22 of the Best Sightseeing Cruises in the U.S. for 2016

22 of the Best Sightseeing Cruises in the U.S. for 2016

These 22 sightseeing cruises around the country allow groups to get closer to nature, learn about historic cities and relax on beautiful bodies of water.

If your group is looking for something exciting and different to do then look no further. When most people think about cruises they picture a giant ship setting sail on the ocean for a week, but that is not always the case. The following sightseeing cruises take place for only hours at a time and some on bodies of water in the middle of the United States. Whether it be from the Midwest to Alaska, there is a cruise fit for every group.

1. Savannah Riverboat Cruises, Savannah, Georgia

The Savannah River Queen and Georgia Queen, docked in Savannah’s historic district, ply the Savannah River. Options include the 1½-hour “Harbor Sightseeing Cruise,” which spotlights the city’s history and its role as a modern port. On the two-hour “Dinner Entertainment Cruises,” the buffet includes shrimp and grits, a carving station with beef top sirloin and much more. After dinner, guests can dance to tunes performed by one of the riverboat’s own entertainers. (savannahriverboat.com)

2. Belle of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky

With a history going back to 1914, the oldest operating steamboat in the world offers sightseeing, lunch and dinner cruises on the Ohio River, departing from downtown’s 4th Street Wharf at Waterfront Park. Meal cruises have live entertainment or a DJ. The Belle can accommodate up to 650 guests. A National Historic Landmark, the boat has a concession cafe, full-service bar and a calliope that belts out tunes that can be heard as far as four miles away. (belleoflouisville.org)

General Jackson

General Jackson

3. General Jackson Showboat, Nashville, Tennessee

With a passenger capacity of 1,037, the General Jackson is one of the largest and grandest showboats ever built, its lacy filigree and stately design reminiscent of the Victorian era. The four-deck vessel offers mid-day, dinner and Sunday brunch cruises from Gaylord Opryland’s Cumberland River dock. Evening and mid-day trips feature country music shows, while Sunday brunch includes old-time gospel and contemporary Christian music. (generaljackson.com)

4. Belle of Cincinnati, Newport, Kentucky

Take a relaxing Ohio River cruise on this 1,000-passenger boat that boards right behind Newport Aquarium at Newport on the Levee, a dining/entertainment complex across the river from downtown Cincinnati. Cruise in ultimate comfort surrounded by lavish Victorian décor. One-hour sightseeing cruises, plus lunch, brunch and dinner cruises, are available. Each climate controlled deck includes a full bar and dance floor. BB riverboats’ smaller River Queen also cruises the Ohio. (bbriverboats.com)

Steamboat Natchez

Steamboat Natchez

5. Steamboat Natchez and Creole Queen, New Orleans, Louisiana

Two-hour cruises aboard the Steamboat Natchez depart from the heart of the French Quarter and feature commentary on local history and today’s dynamic port activity. Passengers on the last authentic steamboat plying the Mississippi enjoy live jazz and a calliope concert, and they can tour the steam engine room. A Creole lunch buffet is optional. The 1,000-passenger Creole Queen paddlewheeler offers a three-hour “Historical River Cruise” to Jean Lafitte National Historical Park’s Chalmette Battlefield, scene of the Battle of New Orleans, with narration by a costumed re-enactor. A one-hour shore excursion at the battlefield features a guided tour and talk by park rangers. The Steamboat Natchez and Creole Queen offer a jazz dinner cruise as well. (steamboatnatchez.com, creolequeen.com)

6. Yorktown Sailing Charters, Yorktown, Virginia

In Virginia’s Historic Triangle, not far from Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown, set sail on a tall ship adventure from the Riverwalk Landing Pier on the York River. Aboard the 49-passenger Schooner Alliance or 26-passenger Schooner Serenity, cruise past Yorktown Battlefield, sight dolphins or osprey, observe working watermen and even lend the sailors a hand. Pirate cruises feature cannon firings and crew in pirate costumes; kids have a chance to man the helm and raise the sails. Private charters are available. (sailyorktown.com)

