Day cruise experiences are one of the coolest things to do if you’re planning on vacationing on the coast or a getaway on the ocean. Viewing sea life and whale watches to watching the sunset over the waves and dinner cruises, there are many different ways to enjoy a day on the water!
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Best Day Cruise Experiences in the U.S. for All Ages!
Whale Watches & Sea Life Cruises
Whale watch cruises are great for kids of all ages; from 1 to 100! Not only are they a great way to get out on the water to take in a little blue space therapy, but cruising on the water to view sea life is not only exhilarating but also educational.
Whale watches is just one of several different types of wildlife viewing day cruises. Wherever they are offered, you can board the charter boats to spot whales, dolphins, sea turtles and even steam quietly into wildlife sanctuaries.
While whale watching and dolphin cruises are super popular; predominately for recreational enjoyment. But, sea life cruises also show how scientists can observe and study whale habitats, habits and migration.
Coastal Massachusetts is prime location for whale watching cruises on the east coast. The best time to see awe-inspiring whales and dolphins is during the summer months when the water temperature is warmer.
One of our favorite whale watch cruises is the Boston Whale Watching Cruise by High-Speed Catamaran. While you’re there, you must visit the New England Aquarium. And if you’re up in Boston’s north shore, check out Whale Watching cruise in Gloucester.
But on the west coast of the United States, whale watching in California happens at different times of the year.
Between December and May, visitors can spot the Orcas and Gray whales. From May to November is prime for seeing the Humpback whales. And to see the ‘kings of the sea’, the mammoth Blue Whales, whale watchers should plan between July and October
Some wildlife viewing day cruises will even take you closer to the shoreline to get a glimpse of wildlife on the beaches or rocks. At certain times of year up in Maine, you can catch a day cruise to see the Puffins.
And in Alaska, you may get to see polar bears, moose, wolves, and deer along the water’s edge.
Depending on locations of particular ocean mammals, sea turtles and large fish, there’s bound to be a whale watch or sea life cruise.
A catamaran is a multi-hulled watercraft featuring two parallel hulls of equal size. It is a geometry-stabilized craft, deriving its stability from its wide beam, rather than from a ballasted keel as with a monohull boat.
These twin-hull or tri-hull boats are much more stable than monohulls. This are actually much safer for public cruises because people are less likely to fall overboard.
And, the beauty in taking a catamaran day cruise is they can sail in shallower waters. Typically, a bigger cat can draw 10 feet in draft or more with boards down. But, if they want to access really shallow water (over reefs or rocks), the boat skipper can lift the boards. This makes catamarans ideal for reef snorkeling cruises or SCUBA platforms.
But ‘cats’ are also used for so many other day cruise experiences in the U.S. Here’s some favorites you may look for on your vacation:
Sailing Ship Day Cruise
Sailing day cruise experiences are all about romance; a combination of the sun and the sea, sails and swells, and of course with your sweetie. These day cruises are typically enjoyed on a Windjammer or Schooner.
Windjammer and Schooner sailing vessels operate the same way they did in the 19th century; wind-driven and propelled by sails.
Today, instead of merchant ships carrying cargo, these sailing vessels are now being used as a evening sail cruise ships for sunset cruises. And some sailing cruises allow you to participate in the actual sailing also.
Our favorite sunset sailing cruise was on the Schooner Jolly II Rover in Key West! Also referred to as the Red Sails in the Sunset, she’s the only squared-rigged, topsail schooner in the historic seaport and is Key West’s most photographed ship! It’s an unforgettable sailing experience with a hint of playful piracy! We even got to steer the ship and hoist her sails!
Similar sailing ship cruises are great for meeting other passengers or just sit back, relax and take in the wind and waves. Don’t forget to bring a set of binoculars as there’s lots of nature to see.
If you’re vacationing in coastal areas of the U.S., you may want to look into one of these sailing day cruises:
Reef Snorkel Cruise
Snorkel day cruise experiences are one of the most popular water activities in Key West. While you can snorkel anywhere, the water in the Florida Keys is crystal clear and the fish are as tropical as the colorful birds in the trees.
