5 Reasons We Have Our Eyes on United States River Cruises in 2021

There are several reasons we have our eyes on United States River Cruises in 2021.

You're not alone if you've been itching to travel outside your own region for most of 2020. But all this dreaming and planning got us to thinking about why we didn't previously considered a river cruise in our own backyard. Eureka!

Quarantining during a pandemic has allowed us to mull over lots of topics, including river cruises. We have lots of rivers in the United States, after all.

That's when we started to research river cruises in the United States. Our eyes grew wide with possibilities. The more we thought about it and discussed it, the more apparent it became that we would have to set some goals to take a river cruise in America as soon as possible.

Blue waves graphic.

1. You Won't Have to Cross an Ocean to Reach the Port of Embarkation for a United States River Cruise

When you go on a river cruise in Europe, you have to first fly to Europe. You likely don't even have to cross an ocean to arrive to a port of embarkation for a river cruise in America.

In fact, if you're someone who would rather not fly (for whatever reason, whether health, cost or fear of flying) you can probably drive to the city you need to be in to board the ship.

American Cruise Lines US river cruise in the water with mountains behind it and purple flowers in the foreground.
Image courtesy of American Cruise Lines

Another perk to take advantage of is shorter flight times. This is great if you don't have a lot of time to take a vacation. If you're flying to Europe you spend two days traveling in airports and on flights, alone. Then you need to deal with getting over the hump of jet lag upon return to the US.

With a river cruise in the United States in 2021 and beyond, you can simply focus on the cruise, alone, instead of factoring in lengthy flights or jet lag.

There are tons of ports in the United States that you probably don't know about. Sure, there are obvious ones with huge ocean liners, like the ports of San Diego, Miami and Fort Lauderdale. But then there are ports in places like the Great Lakes in New York and Toronto, or even Chicago and Portland.

2. We Know the News in America Regarding Health Precautions better than Any other Country

Have you ever noticed that you only hear a limited amount of international news these days? When the Coronavirus “shit hit the fan” in March (excuse our language) we had just landed back from Spain the day the President somewhat frantically declared he'd be “closing” borders for travel in from Europe. Back then, it was easier to hear the world news regarding the virus.

Interior tiled roof with two American flags on either side.

But after those spring months you really had to dig for information aside from a number of COVID cases or deaths in another country here or there. We got used to the virus in the news, the states' numbers quickly overtook anything we'd heard about in international health and information about how other countries are dealing with the virus isn't something you readily hear about now.

It's been a lot easier to stay on top of the news of the health situation in America. Which means for 2021, and we suspect beyond into 2022, this will remain true.

Having a full scope of knowledge about the health situation in our own country is comforting. It provides some security (whether real or imagined) about signing up for a river cruise in America. There's just less variables “Close to Home™” (a campaign we adore, coined and trademarked by American Cruise Lines).

Granted, we admit this isn't deterring us from dreaming of (and most likely) planning travel abroad in the future. But it's definitely a consideration we've taken to heart.

3. We Haven't Explored the United States Enough

We haven't explored the United States enough. We get starry-eyed when we have the opportunity to fly to another country. But a pandemic has made us value what's right in front of us even more than before. And the United States of America is pretty spectacular. From sea to shining sea.

The more we started to consider United States River Cruises for 2021 and 2022, the more impressed we were with our options here from sailing itineraries to cruise ship lines.

Image of the Seattle Skyline with ships in the harbor in the background.

A river cruise itinerary in the USA, on the Mississippi River for example, would allow us to explore various regions that would take us much longer to visit if we were to drive to all of them. (Besides, we love cruising.) And signing up for a river cruise simply seems more realistic and attainable to us than us going through the motions of planning a trip to all these destinations separately.

River cruises are always high on our travel wish list. Louisiana, perhaps lower. But a river cruise that stops in Louisiana? Divine! We'd love to visit places the American Cruise Lines 8-day Mississippi River Cruise itinerary goes to, including Vicksburg, Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Or even an upper Mississippi River cruise itinerary, for example, would allow us to explore several cities in Missouri, Wisconsin and Minnesota, including St. Louis and St. Paul, cities we've never been to. Or ports accessible from the Columbia River in Oregon and Washington, like Portland and Mount St. Helens.

4. We Want to Support our U.S. Economy

It's great to shop local and support local. We whole-heartedly believe in it as travel writers, small business owners, and as the children of parents who both owned and worked for small businesses.

Perhaps some of the cruise line options in the United States are big businesses, however some of them aren't.

Also, consider for a ship to sail US rivers like these ships are doing, they have to have been built here and employ US Citizens as a large percentage of their staff.

