How Much Does It Cost To Take A Mississippi River Cruise
For the ultimate experience, you could cruise all the way from Minnesota to New Orleans . The overall distance from headwaters to the gulf coast is 2,320 miles . Typically, the river is divided into three segments:
- Upper section between St. Louis and St. Paul
- Middle section between St. Paul and Memphis
- Lower section between Memphis and New Orleans
We fell in love with The Big Easy many years ago and vowed to return one day. For that reason, we worked out the average costs of some of the most popular river cruises on the lower Mississippi.
The itineraries vary and include some amazing sights such as Memphis, southern plantations, and Vicksburg.
Mississippi river cruises pricing will vary depending upon the time of year, reflecting peak and non-peak season rates. More dramatically impacting the fare is your cabin choice.
For instance, the American Queen offers basic inside cabins starting around $237 per night / person. These are much smaller than the ones with balconies.
Your Lower Mississippi Itinerary
Youll enjoy between six and 22 days of fabulous food, music, camaraderie, and relaxation. Sit on the deck of one of our gorgeous paddle wheelers. This fantastic mode of travel slows life down and allows you to soak up every ounce of beauty along this iconic body of water.
Consider just a few of our fabulous Mississippi cruises: New Orleans to Memphis.
If you arrive in New Orleans a few days before the cruise launches, you have the opportunity to fully explore and experience the wealth of cultural amenities that abound in the Big Easy, including:
The Garden District: A fabulous and historic neighborhood, filled with oak-lined boulevards, grand mansions, and, of course, lush gardens. Its also the location of the famed Lafayette Cemetery, which is the final resting place of several historical figures, including John Howard Ferguson, who was the defendant in the Supreme Courts Plessy v. Ferguson decision that established the separate but equal doctrine that was later overturned in the 1950s.
French Quarter: No trip to New Orleans is complete without at least a walk-through of the famous district. Here youll find Bourbon Street the beating heart of Mardis Gras and Jackson Square, where ceremonies marking the transfer of the Louisiana Purchase territory from France to the United States took place in 1803.
Along the way, youll visit several more fabulous locations, including Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the state capital and home to Louisiana State University.
Usa River Cruises: Your Destination Awaits
Our booking agents are ready to answer any questions you may have and to accommodate any and all special needs.
Each member of our staff is uniquely qualified to customize the trip of a lifetime. Most of us have taken these cruises ourselves and are intimately familiar with every detail of the journey, making us the best possible resource for you.
USA River Cruises specializes in rail trips and small-ship cruises. This means our ships typically hold fewer than 900 passengers more often than not its much fewer than that!
Were based in Vancouver, Washington, just across the mighty Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. Thus, our passion began locally, with ships on the Columbia. However, we have grown to appreciate river cruise vacations all over the United States as well as all over the world!
Our agents are friendly and responsive most have personal experience on board many of our ships. Thats why USA River Cruise agents are the small-ship cruising and cruise vacation experts.
- May 15, 2023,June 19, 2023
St. Paul to New Orleans
New Orleans to St. Paul
St. Paul to New Orleans
New Orleans to St. Paul
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Absolutely Perfect In All Ways
My Friend and I went on the Riverboat Twilight and it was the most perfect/awesome adventure! From reserving our trip to our final walk to our car after the two day cruise, all was perfect! Staff are amazing, from the Captain to the servers, to the musical entertainers. The food is suburb and generous! Everything is very well organized, from our luggage/hotel in Dubuque/seating for meals, free shuttles in Dubuque, etc! The scenery and info along the way from the captain was wonderful! This was an absolutely perfect two day cruise, and we are going again in Mid October as we loved it so much!!.
Karen V Pella, Iowa
Choosing A Mississippi River Cruise Itinerary
Because it is so long, the Mississippi River is usually divided into three parts. Each segment typically takes a week, or you can combine them for a three-week cruise. The scenery along the river is generally prettier and the wildlife more prevalent the farther north you are on the river. All segments can be done in either direction.
Keep in mind that sailing against the current slows the boat and generally means fewer ports or less time in port, but you’ll have more time to relax onboard.
Lower Mississippi : A weeklong sailing, which can run in either direction, this stretch of the river can include port stops like Oak Alley and Nottoway plantations, Baton Rouge and St. Francisville in Louisiana Natchez, Vicksburg and Greenville in Mississippi and Helena, Arkansas. The occasional New Orleans cruise, which can run from five to seven days, typically visits the same ports, minus Memphis.
Middle Mississippi : Also weeklong itineraries that can run in either direction, these sailings typically feature stops at New Madrid and Cape Girardeau, Missouri Paducah, Kentucky and Chester, Illinois. Memphis to St. Louis sailings feature more scenic sailing and fewer port stops than other Mississippi itineraries, and, as such, fewer of these itineraries are offered.
Mississippi and Ohio rivers: Some Mississippi River sailings also spend time visiting Ohio River ports.
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Upper Mississippi River Cruise St Louis To Minneapolis
This luxury 9-day Upper Mississippi River cruise between St. Louis and Minneapolis offers adventure, beauty and comfort to all who embark upon it. The Upper Mississippi River offers the opportunity to explore the territory that served as Mark Twains muse.
