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Every spring, guests of American Cruise Lines cherry blossom cruises dock overnight at The Wharf in the heart of Washington, D.C., where they can enjoy a front row seat to the beautiful floral display of cherry blossom trees that adorns our nation’s capital.

The planting of the cherry trees in Washington, D.C. began in 1912 as a gift of friendship to the People of the United States from the People of Japan. However, the original idea for placing these magnificent specimens along the Potomac River came from travel writer, geographer, and photographer Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, the first woman to sit on the board of trustees of the National Geographic Society.

Birth Of An Idea

Upon returning from a trip to Japan in 1885, Ms. Scidmore believed these decorative trees would be the perfect addition to the barren parkland and newly constructed basin along the Potomac River. Over the next 24 years, she would propose the idea only to be turned down repeatedly.

Her luck changed when she met kindred spirit Dr. David Fairchild, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official, who had successfully transplanted 100 Japanese cherry trees in his own back yard and supported the idea of a “field of cherries” around the Tidal Basin. With his help, Scidmore detailed a plan to purchase cherry trees for the capital and presented it in a letter to First Lady Helen Herron Taft, whom she’d briefly met in Japan.  

Planting The First Trees

Shortly after, Ms. Scidmore received a positive response to the plan from First Lady Taft. The Japanese consul learned of the plan and offered to donate approximately 2,000 cherry trees. Unfortunately, when the trees arrived in 1910, they were infested with insects and had to be destroyed. The mayor of Tokyo and others from Japan generously donated another 3,020 cherry trees of 12 different varieties, all which arrived in Washington safely.  

On March 27, 1912, during a simple ceremony with Scidmore in attendance, the first lady and the Japanese ambassador’s wife dug their spades into the ground to begin planting the first two trees. Today there are approximately 3,800 cherry trees that ornament the park, including the first two planted which still stand along the northwest wall of the Tidal Basin.

Sailing in D.C.

In 2018, American Constitution was the first cruise ship to call on Washington, D.C. in over 60 years. In 2024, our brand new Coastal Cats, American Glory and American Liberty, will also dock in D.C. on our American Revolution cruise and are the ideal way to explore the beauty of the Cherry Blossoms and our nation’s capital up close.

At a capacity of just 100 guests, these new ships blend the adventure of expedition cruising with the refinement, comfort, stability, and land proximity of river cruising. The design of the ship allows rare access into small ports and the ability to travel on almost any river or waterway in the U.S. 

Our Coastal Cats feature modern décor and the most spacious staterooms in the industry, many with private balconies, as well as an elegant restaurant, multiple lounges, a fitness center, and an outdoor café. Also featured is a tender at the stern of the ship for local exploration.