Cruise ships are sailing, again! As wonderful as this long-awaited information is, some may be hesitant and looking for a simpler and safer way to explore the waters. Across the country, many companies provide riverboat cruise options, giving individuals an avenue to get away for the day.
Some children fall in love with the water for the very first time through riverboat cruising because it offers a way for locals and tourists to learn rich facts about a city while admiring a spectacular view. However, seasoned travelers are looking for adventure, culturally enriching education and elevated encounters.
“We have put into place extensive COVID-19 protocols, and our ability to operate has always been in connection with state and local community guidelines because that is the way we operate,” explains Alexa Paolella, public relations manager of American Cruise Lines, Inc.
American Cruise Lines, being one of the leaders in the cruise industry, provides unique distinguished riverboat and coastal cruising options. With a vast fleet that carries 100 to 190 passengers, they have already mastered protocols that create social distancing for guests. Their outward-facing staterooms and cabins are the largest in the industry ranging from 300 to 900 square feet with private HVAC air filtration systems, furnished balconies and floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors.
“There are some inherent benefits to small U.S.-built ships that include the construction and space onboard. That’s something we didn’t have to make changes to because our ships offer three times the space onboard per passenger as other cruise ships,” says Paolella.
A negative COIVD-19 test is required to board a vessel unless you are fully vaccinated, and other measures may be in place depending on the voyage. In addition, there is a certified medical officer aboard every ship to ensures that travelers are remaining compliant.
American gives travelers more by offering destination and theme cruising options. Their USA flagged and built ships only service domestic itineraries with expeditions lasting from five to 22 days. Selections include exploring the complete Mississippi River, Ohio River, New England, Alaska and more. Except for certain add-ons, travels are all-inclusive, providing cuisines, snacks, beverages, cocktail hour, beer, wine, Wi-Fi, live entertainment and transportation.
“We have food and wine theme cruises,” Paolella says. “They further enhance the cultural food and wine tradition in the area and region guests are traveling. We may have chefs onboard giving cooking demonstrations and taking them to the culinary institute onshore.”
“We operate in small towns and small ports all over the country along rivers and coastal communities where primarily large cruise ships don’t go and can’t access them,” she continues. “Everything is organized in small groups. Everything onshore offers private transportation.”
First Class Private Caribbean Yachting
Soca Caribbean Yacht Charters, a boutique, all-inclusive yacht travel company based in the Washington metropolitan area with Caribbean-focused destinations, is a one-stop-shop to first-class service from start to finish. Their Door to Dock to Door® services provides a black car that picks the client up from their home and transports them to the airport.
After the client has arrived in the Caribbean, they are transported to the yacht dock marina, where they will enjoy a 6-day minimum yacht vacation with gourmet cuisine, premium liquor and watersports. Once the vacation is complete and the client reaches their home airport, the black car service takes them back to their residence.
“We take time to really get to know our clients,” states the owner, aka The Boss, Sheila Ruffin.
The concept behind Soca Caribbean Yacht Charters began when Ruffin was a small child constantly surrounded by the water. “I’m from Virginia’s eastern shore, which is a peninsula that’s surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. I grew up around the water pretty much all of my life. I remember fishing and crabbing with my uncles and swimming in the seaside tides, so I was always near boats,” says Ruffin.
Another influence was Ruffin’s grandfather, a beloved boater in the area and earned the nickname “Big Rich.”
“I love to travel, and although I love land vacations, I just felt like people of color did not have an alternative to cruises. I knew we had the finances and the revenue. We had the education, and I wanted us to have something different.”
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Another trademark for Ruffin is her appearance in the yachting industry. However, make no mistake. Ruffin is not only an owner and manager of a yachting company but also an energy attorney who graduated from Hampton University and Howard University of Law School.
“I think it helps me because I am a unicorn in the industry, not just because I am a woman, but because the yachting industry is traditionally ran by white old men and I am nothing of the sort. I’m a millennial, so I’m not old. I’m a woman. I’m Black, and then I’m all that with long, luscious sister locks, so it makes me stand out even more.”
Before Soca, Ruffin moved to the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2012 to work for a government agency that advocated for environmental issues. This background helps her bring a fresh perspective to all the Caribbean has to offer visitors and provides a refined way for yachters to fully embrace Caribbean culture and food while taking into account any diet restrictions.
Ruffin works one-on-one with clients to give them a truly personalized experience, allowing them to choose between several locations: the Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Grenada and St. Lucia.
“Recently, we had two high school graduates that graduated a day or so before they vacationed in St. Lucia. So we added a graduation photoshoot to the itinerary and surprised the graduates with professional make-up services by a Lucian make-up artist. So everything is extremely customized to our specific clients,” she explains.
Travelers do not need to feel limited by pandemic concerns. Riverboat, coastal cruising and yachting are alternative ways to enjoy the water while embarking on culturally augmenting experiences and relaxing at some of the most enchanting locations in the U.S. and the Caribbean.