The Mississippi River is a legendary maritime highway that allowed Midwestern states to prosper. From the 1800's to today, this river continues to generate incredible amounts of wealth leading to culturally diverse cities spanning it's 664 navigable miles. While not quite the romantic castles and palaces that you might find along European rivers, the Mississippi offers an opportunity to explore a different side of American history from a variety of angles including civil rights, food, music, industry, agriculture, and military heritage. I've had the fortune to explore nearly the entire length of this region on road trips but I can already tell you that traveling by boat would be the ultimate way to explore the "Mighty Mississip'!"
While I'm somewhat sad that it wasn't an American company that ultimately would bring Mississippi river cruising into a modern era. However, I can't think of another company as talented as Viking to do it. There are already other Mississippi river cruises but those river cruise ships are significantly smaller with fewer amenities. Also, with the exception of American Harmony, the existing Mississippi river cruise vessels are cliche "Steamboat Paddle Wheeler" type vessels. While the antebellum era of steamboats might be romantic to some, personally I feel like it pulls guests into the past, instead of celebrating the future. I suppose for some people, this is an appealing experience.
However, Viking Mississippi offers a truly modern vessel with comfortable amenities such as a plunge pool, viewing areas as close to the waterline as possible, and sustainability features including solar panels to help reduce the load on the main engines. Plus, there is a sense of comfort in booking with a brand you know will always deliver an incredible experience. After all, this is a vacation where you are laying out more than $10,000 per couple. Beyond amenities, what it really comes down to being able to eliminate the risk of trying something new.
By now many of you have already enjoyed a Viking river cruise in Europe or a Viking Ocean cruise to some exotic location. Or if you haven't done that yet ... you certainly know people who have returned from their voyage gushing about how fabulous their experience was. Either way, Viking has earned its stellar reputation and that's comforting for bucket-list type voyages such as a 14-day Mississippi river cruise from New Orleans to St. Paul, Minnesota.
Viking has taken the cruise industry by storm and in many ways has become synonymous with river cruising. Having experienced a river cruise with Viking a couple of years ago, their competitive advantage is the extremely professional staff, ultra-modern - but comfortable atmosphere, and extremely competitive pricing. They truly live their mission statement - "exploring the world in comfort".
Earlier this week, Viking official confirmed that it was entering the American market with the launch of new Mississippi River cruises.
The company’s first custom vessel, Viking Mississippi, will debut in August 2022 and will sail voyages on the Lower and Upper Mississippi, between New Orleans and St. Paul. Viking’s arrival will bring modern river cruising to the Mississippi and will represent a major commitment to tourism and economic development in many communities along the river. Currently scheduled ports of call on Viking’s new Mississippi River Cruises comprise seven U.S. states: Louisiana (Baton Rouge, Darrow, New Orleans and St. Francisville); Mississippi (Natchez and Vicksburg); Tennessee (Memphis); Missouri (Hannibal, St. Louis); Iowa (Burlington, Dubuque and Davenport); Wisconsin (La Crosse); and Minnesota (Red Wing, St. Paul). Starting today, inaugural sailings of Viking Mississippi’s 2022-2023 season are now available to Viking past guests only. Bookings will open to the general public on April 15, 2020.
“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 ago—first on the rivers of Russia and then in Europe. Since then, many people have come to appreciate the unique exploration that comes with river cruising—but currently there are very few options to do so on American rivers,” said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking. “Our guests are curious travelers, and they continue to tell us that the Mississippi is the river they most want to sail with us. The Mississippi River is closer to home for many of our guests, and no other waterway has played such an important role in America’s history, commerce and culture.”
Viking Mississippi River Cruises
Hosting 386 guests in 193 all outside staterooms, the new state-of-the-art Viking Mississippi is inspired by Viking’s award-winning river and ocean ships and will feature clean Scandinavian design, as well as public spaces that are familiar to guests but that have been reimagined for Mississippi River voyages. Purpose-built for the Mississippi and currently under construction in Louisiana, the five-deck ship’s cutting-edge design, expansive windows and comfortable amenities will make it the largest and most modern cruise ship in the region. Highlights of the new ship include:
- All Outside Staterooms: Guests can choose from an unparalleled seven spacious stateroom categories that range from 268 sq. ft to 1,024 sq. ft: Veranda, French Balcony, Deluxe Veranda, Penthouse Veranda, Penthouse Jr. Suite, Terrace Suite and Explorer Suite. All staterooms feature a private veranda or French balcony, king-size bed with luxury linens, large flat-screen interactive TV, mini-bar, large glass-enclosed shower, heated bathroom floor and 24-hour room service.
- Viking Suites: Viking Mississippi will have some of the largest true suites on the river, with every suite featuring two rooms and a full-size veranda off the spacious sitting room. Guests in Penthouse Jr. Suites (400 sq. ft.) and Terrace Suites (425 sq. ft.) receive early stateroom access; expanded double-sink bathroom; mini-bar with alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, water and snacks replenished daily; welcome champagne; and laundry, pressing and shoe shine services. Guests in the expansive Explorer Suites (657 sq. ft. to 1,024 sq. ft) also receive a wraparound veranda and complimentary Silver Spirits Beverage Package.
- Explorers’ Lounge & The Bow: Familiar to Viking’s ocean guests as one of the most popular onboard public spaces, Viking Mississippi will also feature an Explorers’ Lounge near the bow of the ship. The sun-filled, two-story Explorers’ Lounge has floor-to-ceiling windows that open to The Bow, a unique outdoor seating area at the front of the ship where guests can relax and enjoy ever-changing riverside views.