That is supporting the businesses that helped build the ships, including outfitting their interiors and such, and also Americans who work onboard.

Image of the Statue of Liberty.

5. There are Great United States Luxury River Cruise Options

American Cruise Lines is a company we're really excited about. We love that their ships names are patriotic in character, like the American Spirit and American Star. Their new ship, the American Jazz sailing on the Mississippi, just passed sea trials and will be ready for guest boarding before we know it.

American Cruise Lines US river cruise in the water with greenery behind it and blue skies and sunshine streaming through the clouds.
Photo courtesy of American Cruise Lines

We've sailed with Viking before and part of what gave us the idea of looking into a United States river cruise for 2021 and 2022 was that Viking is building the Viking Mississippi (rendering below) to specifically sail the waters of the Mississippi River. It's currently accepting booking and is scheduled to have an inaugural trip in August 2022.

Rendering of the Viking Mississippi river cruise ship with the St. Louis arch.
Image courtesy of Viking Cruises

Viking repeatedly wins awards for their ocean and river ships and we know the Viking Mississippi will be in line with their superior service and high standards. The ship will have a guest capacity of 386 and all the staterooms will be outward-facing for great views.

You can still plan to sail in 2021, however. There are great options in the United States, they're just lesser known if you've never looked into US river cruises.

Check out our app recommendations for cruises, for prep, while onboard and in ports.

Blue waves graphic.



  1. September 17, 2020 / 10:01 pm

    You are certainly right that there is a lot of the US left to explore. There’s so much to see and do, even in your own backyard. It would be interesting to see what kind of internaries you could come up with for US river cruises. A lot of cities are putting significant work into their waterfrounts.

    • admin
      September 17, 2020 / 10:04 pm

      I think this post made us put even MORE US cities on our list to visit…some by boat/water, some by land. Thanks for your comment, Ed and Jenn!

  2. Heather
    September 18, 2020 / 6:41 pm

    Oh I can so identify with number 3…exploring more of the United States. I haven’t done this enough or explored my home state enough which I’m in the process of fixing. I honestly didn’t know there were so many river cruise options for the US (besides one I want to do in the Great Lakes) so this is exciting. I do like to cruise and I agree it’s easy to see a lot of destinations. How exciting that Viking is coming 2022!

    • admin
      September 18, 2020 / 7:11 pm

      We didn’t know either until we started to look into it! And we were so surprised that it’s like a hidden secret in US travel! I’m excited for you to explore your state more too and to read all about it!

  3. September 19, 2020 / 11:39 am

    Wow, interesting news about Viking here in the US! I love them! I enjoy cruising and agree with the notion that my hubby and I have not spent a ton of time traveling in the US (except our 18-month RV road trip) – the vast majority of our vacations are getting on a plane and going someplace far, but there is a lot of fantastic things in the US to see. I am not sure about cruising yet, I want to understand more about ventilation on the boats, but I saw a river cruise boat on the Snake River in Washington while we were RVing and I said to myself: “I want to do that!” so I am sure an American river cruise is in my future, I am just not sure if that is more distant future or not!

    • admin
      September 20, 2020 / 4:25 pm

      Glad to hear you saw a ship on the Snake River and it inspired you! Cruise regulations and cleaning even during pre-COVID times were actually a lot stricter than hotels, for instance. So now they’re even BETTER than before…and they were great before. If that eases your mind at all! I’m on a lot of virtual cruise press conference calls and broadcasts about the cruise industry!

  4. September 21, 2020 / 4:45 pm

    Love this! Definitely agree… US is the way to go when it comes to cruising right now. You can mitigate so many risks, like last minute quarantines and border closures, by having a US embarkation point. I’ve really been wanting to do a Great Lakes / Michigan cruise the past few years and I think 2021 would be a great time to try (assuming it’s safe!).

    • admin
      September 21, 2020 / 4:58 pm

      Yes!!! The Great Lakes sailings look AMAZING!!! And you’re so close! 🙂 Thanks for your comment, Sarah!

  5. September 30, 2020 / 10:24 am

    All good reason Mikkel. We are enjoying New England and upstate NY until New Year’s because travel feels seamless here. Then we will likely be off to Costa Rica for some warm international flavor in 2021. Good job on this post and congrats on your new blog.


    • admin
      September 30, 2020 / 10:35 am

      We’re so touched by your time on our blog and your well wishes. We so appreciate your support, Ryan! COSTA RICA, PURA VIDA! Have the best time. We’ll be following along! – Mikkel + Dan

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