Having been on reef snorkel cruises three times, I can tell you that I’ll never tire from this type of on-the-water experience! My best description is it’s like swimming in a tropical fish aquarium. We’ve seen sea turtles, many different colorful fish and yes, even a shark or two.
The Key West Aquarium says the Key West Bank Reef of the Florida Keys stretches 358 miles from the Dry Tortugas National Park to the St. Lucie Inlet in Martin County. While there are three major types of coral reefs around the world, these are atolls, fringing reefs, and barrier reefs.
The largest coral barrier reef systems in the world can be found there. What’s more is the tropical sunsets over the water are simply amazing!
Here are some of the highly recommended snorkeling day cruise experiences in Key West and Hawaii.
♦ PRO TIP ♦ While there are several sunscreens on the market that claim to be ‘reef safe’, it’s important to know what’s in them. After extensive research in helping to protect the aquatic environments, our go-to for reef-safe sunscreen that will not harm wildlife or aquatic plants are Raw Elements or All Good.
Sunset Cruise or Evening Dinner Cruise Experiences
Evening sunset cruise experiences are just what the doctor orders after a long day of sightseeing and dealing with your cranky little pirates. If you have a responsible teen, leave them back at the hotel with a bunch of snacks and movies. Then, put your sea legs on for a great outdoor aquatic experience!
Sunset cruises are the great escape from fast paced go-go and the loud crowd. They really are geared for adults because of the nature of the venue. Sunset sailors can set sail to romance the sea and each other while enjoying wine and charcuterie with glorious sunset views on the water.
One of our favorites is sailing on a Key West sunset cruise that also provided a tropical buffet dinner. It was a great closer to a long day of sightseeing, walking the shops and enjoying Mallory Square.
But, Key West isn’t the only travel destination that has sunset cruises. Most larger coastal cities have them.
Now, while evening dinner at an exquisite restaurant is nice for date night, there’s nothing more spectacular than ending the day with an evening dinner cruise. Most include a sunset tour with a delightful dinner to follow. Evening dinner cruises are romantic and really should be reserved for the adults.
Just be aware, evening dinner cruises are a little pricier than a mid-day or lunch cruise because of the higher standard of the culinary offerings. And, to make it even more special, dress for the occasion.
But do remember, you will be on a boat, so dressy casual is fine with comfortable shoes and a throw for those cool ocean breeze.
And again, lots of large cities on the coast of an ocean, gulf or lake offer these type of waterborne sunset and/or night dinner cruises. Perhaps you can include one of these in your coastal vacation destination.
♦ PRO TIP ♦ Before leaving for your whale watch or windjammer cruise, make sure you have all the essentials you need for your 1-day cruise! Check out our article: What to Bring in your Personal Boat Tote for a 1-Day Cruise or Day Sail
Riverboat Show Cruise
Whether you’re vacationing or living near a large river or lake, you can take in a Riverboat Show Cruise. We’ve taken two thus so far and plan to take more; the Branson Belle in Branson, Missouri and the General Jackson in Nashville, Tennessee. Both were super fun show venues of music revues with choreographed dance.
River showboats are propelled primarily by steam power, typically driving propellers or paddlewheels.
A river (or lake) showboat cruise experience is essentially a cool combination of a boat ride on a paddlewheel driven, lunch or dinner and a show all-in-one! And when not watching the show, these day cruise experiences are a fantastic way to see the city skylines, lakeshores and riverbanks from the water.
The shows are exhilaratingly fun with music, dance, comedy entertainment and lots of lights! And meals are sit down and served individually by wait staff. But, while Riverboat show cruises are PG and appropriate for all ages, those with little travelers may not get the same appreciation thus, they may be a distraction to others.
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Wrapping up our 6 day cruise experiences in the U.S.
So there you have it! A day on the water is a great way to get your sea legs and enjoy the outdoors! These different day cruise experiences are perfect for anyone who loves the oceans, lakes and rivers. They’re great for all ages whether you’re a solo, couple or bringing your family to enjoy a adventurous day on the water.
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