Which Is The Best Company
Both companies appear to be well run and provide a memorable experience. According to US Today, both companies are solidly in the top ten.
Id feel comfortable booking with either company. Your decision may be influenced by the itinerary or being on a specific boat .
On a side note, if youre a Viking fan, the Viking Mississippi will be launched in August of 2022. This will also be a modern river boat hosting 386 guests.
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Why Are River Cruises So Expensive
River cruises tend to be more expensive due to fewer passengers and high operating costs. Between fuel costs, employee salaries, high quality food and excursions, these arent inexpensive vacations.
Even understanding this, I was shocked with the prices. Weve taken Caribbean cruises, even one through the Panama Canal, that were under $200 a night, some even with balconies!
Mind you, these prices are comparable with river cruises in Europe and elsewhere. So, why are Mississippi river cruises so expensive?
The first thing I had to wrap my head around is youre paying for an experience unlike any other. While relaxing on a cruise ship is nice , when youve been to the various ports before it can get a little blah.
Instead of embarking with 3,000+ strangers, most river boats carry less than 400 passengers. The ratio of staff to guests is higher which should mean much better service.
In addition, the staff are American and receive fair wages and benefits, unlike those big cruise ships. Another consideration, almost everything is included with your fare.
This can include your first nights stay, beverages, deluxe dining and even your excursions. You pay more up front but arent nickel and dimed as the cruise ships are notorious for doing.
Highlights Of The Mississippi River Cruise
New Orleans, LA to New Orleans, LA
- Pre-CruisePackage and Complimentary Hotel Stay
- Day 1New Orleans, LA
- Day 2Houmas House, LA
- Day 3Baton Rouge, LA
- Day 4Oak Alley, LA
- Day 5New Orleans, LA
Begin in the French Quarter of New Orleans and continue to Baton Rouge and Natchez. Explore the “Gateway to the West” via St. Louis, rock ‘n’ roll to Graceland, view Civil War landmarks, and stroll through the museums and art galleries of Paducah.
New Orleans, LA to St. Louis, MO
- Pre-CruisePackages and Complimentary Hotel Stays
- Day 1New Orleans, LA
- Day 2Baton Rouge, LA
- Day 3Natchez, MS
- Day 5Day of River Cruising
- Day 6Memphis, TN
- Day 7New Madrid, MO
- Day 8Paducah, KY
- Day 9Day of River Cruising
- Day 10St. Louis, MO
- Day 11St. Louis, MO
Witness the dramatic landscapes of the Upper Mississippi River and treat yourself to Blues and BBQ. Guests can choose their perfect itinerary whether aboard an American riverboat or authentic paddlewheeler.
St. Paul, MN to New Orleans, LA
- Pre-CruiseComplimentary Hotel Stay
- Day 1St. Paul, MN
- Day 2Winona, MN
- Day 5Fort Madison, IA
- Day 6Hannibal, MO
- Day 7St. Louis, MO
- Day 8St. Louis, MO
- Day 9Day of River Cruising
- Day 10Memphis, TN
- Day 11Day of Cruising
- Day 12Vicksburg, MS
- Day 14Baton Rouge, LA
- Day 15New Orleans, LA
Pittsburgh, PA to St. Louis, MO
Memphis, TN to Nashville, TN
Chattanooga, TN to Nashville, TN
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Shipboard Shows Dining Excursions: What To Expect
To ensure social distancing, the open seating for dinner was scrapped. Instead, there were two seatings so there was plenty of space between guests. We were assigned to the same table each night better for contact tracing.
There also were two shows in the evenings to keep the size of the crowds down. At the end of each performance in the show lounge, we were asked to quickly depart so that the theater could be fogged with an antiviral mist before the next performance.
There was no self-service, whether it be at breakfast or lunch buffets or the Duchess popular Perks room, where there is coffee, juice, ice cream, popcorn and fresh-baked cookies. There were plenty of ways to indulge ones sweet tooth you just had to wait for someone to serve you.
As far as shore excursions, American Queen Steamboat Company has temporarily halted its hop-on, hop-off buses that allowed passengers to explore port towns on their own. As a replacement, we were taken on more conventional bus tours with a guide so that our groups could be more insulated.
Bierdz said COVID-19 protocols are constantly changing on the companys boats, so its best to check with the cruise line before departure to see what rules are currently in place when you sail.
The Best Of The Riverboat Cruises On The Mississippi
If you are looking for the best Mississippi River cruise, look no further. Join Road Scholar on this classic Mississippi River cruise where guests will board a magnificent paddlewheel riverboat and get a front-row seat to immerse themselves in the music, food, natural beauty and architectural grandeur of Dixie, historic Natchez and Vicksburg, and small river towns. Spend three days exploring the hustle and bustle of New Orleans, including a jazz show at the iconic Fritzels Jazz Club.
