One day, during a recent journey through several southeastern states, I knocked on an unmarked wood door, uttered a password, and was admitted into the throwback of a Prohibition-era speakeasy.

Another experience was a horse-drawn carriage ride through a picturesque town that has served as backdrop for more than 100 movies and television series.

Adding to the enjoyment of dropping by Savannah, Georgia; Beaufort, South Carolina; and other historic gems was time spent traveling from one to another.

I was aboard the American Eagle, an American Cruise Lines ship, during a voyage from Amelia Island, Florida, to Charleston, South Carolina. Carrying 90-180 passengers, this “small ship” was designed specifically to navigate this country’s waterways and coastlines.

The company operates more than 50 itineraries that visit 35 states, skipping over-touristy ports in favor of smaller, often-overlooked on-shore treasures like those I visited.

I tend to stay away from sailing across oceans on megaships carrying many hundreds — and sometimes thousands — of passengers, with a collection of rides, slides, and other exciting, adrenalin-rushing activities that would be at home in an amusement park.

In addition — and this isn’t easy for a travel writer to admit — I don’t do well when the sea kicks up.

Instead, I stick to calmer bodies of water. The vessel on which I recently traveled followed part of the Intracoastal Waterway, the stretch of rivers, canals, and bays that runs from Massachusetts to Florida.

Rather than staring at ocean waves day after day, I joined other passengers choosing from a selection of outings available at each port. For starters, there was a visit to the Prohibition Museum in Savannah, the only one of its kind in the nation.

Exhibits, dioramas, and other displays bring the “Roaring ’20s” to life in a colorful way. They include a truck transporting alcohol through a mob of angry protestors and the famed evangelist Billy Sunday preaching against “king alcohol.”

At the end of the displays stands a nondescript door. I knocked three times; a small slit opened and a menacing voice asked, “Who sent you?”

Any name will do in response, and I was admitted into a room crowded with other museum-goers enjoying the kinds of libations that were popular back when alcoholic beverages were illegal.

Hollywood’s love affair with Beaufort (pronounced Byoo-fert), South Carolina, began in 1914, when a film was shot there. Its streets, lined by graceful antebellum homes and canopies of Spanish moss-festooned oak trees, are a photographer’s dream.

I faced a challenge selecting from a long list of land tours that were available each day. In Charleston they included a visit to Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, founded in 1676, and Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.

Those who went ashore at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, could check out a wildlife preserve or take a dolphin cruise. Brunswick, Georgia, meant visiting a 19th-century rice plantation or sailing on a shrimping boat.  

As far-reaching as was this variety of things to see and do on land, it was equaled by the selection of activities offered aboard the ship.

Lecturers described the next day’s shore excursions and delved into topics like music of the Civil War and early American religion. Fun and games included bingo, trivia, and arts and crafts.

A veterans appreciation ceremony honored passengers who served in the military, and those traveling on their own had a solo travelers meetup.

Evening entertainment was equally varied, featuring musicians, singers, a talented ventriloquest, and a Gullah woman. She described and portrayed the culture, music, and food of that African American ethnic group, who live predominantly in the Southeastern states.

Speaking of food, it added to the enjoyment of the trip. Virtually around-the-clock dining opportunities proved challenging for weight-watchers. Nibbles and noshes were available throughout the day, and a snack bar offered light breakfasts and lunches.             

Dinner menus often reflected the tastes of the region through which the ship was sailing. For example, main-course selections included local favorites like crabcakes, barbecue pork chops, and shrimp and grits.


After gallivanting around the world, Victor Block still retains the travel bug. He believes that travel is the best possible education. A member of the Society of American Travel Writers, Victor loves to explore new destinations and cultures, and his stories about them have won a number of writing awards.

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