After a dry period, river cruises on the Mississippi are back, with opulent sternwheelers such as the American Queen, the world's largest steamboat, again traversing the legendary waterway. Operated by the Great American Steamboat Company, the 436-passenger vessel is home-ported in Memphis, but the calendar of three- to 10-day sailings also includes river cruises from New Orleans, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Vicksburg and St. Paul on the Mississippi and its tributaries, the Ohio and Tennessee. Several of the river cruises focus on Civil War sites, with visits to historic places, including Vicksburg and Chattanooga, and lectures by renowned historians. — Photo by Joe Sohm/Aurora Photos
River cruises provide a new perspective on Americana. They take you slowly through the inland waterways of upstate New York, along the Mississippi or on the course of Lewis and Clark. You take in the scenery, learn from onboard historians, sip wine and go explore on one of the ship's kayaks or bikes. The experience is sometimes intimate, often casual and always authentic. Here are five recommended river cruises on North American waters.