You can have a star-spangled summer by celebrating the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Flag Day or the 200th birthday of the U.S. Constitution by running away to sea and discovering America the way Columbus did . . . by ship.
But unlike the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, these vessels are luxurious and comfortable, many of them U.S. registry with all-American crews.
Along the historic East Coast you can sail into Charleston, S.C., past the ramparts of Ft. Sumter, to Yorktown, Va., where the last decisive battle of the Revolutionary War was fought, and into the waterways of Chesapeake Bay where a tattered flag over Ft. McHenry inspired the national anthem.
You can cruise to Philadelphia to help observe "We the People 200" during this anniversary year of the Constitution.
Ocean Cruise Lines is honoring America's heritage with a 14-day Constitution sailing on the Ocean Princess that departs April 26 from Nassau and arrives in the ship's summer home port of Philadelphia on May 10. It stops for shore excursions in St. Augustine, Fla.; Savannah, Ga.; Charleston, S.C., makes a detour to Bermuda, then continues to Williamsburg, Va., Baltimore and Washington.
Fares range from $1,795 to $3,695 per person, double occupancy; passengers wishing to stay on in Philadelphia can add a lodging package for either the Warwick Hotel or the Sheraton Society Hill.
Frequent Ports of Call
This trim 460-passenger ship offers good values on seven- and 14-day cruises with frequent ports of call and a pleasant mix of British and North American passengers of all ages, both couples and singles. The atmosphere is low-key and well-mannered.
The Ocean Princess will also make 23 seven-day sailings out of Philadelphia to New England and Canada or to Bermuda between May and September. It's easy to add a couple of days in the City of Brotherly Love so you can attend Freedom Festival activities scheduled during the summer. Fares run from $875 to $1,895 per person, double occupancy.
Three sparkling yacht-size U.S. flag ships from St. Louis-based Clipper Cruise Line--Newport Clipper, Nantucket Clipper--sail in spring and summer via the Intracoastal Waterway through the Colonial South, Chesapeake Bay and New England.
On May 16 and again on Sept. 26, the Newport Clipper is set to cruise between Washington and Boston on a 14-day itinerary that explores American heritage sites from Williamsburg, Va., to Nantucket, Mass.
Parades and Concerts
On the May northbound schedule, the Newport Clipper will arrive in Philadelphia during the Festival of the 13 Original States, which opens the Constitutional Convention with parades, concerts and ceremonies. Fares for the 14-day cruise range from $2,990 to $3,790 including air. All cabins are outside doubles with two lower beds; however, there is no elevator.
From New Orleans all the way up to Minneapolis and Pittsburgh, Pa., you can take an easygoing look at life along the Mississippi as well as the Ohio, the Tennessee or the Cumberland when you cruise through America's heartland aboard a paddle-wheel steamer.
The celebrated Great Steamboat Race between the Delta Queen and the Mississippi Queen is scheduled this year for June 24 through July 4. The boats steam along, Calliopes playing and passengers cheering, from New Orleans to St. Louis, stopping for frequent and energetic contests ranging from kite-flying to "floozy parades."
Fares range from $1,400 to $4,500 per person, double occupancy, depending on the ship and cabin selection. The older Delta Queen has no elevator, so people who have difficulty climbing stairs should consider booking the Mississippi Queen.
A more recent paddle-wheeler, the New Orleans, from American Cruise Lines, has also begun cruising down the river. One of its more ambitious itineraries calls for a May 23 New Orleans departure for a 21-day journey up the Mississippi to St. Paul, virtually its entire navigable length.
Fares will range from $4,200 to $7,350 per person, double occupancy, including air fare; it's possible to book a one- or two-week segment of the cruise if you don't want to do the entire three weeks.
The new Charleston, from American Cruise Lines, another 140-passenger vessel, is set to enter service May 16 with a 14-day Intracoastal Waterway cruise from Baltimore to Savannah, Ga., that includes a two-day stopover at Yorktown, Va., for a tour of Colonial Williamsburg. Fares begin at $2,800 per person, double occupancy, including air.
Later in the summer the Charleston will make round-trip sailings out of Boston along the coast of Maine with a Fourth of July fireworks cruise, a lobster festival cruise Aug. 1-8 and a "Maine Coast Murder Mystery" cruise Aug. 22. Prices for the seven-day sailings range from $1,400 per person, triple occupancy, in an outside cabin to $2,450 per person, double occupancy, in a suite.