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U.S. Coastal Cruises: Another Option for Cruise Fans

Written by  Lillian Africano

Clients who have tried ocean and river cruising and are looking for something different, coastal cruising might combine the best of both.
A coastal cruise can be a fairly luxurious experience aboard a new vessel with amenities, a no-frills, soft-adventure aboard a tall ship, sleeping in a bunk and sharing a bathroom.
Both types of vessels are small and can cruise where big ships can’t. They dock in ports that are rich in attractions--cities like Baltimore, Chicago and Seattle--and passengers can disembark much more quickly than those on big ships carrying thousands of guests.

Since coastal cruising takes place near the shore, the ride is smoother than a trip on open seas. The experience is also more relaxed than on a big ocean ship. There are no casinos or Vegas-type shows, and entertainment is likely to be low key: small-scale musical performances and or/lectures. In keeping with the relaxed atmosphere, there is no need for formal clothing.
Prices are on the high side, as American-flagged ships must employ American crews and pay U.S. wages.
As is also generally true of river cruises, the demographic on coastal cruises skews older, which means this product will have limited appeal to millennials and Gen-Xers (unless they are part of a multi-generational group).
A number of smaller lines offer coastal cruises, with American Cruise Lines leading the pack. Just this past April, the line debuted its newest ship, American Constitution, which sails both Chesapeake Bay and coastal New England itineraries. The line’s other ships sail other itineraries, including the Hudson River and Puget Sound/San Juan Islands. Sister company Pearl Seas sails the Maine Coast and Canadian Harbors.
Victory Cruise Lines offers several coastal itineraries, including New England, the Great Lakes and Canada/the St. Lawrence River. Expedition ships like the National Geographic Quest and UnCruise’s Safari Quest and Wilderness Discoverer sail cruises to Washington’s San Juan Island. Blount Small Ship Adventures offers a number of interesting coastal itineraries, including Canada and all of New England; the Southeast Coast and the Great Lakes.
The tall ships of Maine Windjammer Cruises sail summer and fall Maine itineraries of three to five days, originating in Camden, Maine.
In July and August, the Manhattan Yacht Club’s flagship Arabella sails unique coastal cruises from the Statue of Liberty along the Gold Coast of Long Island, visiting notable yacht clubs along the way.
As previously mentioned: in addition to the smaller lines that specialize in coastal cruises, almost all the major lines include coastal cruising in their offerings. These might appeal to clients who want the entertainment and amenities offered on ocean ships. A partial list includes the luxurious Seabourn Sojourn, which sails Pacific Coast itineraries, while the line’s Quest sails Canada/East Coast cruises. Princess, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Norwegian and Celebrity offer California and Pacific Coast cruises. Oceania’s Riviera and Insignia sail Atlantic cruises that cover the entire East Coast from Canada to Florida. Crystal travels from Montreal to New York; Ponant also offers East Coast Cruises. Expedition line Hurtigruten sails cruises in the Northeast and Canada. Carnival does cruises along
both coasts.

Sample Coastal Itineraries
The New England coastal cruises are among the most popular. These run from summer into the fall foliage season and typically visit such towns as Newport, Provincetown, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. For history buffs, Boston’s Freedom Trail has so many sites, including Faneuil Hall, the Boston Common, the Old North Church and Bunker Hill. For sports fans: Fenway Park.
Southeast Coast: These itineraries are popular with clients who want a taste of the Old South. Charleston, for example, offers antebellum splendor, cobblestone streets, important Civil War sites-and legendary cuisine, including such low country specialties like shrimp and grits. Add port stops at glamorous Savannah, St. Augustine and Jacksonville, Florida and perhaps calls at Georgia’s sea islands and you have a typical trip along the southern coast.
Chesapeake Bay: Roundtrip cruises start from Baltimore, with attractions like the Inner Harbor and the Museum of Art, as well as Federal Hill Park-and outstanding seafood. The cruise might include stops at Annapolis, St. Michael’s, Oxford and Cambridge. What makes this itinerary especially appealing is the opportunity to visit such historic icons as Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown.
Pacific Northwest: These usually depart from Seattle, which has so many attractions, including the Space Needle, Pike Place Fish Market, Olympic Sculpture Park-and memorable coffee. Some itineraries travel northward into Canada. Highlights are the colorful villages of the San Juan Islands and the abundant opportunities to see wildlife-seals and whales and even eagles.
Great Lakes: Great Lakes itineraries are varied but may include the five historic Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River as well as calls along the Atlantic Coast. Some sail between Toronto and Chicago and include Niagara Falls and a transit of the Soo Locks. Some travel north to meet the Hudson River. Notably, Chicago offers outstanding museums as well as the iconic Magnificent Mile, known for upscale shopping and outstanding restaurants.

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