American Cruise Lines has built a reputation for unusual American itineraries, and its eight-day Florida river cruises from Jacksonville are no exception. With 2013 being Florida's 500th anniversary, there's no better time to explore the serene St. Johns River, designated an American Heritage River and one of the few north-flowing rivers above the equator. Before the advent of railroads, this waterway was how 19th-century sun-seekers visited tropical Florida. The river cruises also take you through a natural paradise of creeks, lagoons and lakes — home to some 200 species of birds, including the bald eagle and wood stork. You'll visit the Ocala National Forest to observe the resident alligators and manatees, and Green Cove Springs, which might be Ponce de Leon's fountain of youth. You'll also cruise the Tolomato River, an inland waterway with the Atlantic Ocean visible over barrier islands. The St. Johns River cruises are offered in March and April and again in November and December on the 49-passenger American Glory. — Photo by Jeff Fott/Getty Images
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.