Island Queen

Island Queen

7. Memphis Riverboats, Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis Riverboats’ three-deck, 110-foot-long Memphis Queen III offers two-hour BBQ dinner cruises with buffet featuring Memphis-style pulled pork, grilled marinated chicken, coleslaw, baked beans, a vegetable and dessert. There’s a dance floor and a house band that plays R&B, jazz and blues. The décor is classic Victorian riverboat style, complete with gingerbread trim and a main salon with twinkling lights, elegant drapes and flowered carpeting. The Island Queen, a 100-foot paddlewheeler, does narrated, 90-minute sightseeing cruises on the mighty Mississippi. Boarding is at the new Beale Street Landing. (memphisriverboats.net)

Spirit of Peoria

Spirit of Peoria

8. Spirit of Peoria, Peoria, Illinois

Evoking the style of vessels from the Mark Twain era, this paddleboat takes travelers down the scenic Illinois River watershed. Groups looking for extended journeys can try the multi-day cruises, which include visits to historic Springfield, the hiking trails of Starved Rock State Park and Mark Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, Missouri. Those looking for a shorter excursion can opt for the murder mystery dinner or late-night moonlight trip. (spiritofpeoria.com)

Riverboat Twilight

Riverboat Twilight

9. Riverboat Twilight, LeClaire, Iowa

Sail the same waters plied by French traders and American explorers on the boat’s signature cruise, a 2-day trip from LeClaire to Dubuque with meals, scenic narration and time to take in Iowa’s Mississippi River shoreline. Captain Kevin Stier is nationally regarded and can show your group aquatic wildlife and historical landmarks. Overnight is at the riverfront Grand Harbor Resort in Dubuque. One-day cruises also are available. (riveboattwilight.com)

Celebration Cruises

Celebration Cruises

10. Celebration Belle, Moline, Illinois

Want to twist the night away on a summer evening? This vessel offers the Classic Oldies Cruise, with 5̓ 0s rock ̓n’ roll classics and line dancing, among many other themed events. Evenings based on Oktoberfest, Broadway and country music are all available for your group to enjoy as they glide down the Mississippi River on this immense three-story boat. There’s ample space for dancing, dining and admiring the riverfront on a cruiser that offers everything from afternoon scenic trips to multi-day excursions through the Mississippi wetlands. (celebrationbelle.com)

Goodtime III

Goodtime III

11. Goodtime III, Cleveland, Ohio

Sail along Lake Erie and past the C-Town skyline on the city’s largest excursion ship. Favorite cruises include the Dance Under the Stars, where your group can party to rock and pop with a full-service bar, and the Saturday City Lights Cruise, where a DJ can provide the soundtrack for gorgeous views of Cleveland’s illuminated skyscrapers. Private charters are available for large groups, and morning brunches are a great way to pack in both a meal and a view. (goodtime3.com)

Odyssey

Odyssey

12. Odyssey Cruises, Chicago

Launching from Chicago’s Navy Pier, this fleet of triple-decker yachts offers journeys for any time frame and budget. Picture windows and decks on every floor provide views of Chicago’s stunning skyline, while dance floors and lounge areas inside can make your voyage as intimate or raucous as you’d like. Specialty events include the Craft Brew Cruise, which focuses on Illinois beer and liquor, and voyages perfectly timed to view Navy Pier’s fireworks. (odysseycruises.com)

Kenai Fjords Tours

Kenai Fjords Tours

13. Kenai Fjords Tours

Departing from Seward, Kenai Fjords Tours offers a number of day cruises that showcase Alaska’s natural beauty. The four-hour Gray Whale Watch tour includes lunch and will let your group witness the annual migration of gray whales, humpbacks and orcas. If your group wants to take a longer excursion, choose the nine-hour Northwestern Fjord Tour that cruises into Kenai Fjords National Park. Other options include the National Park Tour and Fox Island Dinner Cruise. (kenaifjords.com)

14. Riverboat Discovery

This 3-5 hour cruise on the Chena and Tanana rivers is more than just a boat ride. It’s an interactive Fairbanks attraction that will take your group into the lives of a family for an authentic Alaskan experience. Your group will go on a walking tour of an Athabascan Indian village and explore what life is like in the Arctic. Then see a bush pilot demonstration from the boat, explore trading posts on the Steamboat Landing and visit the kennels of a dogsled team. (riverboatdiscovery.com)

15. Lu-Lu Belle Tours

Get up close and personal with the colossal Columbia Glacier with Lu-Lu Belle Tours in Valdez. Your group will get closer than they ever have before to whales, eagles, seals and other Alaskan wildlife. See local fishermen harvesting Alaskan salmon. Enjoy gracious hospitality and fresh baked goods aboard this cruise. (lulubelletours.com)