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Viking Mississippi River Cruise Destinations
Viking will offer cruises on both the Upper and Lower Mississippi river. Departures from New Orleans, Louisiana and St. Paul, Minnesota include seven- to 14-night cruises.
Cruising the entire length, from St. Paul to New Orleans will cover a distance of nearly 2,300 miles and travel through seven states along the way. Ports of call on the scheduled itineraries include:
- Louisiana New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Darrow, and St. Francisville
- Mississippi Natchez and Vicksburg
- Iowa Burlington, Dubuque and Davenport
- Wisconsin La Crosse)
- Minnesota Red Wing and St. Paul
At a time where many of us are at home, looking for inspiration to travel in the future, I am pleased to introduce a new, modern way to explore this great river. We invented the concept of modern river cruising when we got our start 23 years agofirst on the rivers of Russia and then in Europe. Since then, many people have come to appreciate the unique exploration that comes with river cruisingbut currently there are very few options to do so on American rivers, said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking.
Cruising The Upper Mississippi River
Upper Mississippi. Courtesy of American Queen Steamboat Company
As previously mentioned, cruises on the Upper Mississippi are seasonal and only available between June and October, which means options are more limited. Average itinerary length is usually eight to nine days. And the most common itineraries are between St. Louis, MO and St. Paul, MN.
There are also a few cruises available between St. Louis and Ottawa, IL , St. Louis and Memphis and round-trip from Red Wing, MN . Some packages combine travel on the Mississippi with the Ohio River and may include travel to cities, such as Pittsburgh, Louisville, KY and Cincinnati ,OH. However, most of the cruise is on the Ohio River and not the Mississippi. So for those travelers looking for a Mississippi River cruise, these may not be the best option.
The Cumberland River is another waterway that is sometimes combined with a Mississippi River cruise. This river is indirectly connected to the Mississippi through the Ohio River. Nashville and Clarksville, TN are located on the Cumberland River and are featured in a couple of itineraries. These cruises are between St. Louis and Nashville and an equal amount of time is spent on the Cumberland and Mississippi Rivers.
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Discover Southern Culture And Charm
Immerse yourself in history and heritage on this journey from New Orleans to Memphis. Soak up the rich French and Acadian cultures that infuse the Lower Mississippi, and be inspired by the stories of famed musicians and civil rights heroes. Savor delicious Cajun and Creole cuisine, as well as Memphiss famous BBQ. And stir your soul with the rhythms of Dixieland jazz, Delta blues and gospel.
Mississippi River Cruise Lines
There are three main 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 newer addition to its wide range of river cruises, offered aboard the new Viking Mississippi ship. American Queen Voyages offers several cruises along the Mississippi on paddle wheel steamboats like the American Queen.
American Cruise Lines has both new, modern riverboats and paddle wheelers, so you can choose your ideal sailing experience depending on your itinerary. These cruise lines all offer similar itineraries along the river, so we recommend looking into the ships and amenities on board and finding what’s included in the rate to help make your decision.
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Mississippi River Cruise Tips
Prepare for small towns. Itineraries might incorporate major cities like New Orleans and Memphis as cornerstones, but your experience will also focus on smaller towns along the way.
Prepare for calm waters. Inland waterways are much calmer than those on ocean-based trips, which is great news if you’re prone to seasickness.
Listen up. Because of the short distances between ports, full days of river cruising are rare. However, when you spend time sailing, there is usually commentary from a “riverlorian” over the public address system explaining some of the sights you pass.
Mother Nature rules. The same way a hurricane might force an oceangoing cruise ship to change course, bad weather on the rivers can alter itineraries. In particular, heavy rain and droughts can make or break a river trip. For instance, one year’s drought along the Mississippi River kept waters so low that riverboats couldn’t sail upriver, and operators had to push some of their Upper Mississippi sailings onto the Ohio. Another year, too much rain flooded the river, making it impossible for riverboats to get under bridges and forcing the closing of several locks. The result was the same as during the drought. Boats scheduled to sail the Upper Mississippi were diverted onto the Ohio.
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Mississippi River Port Highlights
New Orleans, Louisiana: Thick with atmosphere, New Orleans is world-famous for its annual Mardi Gras celebration, beautiful French Quarter neighborhood, great Southern and Creole cooking and some of the world’s best jazz music.
Vicksburg, Mississippi: The site of a famous Civil War battlefield, Vicksburg also offers visitors a glimpse into its Southern heritage with antebellum plantations, old churches and restored train depots. A popular attraction is National Military Park, where visitors can learn about the siege and defense of the city. The park includes more than 1,370 monuments and markers, a restored Union gunboat and a national cemetery. Boat-lovers might like the Old Depot Museum, which features the world’s largest collection of ship models, as well as a collection of riverboat models and U.S. Navy ships with Mississippi names.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana’s state capital is an intriguing mixture of African-American and Caribbean cultures and a hot spot for Creole and Cajun cuisine. Visit Louisiana’s Old State Capitol or new state capitol building — or head to the LSU Rural Life Museum for a showcase of what life was like on a typical 19th century plantation. Visit the kitchen, slave cabins and grist mill before touring a replica of the town.