Traveling Along America’s Great Waterways

A few weeks ago, I went on a fantastic two-week family vacation organized by dear old Dad. My brothers, parents, husband and I took a unique cruise from New York City to Chicago on a custom-made riverboat, the Grande Mariner, which can handle the narrow canal passages.

I knew we were in for a special trip right from the start as our small, but study ship ventured from Chelsea Piers to lower Manhattan to allow us to admire and say goodbye to the Statue of Liberty.  And my favorite, the local clipper ship, showed up too.

With about eighty passengers plus a friendly crew, we visited five states: New York, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois with a short dip across the border to Canada for their side of Niagara Falls. The cruise is called the Great American Waterways for a reason. We motored through canals and waited our turn for I-can’t-remember-how-many locks in the New York State Barge Canal, the Welland, and infamous Erie.

A helpful sign for our destination (Chicago) at our first port of call:


We powered across four of the five Great Lakes (Michigan, Huron, Erie & Ontario). To somehow get there, we traversed the Straits of Mackinac and a series of rivers (the Detroit, St. Claire, and Hudson). Along the way, we docked in some fascinating towns and cities with the option to take tours, do-it-yourself, or both.

For the grand finale and last night onboard, Chicago’s Navy Pier, located north of Burnham Harbor where we were docked, had a firework display. Our voyage was at the end, and I was proud of how well the captain and crew were able to accomplish it all. Not quite like a climb up Mt. Everest, but for a river trip pretty close!

If you want to know more, here’s a link to the Blount Small Ship Adventures website. They have other cruises itineraries including Montreal and also in the Caribbean. Blount’s website

My novel AQUAVIT doesn’t take place on a cruise like this but covers my heroine’s challenges to find her bucket-list vacation. Booking with Blount would have been easier! And the history of the Erie Canal and its impact on America is an amazing story.

Karen Stensgaard is the author of the novel AQUAVIT, the first book in the Aquamarine Sea Series with a second novel on the way soon. AQUAVIT is available as a paperback from Amazon and Ingram Spark or as an e-book from almost everyone else. Libraries have free access via Overdrive.  Link to free chapters on Amazon


2 thoughts on “Traveling Along America’s Great Waterways

  1. I think you would enjoy “River-Horse: A Voyage Across America” by William Least Heat-Moon. Setting off from New York Harbor aboard the boat he named Nikawa (“river horse” in Osage), in hopes of entering the Pacific near Astoria, Oregon, William Least Heat-Moon and his companion, Pilotis, struggle to cover some five thousand watery miles—more than any other cross-country river traveler has ever managed—often following in the wakes of our most famous explorers, from Henry Hudson to Lewis and Clark.
    En route, the voyagers confront massive floods, submerged rocks, dangerous weather, and their own doubts about whether they can complete the trip. But the hard days yield incomparable pleasures: strangers generous with help and eccentric tales, landscapes unchanged since Sacagawea saw them, riverscapes flowing with a lively past, and the growing belief that efforts to protect our lands and waters are beginning to pay off.


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