- River Café: From American classics to Mamsen’s® Norwegian specialties, this indoor/outdoor dining venue on the top deck will offer alternative restaurant dining in a casual al fresco setting.
- Aquavit Terrace: A public space beloved by many of Viking’s ocean and river guests, Viking Mississippi will also feature a revolutionary Aquavit Terrace on the top deck, providing a casual dining space ideal for an American barbecue experience. Combined with the River Café, the Aquavit Terrace will provide the most al fresco dining on the Mississippi.
- Sun Terrace with Infinity Plunge Pool: Similar to Viking’s ocean ships, Viking Mississippi will have a glass-backed pool experience at the aft, allowing guests to take a dip while fully surrounded by their destination.
- The Living Room: Clean Scandinavian design paired with American influences, the Living Room on Deck 1 is designed for socializing, relaxing and entertainment. Nearby, the quiet corner of The Library, is a perfect place to discover a new book.
- The Restaurant: This main dining venue on Deck 1 will serve daily-changing menus featuring delicious regional cuisine and always available classics prepared with fresh, local ingredients.
- Full 360-Degree Promenade Deck: Guests can stroll the entire ship outside on Deck 1, stretching their legs while viewing scenic landscape and regional wildlife.
- Enrichment On Board and On Shore: Connecting guests to their destinations through authentic experiences is central to Viking creating “the thinking person’s cruise.” A focus on cultural enrichment on board Viking Mississippi means that guests will enjoy Destination Performances that represent the most iconic music of the region—as well as Guest Lecturers that shed light on the region’s art, architecture, history, culture, natural world and more. And only The Viking Way® of exploration provides guests with itineraries that feature Privileged Access®, Local Life and Working World experiences, opening doors to places otherwise difficult to visit. On Viking’s Mississippi River itineraries, guests may choose to take a guided kayaking trip in the Louisiana bayou; visit a working farm in Quad Cities; or immerse themselves in Cajun culture during a Privileged Access excursion to the Rural Life Museum of Louisiana State University.
- Sustainable Features: Solar panels, LED lighting, floor-to-ceiling windows that maximize natural light and an energy-efficient hybrid propulsion system will make Viking Mississippi the most environmentally friendly passenger ship on the Mississippi River.
- Viking Inclusive Value: Every Mississippi River cruise fare includes everything guests need, with no surprises or hidden fees. Cruise fares include one complimentary shore excursion in each port of call, all onboard meals, and all port charges and government taxes. Guests also enjoy many complimentary amenities as part of their fare, including beer and wine with lunch and dinner service, lectures, alternative dining at no extra charge, self-service launderettes, 24-hour room service and free Wi-Fi.
2022-2023 Viking Mississippi Inaugural Voyages
Viking Mississippi will begin sailing in August of 2022 with an inaugural voyage scheduled to depart from St. Louis traveling to St. Paul Minnesota on August 27 as part of the America's Heartland itinerary.
America’s Heartland (8 days; St. Louis to St. Paul) — From pristine farms nestled in rolling terrain to steep bluff rising from tributaries dotted with wooded islands, the Upper Mississippi offers a rich tapestry of beauty upon every turn of the river. This journey introduces you to the unforgettable experience of the locks and dams that control the flow of the heartland rivers. Hear stories of settlers migrating west; learn about Lewis & Clark, Mark Twain, John Deere and the Amish and Norwegian migrations; experience the regional music like polka and Norwegian folk; and taste regional cuisine showcasing local beer, produce and Wisconsin cheese.
Heart of the Delta (8 days; New Orleans to Memphis) — This journey on the Lower Mississippi is infused with American history, culture and heritage. Tour the area where the migrating French and Acadians settled; immerse yourself in the culture and lessons from the American Civil Rights Movement; discover the music of the South—jazz, blues and gospel; and experience the life and food culture of the south, from Cajun and Creole to the famed “dry” Memphis BBQ.
Southern Celebration (8 days; New Orleans–Vicksburg–New Orleans) — On this exploration of the Lower Mississippi, visit the historic homes of Louisiana and Mississippi; learn about Civil War history, touring sites like Vicksburg National Military Park; and discover the excitement and unique flavors of New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
America’s Great River (15 days; New Orleans to St. Paul) — Experience nearly the entire length of the Mississippi River on this incredible journey from the Gulf of Mexico to the northernmost reaches of the U.S. Relax and enjoy the variety of scenery, foliage and wildlife on this leisurely voyage. Enjoy Southern charm and beautifully preserved homes in Natchez; retrace the steps of Civil Rights leaders in Memphis; ascend the Gateway Arch in St. Louis; and visit “The Norwegian Valley” in La Crosse.
While all of these new Viking Mississippi river cruises would be an incredible opportunity to explore America's great river, my heart is set on the Heart of the Delta departing from Memphis on February 11 and arriving in New Orleans on the 18th, 3 days before Mardi Gras and a perfect time to experience some of the best parades that weekend as well as the opportunity to experience different flavors of the festival seasons throughout the voyage.
For those less enamored by festival season, the December 2020 Southern Celebration itinerary that departs on December 24, 2022 will allow you to see the beautiful Christmas decorations in New Orleans as well as the plantations in Darrow, Lousiana aka "New Orleans Plantation Country". Plus, since it appears that Viking Mississippi spends the first night in New Orleans you can actually make a trip up to Darrow early and experience the legendary Christmas Eve bonfires lighting the sky to attract the attention of Papa Noel, the Cajun Santa Clause.
No matter what Viking Mississippi river cruise itinerary you take, I am sure you will have an amazing experience. It is Viking after all!