You Can Now Winery Hop in Napa on a River Cruise

The eight-day sailing aboard “American Jazz” from American Cruise Lines starts and ends in San Francisco, with stops in Stockton, Sacramento, and Napa.

The first California sailing on "American Jazz" departs on February 24, though there will be more sailings throughout March, November, and December 2023.

The first California sailing on American Jazz departs on February 24, though there will be more sailings throughout March, November, and December 2023.

Courtesy of American Cruise Lines

American Cruise Lines is about to launch a river cruise in California—the first of its kind since the 1940s.

The company’s “San Francisco Bay Cruise,” which launches in late February, will cover popular destinations in Northern California, allowing guests to learn about the area’s Gold Rush past, taste the cabernet sauvignons of Napa, and hike among the famed giant redwoods.

The eight-day sailing launches from San Francisco, where it will sail past the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and Treasure Island before heading inland on the San Joaquin River for a day in Stockton. From there, the ship will sail the Sacramento River (once called “the Nile of the West” due to its size), flanked by the Klamath Mountains and the northern slopes of the Sierra Nevada range, all the way to Sacramento. Once in the capital city, guests can visit artisanal farms, explore California State Park, or get a better understanding of why Sacramento is dubbed the “City of Trees” on an urban hike. The following two days are spent on the Napa River, where wineries await, before returning to San Francisco for the final two days.

“American Cruise Lines has had San Francisco and wine country in mind for many years,” Charles B. Robertson, president & CEO of American Cruise Lines, told AFAR. “The California Delta is one of the most beautiful areas in the U.S. to explore by riverboat. Many have visited wine country, but few can say they have cruised it. American has doubled our fleet in the past few years, now with 17 small ships and riverboats exploring around the country, so we have been able to create more itineraries and operate in more new regions than ever before, California being chiefly among them.”

The first sailing will take place on February 24, 2023, aboard the 180-passenger American Jazz. There will also be departures in March, November, and December 2023. The ship launched in 2020 and features 99 staterooms, each of which has a private balcony for watching the scenery of Northern California go by. Common areas on the American Jazz include a dining room, where all meals are served, a fitness center with a separate yoga room, two lounge areas where nightly wine presentations will take place, and a sun deck with panoramic views.

Because the state sees so many droughts, which can reduce the levels of its waterways, cruising within California is a rarity. It’s thought that the steamboat George Washington was the first to offer sailings within Northern California, with overnight service between Sacramento and San Francisco in 1849 carrying prospectors to mining country. From the 1920s to 1940s, the famous steamboats Delta King and Delta Queen cruised the Sacramento River to San Francisco. The Delta King is now a hotel in Sacramento (moored in the Sacramento River), and the Delta Queen has since been repositioned to the Mississippi River, where it being restored. According to research by American Cruise Line, the only other sailing in Northern California was in the early 2000s, operated by Cruise West, though those weren’t river cruises.

Rooms are bookable on the American Cruise Line website, with rates starting at $6,095.

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at AFAR. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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