new york skyline at sunrise

How To Travel Around The USA And Only Unpack Once

23 May 2018
Read Time: 4.8 mins

When you think about epic American adventures, a road trip might initially spring to mind. The United States is, after all, home to so many great touring routes - not least Route 66. But did you know you can also explore the US on a ship (and only have to unpack once)? Cruise liners, large and small, ply the nation's coastlines, from the icy Alaskan waters to the tropical seas around Florida. Royal Caribbean, in particular, offers a range of itineraries that showcase the incredible diversity of the world's third largest country on its floating hotel-resorts like Ovation of the Seas, a sleek vessel that can carry almost 5000 guests and boasts a variety of pools, bars, restaurants and family-friendly activities that'll keep you entertained as you travel from port to port. Here are some of America's most alluring cruise destinations.

colourful san francisco neighbourhoods Discover San Francisco's hilly and colourful neighbourhoods with RCI.

Pacific Northwest Cruising

Beyond Los Angeles - and the glamour of Beverly Hills, Hollywood and Venice Beach - there's a string of riveting ports of call on America's Pacific coast, with San Francisco a stand-out. After sailing into the beautiful bay of this northern Californian city, you can do a shore excursion to Alcatraz (the infamous island prison dubbed 'The Rock', where criminals like Al Capone were locked up). Alternatively, you can cycle across the mighty Golden Gate Bridge, hop on the iconic trams that navigate San Francisco's hilly streets and soak up the old hippy vibes of Haight-Ashbury - a district at the forefront of the late-1960s counter-culture and 'Summer of Love'. Continue cruising up the coast, and the laid-back cities of Astoria in Oregon and Seattle, Washington will be there for the exploring. In the latter, you can scale the Space Needle - the city's UFO-like 184m observation tower - for far-reaching views of the Pacific Northwest region.

kayaking in alaska Alaska cruises offer a real immersive nature experience. Image: Royal Caribbean International

Alaska Cruises

America's northern-most state is, to many travellers, its most spectacular - especially for fans of dramatic, Narnia-esque scenery. It's a thrill to cruise Alaska's Inside Passage, past gigantic fjords, snow-capped peaks and the extraordinary Hubbard Glacier, which stretches about 120km long and 12km wide and even spreads into Canada's neighbouring Yukon Territory. From the comfort of your stateroom balcony, you might even be able to spot whales and seals. It's well worth getting off the ship in Alaska, too. You can go sledding, pulled along by a pack of husky dogs, and search for wildlife in Denali National Park and Preserve, where grizzly bears, wolves, moose and caribou live in the shadow of Mount Denali - North America's highest summit at 6190m tall. 

Havana cuba at dusk Havana, Cuba is a popular stop on Florida cruises. Image: Royal Caribbean International.

Cruising Florida And The Deep South

If you prefer the heat - and wearing skimpier clothes - you'll enjoy cruising around America's balmy southern states. Florida cruise ports like Miami and Fort Lauderdale are popular springboards for voyages to the neighbouring Caribbean region. But some cruises, such as Royal Caribbean's 5-Night Western Caribbean cruise from Tampa onboard Brilliance of the Seas, call in at Key West, a seductively sleepy island-city that dangles off the Florida peninsula, closer to Havana, Cuba, than Miami. You might fancy a stroll past its pretty, pastel-hued houses and grand 19th century properties, including the former home of author Ernest Hemingway (who was known for ordering a drink or two in Key West's atmospheric bars). Offshore, you can paddle board through mangroves, and snorkel and dive with tropical fish and turtles around the coral reefs.

New england lighthouse and coastline at dusk Explore the picturesque New England coastline and layered history of this region on a cruise from Baltimore.

New England Cruises

Imagine cruising America's Eastern Seaboard and you may picture yourself sailing past the Statue of Liberty, with Manhattan's skyline looming ahead. But while New York is definitely not to be missed, other port cities on this coastline promise unforgettable cruising possibilities. From Baltimore, Maryland, for example, you can take a 9-night Royal Caribbean journey along the coastline of New England - as the six states of north-eastern USA are collectively known. Ports of call include Boston, where you can tour Fenway Park baseball stadium (home of the Boston Red Sox) as well as witnessing a light-hearted reenactment of the Boston Tea Party. Also on the itinerary are the quaint harbours of Maine, where you can sample fresh lobster and take selfies beside postcard-perfect lighthouses. This cruise also dips into the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia before returning to Baltimore. 

Woman snorkelling in waters with palm trees behind There's no better place to snorkel than the crystal clear waters of Hawaii.

Hawaiian Islands Cruising

Made up of eight major islands, and several smaller ones, Hawaii - the 50th and 'newest' US state - is perfect for cruising around. From your ship, you can snap breathtaking panoramic photos of this volcanic, tropical rainforest-cloaked archipelago and you'll find a raft of pulse-raising experiences once you head ashore. See where hit movies and TV shows like Jurassic Park and Lost were filmed, paddle in geothermal pools, frolic beneath waterfalls and take in World War II history at Pearl Harbour. It's not uncommon for cruise passengers to consume more calories than they normally would - such is the array of wining and dining choices onboard - so you'll probably feel better after a hike. One of Hawaii's most rewarding trails is the walk up Mount Kilauea. This is one of the world's most active volcanoes, and you'll pinch yourself when you see lava flowing metres from your feet. 

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Steve McKenna

A regular contributor to some of Australia's leading newspapers and travel magazines, Steve McKenna has visited, written about and photographed more than 80 countries on six different continents. He fears he has an incurable case of wanderlust and is particularly fond of Europe, Asia and South America.