The popularity of mega-cruises (despite some very bad recent press about sinkings and mysterious illnesses aboard) has never diminished one of America's most time-honored (and wallet-savvy) travel options - the river cruise.
Since Mark Twain's words first sparked readers' imaginations, the Mississippi paddle-boat river cruise has been considered an iconographic American journey. The trip's popularity has morphed over the years, leading the Hudson River cruise in the Northeast to hold an equal fascination for travelers.
American steamboats have been chugging up rivers for more than 100 years. They offer cruise-loving travelers the budget-smart option of boating bliss. With a river cruise, there is no overseas airfare to factor into the budget.
Here are some home-grown options for rolling down the river in style:
Hudson River Cruises
In 'On the Road' Jack Kerouac wrote,"If you drop a rose in the Hudson River at its mysterious source in the Adirondacks, think of all the places it journeys by as it goes out to sea forever - think of that wonderful Hudson Valley."
That wonderful Hudson Valley is still one of America's most scenic waterways, and cruise options through the region (from day- to week-long trips) abound.
Hudson Highlands Cruises offers the "cruise light" version of the Hudson. The company's classic "3-hour tour" (minus Gilligan and Skipper) plies the Hudson from May through October. With trips 1-way and round trip, it serves charter groups and offers cruises from New York state's West Haverstraw to West Point and Bannerman's Island. On the last Saturday of the month, a 3-hour narrated cruise north to the Hudson Highlands also leaves from Peekskill's Riverfront Green. Built in 1917, the historic vessel 'M/V Commander' is listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places.
Offering a week-long tour from New York City to Albany, River Valley Tours lets you take in all of the Hudson River Valley in the leisure-time of an oceanbound cruise. Home base during the day is 'The Crescent,' a 63-foot vessel that glides up the river from New York, stopping for shore trips at historical sights along the way. Guests spend the night on land, sleeping in upscale lodging, including the famous Hotel Thayer on the grounds of the US Military Academy at West Point.
Visits to Hyde Park and the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Vanderbilt mansion, Mohonk Mountain House and the moorish castle Olana, as well as dinner at the Culinary Institute of America, are highlights of the cruise, which ends with tours in Albany and Troy. A bus leaves from the state capital to New York City, for those passengers who need to return at the end of the week. This cruise is the only tour available of the entire Hudson Valley, from the shore as well as from the water.
American Cruise Lines offers 8-day cruises up the Hudson River. Embarking from Haddam, Conn., the 31-stateroom 'American Eagle' positions itself as an intimate floating "inn," with a limited passenger capacity and gourmet meals onboard. Six ports of call include West Point, Kingston and New York City. Check the cruise line's Web site for seasonal special prices.