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  • Post published:03/04/2021
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Cruise under Charleston’s historic Arthur Ravenel Jr. bridge.

The best way to soak up South Carolina’s charm is on historic Charleston cruises.

Historic Charleston

Locals call Charleston, South Carolina, a “living museum.” The city holds strong to its old-world roots and prides itself in sharing its storied past. If you are a history buff, then a cruise of the southern city should be at the top of your to-do list. Charleston has been lovingly preserved for more than 300 years. A trip to the port will make you feel as though you stepped back in time to the 18th century, when Charleston was still ruled by the British Empire.

Charleston is also known as The Holy City due to the abundant church steeples visible from the city’s shoreline. The magnificent steeples are one of the first things ship passengers saw as they entered Charleston harbor centuries ago. Today, cruisers are provided the same view of historic landmarks. The city is a treasure trove of nostalgia from its turn-of-the-century architecture to its quaint cobblestone streets. Charleston is also brimming with perfectly preserved plantation homes, picturesque neighborhoods and national landmarks, such as Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began.

Historic Charleston Cruises

The city’s vibrant past is kept alive today by a handful of companies that offer historic Charleston cruises. The sightseeing sailings showcase the city’s undeniable reverence to a bygone era. Some of the most popular historic Charleston cruise options include:

Charleston Harbor Tours

Charleston Harbor Tours is a South Carolina legend. It is the oldest continually operating harbor sightseeing tour company in Charleston, having been in business since 1908. The company sails the 80-foot long, Carolina Belle to some of the city’s most historic sites. The double-decker vessel can accommodate up to 250 passengers and boasts a climate controlled Main Salon and an outdoor Observation Deck.

Daily, narrated boat tours run 90 minutes and takes passengers to see more than 75 historic landmarks in and around Charleston, including:

  • Fort Sumter: One of Charleston’s most famous landmarks. It is where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.
  • Forts Moultrie and Johnson: Home to the Confederate and Union armies
  • USS Yorktown: The famous World War II “Fighting Lady”
  • St. Michael’s Episcopal Church: The awe-inspiring structure survived both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars thanks to workers painting its steeple black, so it wouldn’t be an easy target.
  • Cooper River bridges: The tour includes cruising under the famed Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. The state-of-the-art structure accommodates the world’s largest ships.

Historic, luxury cruises of Charleston also include viewing the city’s most breathtaking mansions and watching dolphins skim the surface of the harbor’s shimmering waters.

In addition, Charleston Harbor Tours also offers a carriage/cruise combo tour package. The unique land and sea excursion allows visitors to get a taste of historic Charleston from two vantage points. One discounted ticket scores you a seat on the Charleston Harbor Tour and entitles you to a voucher for a Palmetto Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride, which explores lesser-known historic sites around the city.

Spirit Line Cruises

SpiritLine Cruises has been showcasing the beauty of Charleston from its famous waterways since 1961. The company has a stellar reputation in the area, having accommodated more than 10 million passengers on some 70,000 boat tours in the past 50 years.

What’s so unique about SpiritLine Cruises is that it is the only commercial cruise operator that provides transportation to Fort Sumter, the island fort where the Civil War began. As an authorized National Park Service concessioner, SpiritLines Tours provides guests with unprecedented views of Fort Sumter on its 30-minute narrated cruise through Charleston Harbor and back. The Fort Sumter cruise also includes a 60-minute tour of the fort and its on-site museum.

In addition to the Fort Sumter boat tour, the company also offers a variety of other cruise options including:

  • HIstoric Harbor Tour: These 90-minute cruises offer passengers an opportunity to see the beauty of Charleston from the water. The sailing includes spectacular views of historic Charleston attractions, such as the Arthur Ravenel Bridge, Patriots Point and Waterfront Park. The non-stop narrated tour offers a litany of interesting facts about the city along the way. You’ll also enjoy stunning views of the palatial homes of Charleston’s famous Battery.
  • Dinner Cruise: This three-hour dinner cruise combines a multi-course gourmet meal, live music and fantastic views of Charleston Harbor aboard a deluxe yacht.
  • Wedding Cruise: SpiritLine Cruises offers brides and grooms the chance to pledge their eternal love for one other on the open waters surrounding historic Charleston. On these lavish wedding cruises couples can exchange vows with the city’s amazing skyline and flowering plantations in the background. The company hosts the entire ceremony and reception on its luxury vessels, and provides full course meals and live entertainment as well.

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