. See where imaginative young Sam Clemens fished, swam and watched the steamboats of his youth—inspiration for his pen name Mark Twain.
Further south, discover river towns like Memphis where blues music spilled from juke joints onto Beale Street. Disembark in Vicksburg to uncover Civil War history where a siege became turning point in the war. Marvel at Antebellum mansions flanking the river from Louisiana plantation country.
Fellow traveler John Gillespie recounts, “Paddling a canoe along the Mississippi through Minnesota, we drifted back to a simpler time of exploration and discovery. Camping on sandbars at night reminded us of early pioneers pushing west who relied on the river for transport.”
Janice Tyler enthuses about her voyage aboard the grand American Queen paddlewheeler: “Being on the water immersed us in the sights, sounds and flavors of the Mississippi. Tableaus of river life unchanged in generations flashed by our stateroom balcony. Storytelling and music evoked Mark Twain’s world.”
“In Huck Finn’s hometown of Hannibal, climbing into cave passages with just a candle brought Tom and Becky’s adventures to life,” Tyler continues. “Wandering the riverfront was like walking into the pages of Twain’s books where imaginative tales sprang from a spirited little town.”
See America the Beautiful: American Cruise Lines Sets Sail to National Parks - Step Back in Time Exploring Civil War History on the Potomac
Drifting along the Potomac River today, it's hard to imagine this historic waterway once marked the boundary between the Union and Confederacy at the height of the Civil War. This region saw major battles and campaigns that changed the course of America's bloodiest conflict. A Potomac River cruise with stops at pivotal sites lets you walk in the footsteps of soldiers who fought and died here over 150 years ago.
Gliding past Virginia's Potomac shoreline, the rolling hills seem peaceful and serene. But during the war, these heights bristled with Confederate artillery intent on blocking Union forces. Travelers can tour preserved batteries and trenches at places like Fredericksburg. Costumed guides share stories of the fierce fighting that raged across Marye's Heights during the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862. Outside town, the battlefields and cemetery at Chancellorsville recount the Confederate victory here that was overshadowed by the mortal wounding of their commanding general, Stonewall Jackson.
Further upriver, rafting excursions through the Potomac Gorge near Harpers Ferry cater to thrill-seekers. But during the war, strategic river access here was hotly contested. In 1862, the Union Army achieved a decisive victory at Harpers Ferry, capturing the town and over 12,000 Confederate troops. The groundbreaking success of the African American troops who fought here helped persuade Lincoln to enlist more black regiments.
No Potomac cruise is complete without stopping at Mount Vernon, home of the nation's first commander-in-chief, George Washington. Walking the stately rooms, you can almost envision Washington pacing the wide veranda warily eyeing Confederate positions across the Potomac during the war. Exhibits and films at Mount Vernon's education center and museum explain the complex evolution of Washington's own views on slavery.
Further downstream, Alexandria, Virginia, was an important Union port and transfer point during the war where thousands of Northern troops massed to move south and engage the Confederates. At the Alexandria National Cemetery, visitors pause to honor the Union fallen whose graves line the hillsides. The tomb of an unknown soldier who lost his life at Bull Run stands over the hallowed grounds.
See America the Beautiful: American Cruise Lines Sets Sail to National Parks - Appreciate Natural Wonders Along the Columbia and Snake Rivers
Gliding along the Columbia and Snake Rivers reveals awe-inspiring landscapes carved by the inexorable power of coursing waters. This gorge country unfurls scenes of roaring cascades plunging over columnar basalt cliffs and tranquil pools reflecting wooded hillsides. Dbjourney deep into a realm where the raw elements of fire and water sculpted a land still remote and pristine.
Astoria, Oregon, perched near the mouth of the Columbia River, provides a gateway to begin your journey. As your boat threads beneath towering bridges, get your first glimpses of massive basalt formations towering above the water. Farther upstream, the river winds through the Cascade Range where volcanic forces give way to rushing waters. Listen to Multnomah Falls thunder over tiers of precipices, its mists kissing your face.
Where the Snake River joins the Columbia, Hells Canyon plunges nearly 8,000 feet, deepest gorge in North America. Riding canyon rim trails on horseback affords panoramic views. But venturing into its inner depths aboard river rafts brings you face-to-face with the canyon’s elemental power. Shooting heart-pumping rapids in this untamed region quickens your pulse with adrenaline.
Kayaking placid pools encircled by high cliffs intensifies the profound silence. Laura Todd reflects on her journey through Hells Canyon, “Floating on serene waters surrounded by towering walls made me feel insignificant yet deeply connected to nature’s grandeur.”
Upstream, the Snake River coils sinuously through southeast Washington, carving out Palouse Canyon. Vast rolling hills undulate with windswept grasses seeming to mimic the river’s sinuous contours stretching to the horizon. Layers of volcanic basalts shape rocky outcrops and crags weathered by incessant winds. Hiking trails deliver panoramic canyon views and glimpses of spectacular waterfalls threading down cliff sides.
Northeastern Oregon reveals even more startling landscapes where ancient lava flows sculpted the land. At Succor Creek, the river’s path winds through panels of hexagonal basalt columns fluted like massive organ pipes. Further on, sprawling mesas rise above the Snake River Plain, remnants of lava flow surfaces that hardened millions of years ago. And where searing lava met icy water, volcanic glass called obsidian formed, prized by native peoples for tools.
See America the Beautiful: American Cruise Lines Sets Sail to National Parks - Savor Local Flavors and Cultures Along the Coasts and Waterways
Cruising along America's coasts and rivers offers a delicious blend of local cuisine and culture unique to each region. Meandering waterways provide access to out-of-the-way communities with traditions carried down through generations. Passengers can savor regional food and music, and experience the warmth of small town hospitality.
Food writer Pat James enthuses about sampling local flavors by water. “One joy of river and coastal cruising is getting to taste authentic regional dishes using ingredients from family farms and fisheries just minutes away.” James continues, “From Lowcountry boils in South Carolina to fresh wild salmon grilled on cedar planks in Alaska, travel by water lets you fully experience America’s diverse food cultures.”
In Portland, Oregon, you can start the day with a locally roasted Stumptown coffee paired with wild Chinook salmon and Marionberry pancakes. Up the Columbia River Gorge, vineyards near Hood River craft acclaimed Pinot Noir, Tempranillo and Chardonnay vintages. Sample wine alongside fruit harvested from nearby orchards while gazing out at the rolling vineyards backed by Mt. Hood.
Cruising along the Intracoastal Waterway and stopping in Alabama Gulf Coast towns like Fairhope and Foley allows you to trace the roots of the area's noted oyster culture. Area restaurants showcase just-picked Gulf oysters prepared every way imaginable - raw, roasted, steamed, or as part of regional specialties like oyster po' boys. You can also tour aquafarms to learn how they're sustainably grown.
Music journalist Claude Adams relays how traveling by riverboat down the Mississippi brought local art forms to life. “At blues clubs in Memphis and New Orleans, we tapped our toes as talented musicians plucked old acoustic guitars and crooned soulful lyrics that spoke of life along Old Man River. Their rich voices transported us back to the days of Huck Finn.”
“In Cajun country,” Adams continues, “bands jammed lively Zydeco rhythms on button accordions, fiddles and guitars as couples twirled across worn wooden floors. The cadence of their steps echoed the syncopated beat of the washboard scrub board keeping time. We couldn't resist jumping up to join in the infectious joie de vivre.”