Things to Know About Mississippi River Cruises – From Cruise Lines to Best Itineraries

River cruises are a great way to see the world – you can visit multiple waterfront destinations and watch the scenery roll by from comfortable accommodations and upper deck lounges on intimate luxury ships. And while rivers like the Danube and Rhine are the best choices for many travelers, you don’t have to fly to Europe to take a river cruise. You can explore some of the country’s iconic attractions and favorite cities with a Mississippi River Cruise. There are a few major cruise lines that sail through the Mississippi, with trips ranging from less than a week to over 20 days. Spring and fall are the best times of year to cruise along the river, as you will avoid the summer heat and winter cold and enjoy more pleasant weather while admiring the surroundings.

A Viking River Cruise on the Mississippi River

Rottet Studio / Courtesy of Viking

Here’s what you need to know about Mississippi boat cruises, from premium itineraries to popular stops.

Related: The 10 Best River Cruise Companies

Winding road along the Mississippi River near Brainerd, Minnesota in the fall.

Winding road along the Mississippi River near Brainerd, Minnesota in the fall.

Willard / Getty Images

Mississippi River Cruise Lines

There are three major cruise lines that offer itineraries along the Mississippi River: Viking River Cruises, American Queen Voyages, and American Cruise Lines. Viking is known for its luxury river, ocean and expedition cruises to incredible destinations around the world, and the Mississippi itineraries are a new addition to its wide range of river cruises, offered aboard the new Mississippi viking boat. American Queen Voyages offers several cruises along the Mississippi on paddlewheel steamboats like the American queen.

American Cruise Lines offers both new riverboats and modern paddle steamers, so you can choose your ideal sailing experience based on your itinerary. These cruise lines all have similar itineraries along the river, so we recommend that you examine the ships and equipment on board and find out what is included in the rate (such as hotel stays and excursions before. departure) to help you make your decision.

The interior of the Grand Suite on the American Melody

The interior of the Grand Suite on the American Melody

Courtesy of American Cruise Lines

Popular ports on the Mississippi

You can sail from New Orleans to St. Paul or Minneapolis along the Mississippi or choose from shorter routes covering part of the river. Typically, cruises along the Lower Mississippi travel between New Orleans and Memphis, Tennessee, while ships on the Upper Mississippi sail between St. Louis and the Twin Cities. Highlights of popular stops along the river include Cajun culture in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the iconic Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Civil War history in Vicksburg, Mississippi, music and BBQs in Memphis, plus many charming little towns and picturesque views along the way.

American melody on the Mississippi river

American melody on the Mississippi river

Courtesy of American Cruise Lines

Mississippi River cruise itineraries

Viking River Cruises – The great river of America

Cruise from St. Paul to New Orleans on Viking’s 15-Day Itinerary on America’s Great River aboard 193 cabin Mississippi viking, a vessel specially designed for this river. The trip begins in St. Paul, where guests can explore the Twin Cities, before heading to Red Wing, where they will discover the country’s national bird at the National Eagle Center. Then, direction La Crosse, Wisconsin; Dubuque, Quad Cities and Burlington, Iowa; and Hannibal, Missouri, the childhood home and inspiration of author Mark Twain. Next stop is St. Louis, Missouri, with attractions like Gateway Arch State Park and the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. In the latter part of the trip, guests can enjoy a scenic cruise along the lower Mississippi and stop in Memphis, Tennessee; Vicksburg and Natchez, Mississippi; and Baton Rouge, Louisiana before finally arriving in New Orleans.

Interior of the lounge aboard the Viking Mississippi River Cruise

Interior of the lounge aboard the Viking Mississippi River Cruise

Rottet Studio / Courtesy of Viking

Voyages of the American Queen – New Orleans to Memphis

Cruise along the Lower River from New Orleans to Memphis on this eight- or nine-day Mississippi River cruise, which begins with a free stay in New Orleans and a second day to enjoy the Big Easy . Then, direction Nottoway and St. Francisville in Louisiana and Natchez, Vicksburg and Greenville in Mississippi before a day cruise and the departure port of Memphis, Tennessee. There are various paddlewheel riverboats that sail this route for American Queen Voyages – find the specific vessel for your trip when you select a date.

American cruise lines – Upper Mississippi River Cruise

This eight-day cruise begins in St. Louis and sails to St. Paul along the Upper Mississippi. Stops en route include Hannibal, Missouri; Fort Madison, Davenport and Dubuque, Iowa; and Winona and Red Wing, Minnesota. Several ships navigate this route, including American melody, inaugurated in 2021, and the next American Symphony. These new twin ships offer large rooms and suites with contemporary furnishings and an upscale atmosphere.


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