Phillips Cruises

Phillips Cruises

16. Phillips Cruises & Tours

Phillips Cruises & Tours provides an assortment of Prince William Sound glacier cruises from Whittier. The 26 Glacier Cruise features 26 different glaciers, Esther Passage and College Fjord. The Glacier Quest Cruise features seven named glaciers, Shotgun Cave and Passage Canal. The Sunset Glacier Cruise explores glaciers in the evening. Your group will see waterfalls, glaciers and wildlife. All cruises feature a hot meal and a no-seasickness guarantee. (phillipscruises.com)

17. Stan Stephens Glacier & Wildlife Cruises

From Valdez your group can take a seven-hour Columbia Glacier Cruise through Prince William Sound and view the Columbia Glacier as it recedes back into the Chugach Mountains. View local wildlife and learn about the area’s mining, oil shipping, earthquakes and fishing. If your group is looking for a longer tour, take the nine-hour Meares Glacier Excursion. At the glacier, you will see wildlife like seals, orca whales and puffins. (stephenscruises.com)

18. Essex Steam Train and Riverboat

This rail-river duo spotlights the unspoiled Connecticut River Valley, designated by the Nature Conservancy as “one of the last great places on earth.” The 2½-hour journey starts the historic 1892 Essex Station with a 20-mph steam train ride through picturesque countryside and the classic New England towns of Deep River and Chester. At Deep River Landing, passengers are escorted onto the Becky Thatcher riverboat for a 1¼-hour cruise that glides by a shoreline with coves, inlets, marshes and wildlife. Just as impressive are the historic sights, including Gillette’s Castle and Goodspeed Opera House. (essexsteamtrain.com)

19. City Sightseeing New York

The 90-minute Skyline Cruise is a fully-narrated harbor cruise and sightseeing tour of NYC and its famous waterways. Unbeatable views of the Manhattan skyline include the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, Freedom Tower, Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty. The cruise can be combined with City Sightseeing New York double-decker bus tours. Or book the Hop-on, Hop-off Sightseeing Ferry, with four hop-off locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The full ride, without stops, is 90 minutes. (citysightseeingnewyork.com)

City Sightseeing New York

City Sightseeing New York

20. Spirit Cruise to Mount Vernon, Washington, D.C.

Getting there is half the fun on Spirit Cruises’ Potomac River excursion from Washington, D.C. to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate in Virginia. The voyage is 90 minutes each way, with a 3½-hour stopover to tour the first president’s stately home, outbuildings and gardens. Sights from the Spirit of Mount Vernon include the Jefferson Memorial, Reagan National Airport and Old Town Alexandria. One-way excursions are available. The Spirit of Washington does Potomac River lunch and dinner cruises. (spiritcruises.com)

21. Gateway Clipper Fleet, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

For the perfect introduction to Pittsburgh, book your group on a one-hour sightseeing cruise that touches all three of the city’s rivers, starting from Station Square on the Monongahela and continuing to the Allegheny and Ohio.

Passengers enjoy views of the Pittsburgh skyline, landmarks like baseball’s PNC Park and the historic incline railways running up the cliffs. Lunch and dinner-dance cruises also are available. The fleet’s five boats range from the 600-passenger Gateway Empress to the 150-passenger Gateway Countess. (gatewayclipper.com)

22. Spirit of Ethan Allen III, Burlington, Vermont

Vermont’s largest cruise ship, the 363-passenger Spirit of Ethan Allen III, offers narrated 1½-hour cruises on Lake Champlain, the largest freshwater lake in the country after the five Great Lakes. Guests learn about Indian lore, the Revolutionary War and Vermont hero Ethan Allen himself as they take in the majestic beauty of the Adirondack and Green mountain ranges. The 120-mile-long, 12-mile-wide lake encompasses Vermont, New York and Quebec province. Lunch and dinner cruises also are available. (soea.com)

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22 of the Best Sightseeing Cruises in the U.S. for 2016
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22 of the Best Sightseeing Cruises in the U.S. for 2016
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These 22 sightseeing cruises around the country allow groups to get closer to nature, learn about historic cities and relax on beautiful bodies of water.
Leisure Group Travel Magazine
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