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Cruising the Mississippi River: What you need to know

steamboat natchez new orleans louisiana
Steamboat Natchez, New Orleans (Credit: Louisiana Office of Tourism)

Want to explore the famous river that gives Mississippi River Country its name? Whether you’re looking for a luxurious cruise experience or a day trip along the Mississippi River, you’ll find plenty of options for getting on the water in Mississippi River Country.

Multi-day cruises

  • Viking Cruises: Based in Switzerland, this prestigious European operator recently started booking Mississippi River tours on its state-of-the-art Viking Mississippi, which houses 386 guests and was designed specifically for cruising the Mississippi River. Routes offered include a New Orleans round trip (8 days), Heart of the Delta (New Orleans to Memphis, 8 days), America’s Heartland (St. Louis to St. Paul, 8 days) and America’s Great River (St. Paul to New Orleans, 15 days).
  • American Queen Steamboat Company: This popular river cruise operator offers several different routes on the Upper and Lower Mississippi River, including Memphis to New Orleans (8-9 days), a New Orleans round trip (8-9 days) or a full-river Minneapolis to New Orleans trip (15-16 days). The company’s flagship vessel is the American Queen paddlewheeler, which can accommodate more than 400 guests.
  • American Cruise Lines: Take a New Orleans round trip, travel the Upper or Lower Mississippi or explore the entire river on an expansive three-week tour on American Cruise Lines, which offers “small-ship cruising” on America’s most famous river.

Day cruises

If you’re not in the mood for a dayslong journey, many states offer shorter excursions on the Mississippi River or its backwaters. Here’s a glimpse at just a few of them:

  • Padelford Riverboats: This operator based in St. Paul, Minnesota, offers sightseeing, dining, and private charters on the Mississippi River in St. Paul and and Minneapolis
  • Spirit of Peoria: This old-fashioned replica of a 19th-century riverboat docks at the riverfront in Peoria on the Illinois River but also offers sightseeing, dinner and multi-day tours of the Mississippi River.
  • Memphis Riverboats: On Tennessee’s western border, Memphis Riverboats offers authentic riverboat cruises on the Mississippi River
  • New Orleans Steamboat Company: Take a ride on one of the company’s iconic paddlewheelers—the Steamboat Natchez or the Riverboat City of New Orleans to take in the sights of the Big Easy