Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Sun June 21 2015

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  • Amber Nolan | June 21, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    Explore North American Waterways With These Adventurous Summer Cruises

    Explore North American Waterways With These Adventurous Summer Cruises

    Photo courtesy of Blount Small Ship Adventures

    Cruising in the U.S. and Canada is on the rise, and summer is an excellent time to explore iconic rivers and waterways. These seven voyages vary from traditional cruise ships to small expedition and river vessels, and offer opportunities to experience small, historical towns and cities that are otherwise off the typical tourist trail.

    The Great Lakes and Iconic Canals with Blount

    In business since the 1960s, Blount Small Ship Adventures goes “where the large ships cannot,” and specializes in iconic rivers and lakes of the U.S. and parts of Canada. The 15-night cruise aboard the Grand Mariner departs from Chicago in July or August and sails 20 different waterways including scenic Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. It also plies manmade triumphs like the Welland Canal, which allows ships to bypass Niagara Falls, as well as the Erie Canal, the famous route connecting Albany to Buffalo.

    British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest

    Outer Shores Expeditions is offering a journey on The Passing Cloud schooner ship, which carries just eight guests from Bella Bella, B.C. round-trip to one of the world’s largest coastal temperate rainforests. Embarking Aug. 22, the voyage to the Great Bear Rainforest is timed to coincide with the Pacific salmon run for outstanding photographic opportunities and wildlife spotting including bears, wolves, seals, sea lions, and eagles.

    Coastal New England and Canada on Royal Caribbean

    For a city getaway without the need for a lengthy flight, Royal Caribbean’s nine-night voyage on Liberty of the Seas offers all the high-energy entertainment of larger ships combined with charming New England ports of call. The ship embarks from Bayonne, N.J. on Aug. 27 and sails to Boston, Portland, and Bar Harbor before visiting two Canadian ports: St. John and Halifax. The ship returns to Bayonne just before Labor Day — marking the unofficial end of summer.

    Maine Windjammer’s Pirate Themed Cruise

    The Maine Windjammer Association consists of eight classic schooners that sail for around six hours each day along Maine’s pristine coastline with evenings spent anchored in quiet coves. The experience is similar to camping on a boat — only someone else is doing the cooking. “Windjamming” involves impromptu cruising with no itinerary set in stone and a live-in-the-moment vibe. On July 20, the Isaac H. Evans sets sail on a three-night, pirate-themed voyage from Rockland, Maine that’s fun for all ages. Sport your pirate gear and take part in sword fighting, treasure hunts, firing cannons, and chasing other schooner ships.

    Alaskan Port Villages with Fantasy Cruises

    The 32-passenger Island Spirit is operated by a husband-and-wife team and their small crew who offer eight-night cruises throughout Southeast Alaska. The Hinterlands cruise sails round-trip from Petersburg and calls on smaller ports such as Kake, Hoonah, and Tenekee Springs, for evening campfires on shore, hikes to pristine waterfalls, and kayaking in remote parts of Alaska.

    Rhode Island and Massachusetts Lobster Cruises

    American Cruise Lines is offering several lobster-themed voyages to summer-soaked islands that include lobster dishes prepared on the vessel as well as a lobster bake in Newport, Rhode Island. The seven-night cruise aboard the American Star embarks from Providence, R.I. on July 4, 25, and Aug. 8 with stops in Block Island and Bristol, R.I., as well as three ports of call in Massachusetts: New Bedford, Nantucket, and Martha's Vineyard.

    Old-Fashioned Journey on Ontario’s Waterways

    For a truly unique cruise the Kawartha Voyageur explores some lesser-traversed parts of Ontario with small and simple — but comfortable — accommodations.  Onboard cuisine consists of hearty, old-fashioned meals served three times daily. Three different itineraries are offered: the Quinte, which sails the Trent-Severn Waterway, Bay of Quinte, and St. Lawrence River (1,000 Islands); the Kawartha cruises that include a greater diversity of locks and engineering feats; and the historical Rideau Canal cruise through a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


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Amber Nolan Captain’s Blog: Cruise Tips and Advice

Amber Nolan Amber Nolan loves to be on the water, and although she enjoys the fun and excitement of larger cruise ships, she prefers setting sail on smaller vessels to unique destinations. Originally from western New York, this restless traveler has a knack for finding creative ways to travel and befriending interesting characters along the way. On her most recent adventure, she hitchhiked on private aircraft across the United States. She previously served as the cruise editor at Sherman’s Travel but her work can also be found on and USA Today Travel. She current resides in South Florida.
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