Cincinnati's first cruise, along the east coast, and then in the Caribbean, found her enforcing neutrality laws at Tampa and Key West during the Cuban Revolution from September 1895 to January 1896. Between September 1896 and July 1897, she served in the eastern Mediterranean, returning to the South Atlantic Station in September 1897. In April 1898, opening month of the Spanish-American War, Cincinnati joined the blockade off Havana, Cuba, and bombarded Matanzas. The next month, she scouted throughout the West Indies searching for the Spanish fleet known to be approaching Cuba.
At the close of May 1898, Cincinnati came north for repairs, returning to the Caribbean for occupation duty in August. She convoyed troops from Guantanamo Bay to Puerto Rico, patrolled off San Juan, made a reconnaissance of Culebra Island, and escorted the captured Spanish flagship Infanta Maria Teresa until the prize of war sank en route to Norfolk from Cuba. After joining in salvage operations at Santiago in November, she sailed north, and from 14 February 1899 to 2 December 1901 was out of commission at New York Navy Yard for extensive repairs.
Between May 1902 and January 1903, Cincinnati protected American citizens and property in the Caribbean during political disturbances at Haiti, Santo Domingo, and Panama, and brought relief supplies to Martinique after the devastating eruption of Mount Pelee. From January through May 1903, the cruiser sailed in the Mediterranean, then passed through the Suez Canal for 4 years of duty on the Asiatic Station, based in the Philippines. Target practice, maneuvers, and goodwill cruises took her to many ports in China, Japan, and the Pacific islands, and from time to time she patrolled off Korea. She returned to Mare Island Navy Yard 10 September 1907, and there was decommissioned 12 October 1907.
Recommissioned in reserve 8 March 1911, Cincinnati was in full commission from 11 October 1911, and two months later returned to the Asiatic Station for a 6-year tour of duty similar to her earlier employment there. She returned to San Diego 16 December 1917, and while bound for the east coast, took part in humanitarian relief at San Jose, Guatemala, after severe earthquakes. She arrived in Hampton Roads 16 January 1918.
As flagship of the American Patrol Detachment, Atlantic Fleet from 1 February 1918 to 28 March 1919, Cincinnati patrolled the Gulf of Mexico from Key West, protecting the movement of vital oil supplies. She was decommissioned at New Orleans 20 April 1919, and sold 4 August 1921.