River cruises in the USA can be wonderful experiences. There's nothing quite like heading upriver and leaving all the stresses and responsibilities of modern life behind you. Drift through the Great Lakes, meander the Upper or Lower Mississippi, take in the stark beauty of the Alaska Waterways - the choices on where to go, and what cruise company to go with are vast. And that's where it becomes a little tricky. How exactly do you decide? How do you know what cruise companies are the most reliable? Which boats are the most luxurious? That's where we come in.

Specifically for this article, we have compiled a comprehensive list of the Top 10 River Cruises in the USA. So sit back, relax, and gently drift through the ins and outs of places to go and who it is that takes you there.

Comparison Table

River Cruises In the USA - FAQ's

When people are planning or considering planning, a river cruise, they generally have a good handful of questions on the subject. Here are a few frequently asked questions regarding US river cruises.

 1. What Exactly Is A US River Cruise?

The United States of America has a great many rivers running through its diverse landscape. This makes for no shortage of river-borne adventuring. In fact, it has been an American pastime and way of life since the days of the Indians. Rivers, and water, in general, played a huge part in both daily and spiritual life for the Native Americans. And to this very day, Americans and visitors to our fair country, enjoy cruising the waters of our beautiful rivers.

Whether navigating the Mississippi as a passenger on a historic paddleboat, taking in the breathtaking glaciers of Alaska, or cruising the famous Hudson River, river cruises in the USA provide relaxation and entertainment on our many waterways.

Also, with river cruises in the USA, there's no need to seek accommodation as the passengers stay in cabins onboard. A river cruise experience is a very relaxing and rewarding one, and, like a vacation, is one that is very unique.

2. What Rivers Are Most Popular?

Here are a few of the most popular rivers to cruise:

Alaskan Waterways
The waterways of our most northern state are vast and will literally steal the breath from your lungs with their inherent beauty. Glaciers, historic fishing villages, whales and other marine wildlife, are all things you may take in on the wild waterways of Alaska.

Mississippi River
Cruise the Upper or Lower Mississippi River in comfort with a river cruise. The Mississippi is one heck of a long river. from the jazz-filled streets of New Orleans to the winter-chilled cafes of Minneapolis, it's no joke why the Mississippi is known as 'The Father of Waters.'

Great Lakes
The Great Lakes make for a great escape. Lake Michigan in Chicago, Lake Superior, Lake Ontario, and Lake Erie are all waters navigated on Great Lake cruises.

3. How Many Nights Are They For?

River cruises are usually for the duration of seven nights or longer, with some lasting for 14. So the many voyages available make for worthwhile and satisfying vacations.

4. Where Can You Book One?

River Cruises can be booked at the usual travel outlets, online or in the office itself. Most of the companies also have their own websites, which are always worth checking out.

5. Are Meals Provided?

Yes, meals are usually covered in your ticket cost.

6. Can You Drink On Board?

You most certainly can! A lot of cruise companies offer drink packages, a system where you pay an upfront fee and can drink as much as you like.

7. Will I Get Seasick?

The chances of a passenger getting seasick are very slim. Rivers usually make for calm and gentle sailing, unlike the ocean.

How We Reviewed

Through thorough research, including customer experiences, price comparisons, and locale investigations, we compiled this top ten list.

Overall Price Range Of US River Cruises

The overall price range of this top ten list is from $1,999 to $5,150.

What We Reviewed

  • Lower Mississippi River
  • Upper Mississippi River
  • Alaska Waterways
  • Great Lakes
  • Columbia and Snake Rivers
  • Ohio River
  • New York's Hudson River Valley
  • Cumberland River
  • Islands of New England
  • Chesapeake Bay

Lower Mississippi River

White cruise ship on the ocean

Features

from the rock 'n' roll rich Memphis, to the jazz-filled streets of New Orleans, the Lower Mississippi River cruise by American Cruise Lines is a music lover's dream. Even from the moment, you set foot on the historic Queen of the Mississippi paddleboat; you're likely to hear the notes of an original calliope playing. Stop off at Civil War battlefields, and plantation homes in the setting in which Mark Twain wrote were 'as reposeful as a dreamland.'

About The Boat

The Queen of the Mississippi is an absolutely gorgeous authentic paddle wheeler. It features large staterooms with private balconies, hotel-style bathrooms, and complimentary room service.

Duration

8 days.

