By Alexa Paolella, American Cruise Lines
Photographs courtesy of American Cruise Lines
With domestic travel on the rise, holiday cruises along U.S. rivers and coastlines are becoming a much sought-after getaway option. For those who enjoy the personalization, safety, and comfort of celebrating close to home, there are a variety of small ship cruise options during the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s seasons, which discerning travelers are sure to enjoy.
With the selection of new U.S. riverboats and small cruise ships growing each year, more choices are available this season among ships that are modern, elegant, spacious, and provide perfect cruising comfort. Additionally, unlike large ship cruises, small ship cruising is an intimate and personalized experience where crew and fellow guests can fast become friends.
Imagine spending Thanksgiving with family, exploring the legendary Mississippi River on a journey from Memphis to New Orleans, where you can relax as the onboard master chef handles every detail for a delicious and memorable holiday meal. Or enjoying a Thanksgiving feast along the intercostal waterways of Florida, while admiring the unspoiled beauty from your private balcony and visiting the historic cities of the region, such as St. Augustine.
There are also a variety of Christmas and New Year’s cruises that feature festive décor throughout the ship, seasonally-inspired cocktails and meals, as well as special onboard activities such as cookie decorating, the singing of carols, or a gift exchange with fellow guests. Ports of call along these itineraries often are ornamented for the season and offer exciting celebrations such as a festival of lights or ice carving contest.
A cruise along the Lower Mississippi River is a great way to celebrate Christmas or ring in the New Year. This region has no shortage of sought after-destinations, including the French Quarter of New Orleans, the grand estate and gardens of Oak Alley, Elvis’s Graceland, and the famous Sun Studios. On a southeastern cruise from Charleston, SC to Amelia Island, FL, the warm weather coincides with the warm camaraderie of fellow travelers. Celebrate the season exploring the delightfully decorated squares of Savannah, or “Millionaire’s Village” on Jekyll Island, once a winter retreat for the wealthiest families in America.
The Chesapeake Bay is also a great cruising option for Christmas and/or New Year’s. Colonial Williamsburg, America’s 18th century Christmas town, is a great stop along the way, featuring cobblestone streets lit each evening with crackling bonfires and single candles in the windows of historic homes. While cruising this region, guests can get in the spirit as they dock in Washington, DC, and visit the illuminated Capitol Tree or peruse the countless holiday markets in our nation’s capital.
Travelers can feel safe cruising this season, as cruise lines have done great things to enhance the safety on board their small ships and riverboats, implementing extensive COVID-19 protocols. Additionally, many U.S. small ships carry just 100 to 200 passengers and always cruise within sight of land, offering health and security benefits, which may be of particular interest to mature travelers.