PROS

  • Bundled Signature Beverage Package
  • Multiple Caribbean destinations
  • Several cruises pass through the Panama Canal

CONS

  • Limited to the Caribbean
  • More standard features than other options

QUALITY

PRICE

RATING

Excellent

$$$

Upper Mississippi River

White cruise ship docked

Features

from Saint Paul, Minneapolis, to Saint Louis, Missouri, bathe in the beauty of autumnal foliage from the deck of the American Queen Steamboat Co.'s flagship vessel. Stop off at Mark Twain's boyhood home of Hannibal, Missouri, catch a glimpse of Amish country in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and drift through the John Deere country of Davenport, Iowa.

About The Boat

The American Queen is the largest steamboat ever built. Furnished in the fashion of opulent Victoriana, the vessel is a beauty to behold. It's worth checking out the Mark Twain Gallery - the ship's own library.

Duration

14 days 

PROS

  • Bundled Signature Beverage Package
  • Multiple Caribbean destinations
  • Several cruises pass through the Panama Canal

CONS

  • Limited to the Caribbean
  • More standard features than other options

QUALITY

PRICE

RATING

Excellent

$$$


Alaska Waterways

Alaska Waterways



Features

Cruise the wild territory of the waterways near Juneau, Alaska, taking in glaciers and grizzly bears. The Island Spirit leaves the Alaskan capital and makes its way through small towns and coastal cities. Experience kayaking, hiking, and trekking across stunning glaciers. You will also learn all about the indigenous Inuit culture on this unique and exhilarating cruise.

About The Boat

The Island Spirit is a small ship that is prepared for the voyage, complete with skiffs and kayaks.

Duration

9 days

Cruise on the ships at the change of season, either as the ships are heading North in Spring, or South in the Fall. You’ll visit two UNESCO World Heritage sites, learn about Native Alaskan culture and gold rush history, use the onboard tools to explore, like the kayaks, paddle boards, skiffs, and hot tubs, and watch the wildlife and whales all along the coastline.

PROS

  • Bundled Signature Beverage Package
  • Multiple Caribbean destinations
  • Several cruises pass through the Panama Canal

CONS

  • Limited to the Caribbean
  • More standard features than other options

QUALITY

PRICE

RATING

Excellent

$$$


Great Lakes

White cruise ship sailing on a sunset

Features

Starting from the Windy City, and ending in the Big Apple, the Great American Waterways: Chicago to NYC cruise is really something. Experience the beauty of Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario, firsthand. Then travel the Erie Canal to the Atlantic, stopping off at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, before relaxing on the famous Hudson.

About The Boat

The Grande Caribe carries 84 passengers and was recently refurbished.

Duration

16 days

PROS

  • Bundled Signature Beverage Package
  • Multiple Caribbean destinations
  • Several cruises pass through the Panama Canal

CONS

  • Limited to the Caribbean
  • More standard features than other options

QUALITY

PRICE

RATING

Excellent

$$$


Columbia and Snake Rivers

Columbia and Snake Rivers

Features

Follow in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark with the American Queen Steamboat Co. Starting in Portland, Oregon, and ending in Clarkston, Washington, this is a spectacular river cruise for lovers of history and nature alike. And the sights along the way are not to be overlooked. Take in breathtaking Mount Hood, idyllic Astoria, The Dalles and Hell's Canyon, all while enjoying the comfort and style of a steamboat.

About The Boat

The American Empress is an impressive luxury riverboat. It boasts an impressive collection of historical American artifacts. Their collection of Pacific Northwest heritage is well worth taking a long look at.

Duration

7 days

PROS

  • Bundled Signature Beverage Package
  • Multiple Caribbean destinations
  • Several cruises pass through the Panama Canal

CONS

  • Limited to the Caribbean
  • More standard features than other options

QUALITY

PRICE

RATING

Excellent

$$$

Ohio River

Ohio River

Features

Experience the heart of America with an Ohio River cruise. Enjoy sampling world-famous whiskey at the Jim Beam distillery, experience The Kentucky Derby's Churchill Downs, and soak in the history at the Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. The cruise starts in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and ends in the historic river port town of Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

About The Boat

Like the Lower Mississippi cruise, this one is also aboard The Queen of the Mississippi - an absolutely gorgeous authentic paddlewheeler. It features large staterooms with private balconies, hotel-style bathrooms, and complimentary room service.

Duration

11 days

PROS

  • Bundled Signature Beverage Package
  • Multiple Caribbean destinations
  • Several cruises pass through the Panama Canal

CONS

  • Limited to the Caribbean
  • More standard features than other options

QUALITY

PRICE

RATING

Excellent

$$$


New York's Hudson River Valley

New York's Hudson River Valley

Features

Take in the fall leaves along the river explored by the great Henry Hudson back in 1609. This river cruise is packed with experiences, including maritime museums, art centers, mansions, and not just one, but two state capital cities (Albany and Poughkeepsie). You'll also get to see the historic Saugerties Lighthouse and tour the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

About The Boat

The America Constitution is a brand spanking new ship that features all the luxury and convenience one has come to expect from American Cruise Lines.

Duration

8 days

PROS

  • Bundled Signature Beverage Package
  • Multiple Caribbean destinations
  • Several cruises pass through the Panama Canal

CONS

  • Limited to the Caribbean
  • More standard features than other options

QUALITY

PRICE

RATING

Excellent

$$$

Cumberland River

Cumberland River

Features

from Nashville to Saint Louis, follow the Cumberland and Mississippi Rivers on a gorgeous trip full of nature and history. Take a private tour of the battlefield in Dover where Ulysses S. Grant won his first Union victory, hike the Trail of Tears State Park in Cape Girardeau, sail through Kentucky Lakes and protected the forest. Cruising the Cumberland River is an unforgettable experience.

About The Boat

Once again, this one is also aboard The Queen of the Mississippi - an absolutely gorgeous authentic paddlewheeler. It features large staterooms with private balconies, hotel-style bathrooms, and complimentary room service.

Duration

8 days

PROS

  • Bundled Signature Beverage Package
  • Multiple Caribbean destinations
  • Several cruises pass through the Panama Canal

CONS

  • Limited to the Caribbean
  • More standard features than other options

QUALITY

PRICE

RATING

Excellent

$$$

Islands of New England


Islands of New England

Features

Our penultimate entry in this list is brought to you by Blount Small Ship Adventures. Cruise idyllic New England, exploring rugged coastlines, pristine beaches, and quaint small towns in this 7-day adventure. Marvel at Martha's Vineyard, go nuts in Nantucket, this one's a treat.

About The Boat

The Blount boat is a smaller boat, hosting only 86 passengers. Travel in celebratory style with 3 chef-prepared meals a day, and a brilliant BYOB policy (which you will make good use of after your shore leave, trust us).

Duration

7 days

PROS

  • Bundled Signature Beverage Package
  • Multiple Caribbean destinations
  • Several cruises pass through the Panama Canal

CONS

  • Limited to the Caribbean
  • More standard features than other options

QUALITY

PRICE

RATING

Excellent

$$$


Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake Bay

Features

Experience the Historic Triangle with this cruise from American Cruise Lines. Leaving from Baltimore Harbor, set sail for Yorktown, Williamsburg, and Jamestown. This cruise is for the history buffs. Visit colonial homes and monumental battlefields in Yorktown, experience the first permanent English settlement in Jamestown, and meander down the narrow streets of Williamsburg. You'll also get to pay a fun-filled visit to the 'Crab Capitol of the World' - the charming town of Crisfield.

About The Boat

The American Star (not to be confused with the shipwrecked SS American Star) is a 100-passenger cruise ship with a plethora of modern amenities.

Duration

7 days

PROS

  • Bundled Signature Beverage Package
  • Multiple Caribbean destinations
  • Several cruises pass through the Panama Canal

CONS

  • Limited to the Caribbean
  • More standard features than other options

QUALITY

PRICE

RATING

Excellent

$$$

River Cruises In the USA

So there you have it! from the wilds of Alaska to the bustle of New York City, the charm of New England to the hauntingly beautiful atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest, there's a river cruise in the USA for you.

US river cruises make for unique and exceptional vacations. The waterways of our fair country are rich in history, and the nature you will experience along the way will be a far cry from the old interstates of the Griswold-esque vacation. A river cruise is a time to reflect and soak in all that America has to offer - the old-fashioned way.

If you are a wildlife lover, you'll love cruising the Alaskan Waterways, and if you're looking for a quaint New English experience, Blount Small Ship Adventures' tour gives you a lot of bang for your buck. from whiskey lovers to history buffs, rock 'n' rollers to fans of American literature, we hope you've enjoyed our Top Ten River Cruises in the USA.

We'll see you on the river!

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