The Mississippi River is one of the longest rivers in the world and the second longest in the US after the Missouri River. From north Minnesota, the Mississippi River flows for 2340 miles and passes through or borders 10 different states before reaching the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi River has twelve tributary rivers, with the Ohio river being the major tributary. The Ohio river meets twice with the Mississippi, first in Cairo, Illinois, then again near Paducah, Kentucky. Continue reading to learn about a Mississippi River Cruise.
What is a Mississippi River Cruise?
An Upper Mississippi River Cruise sails the area between St. Louis, Missouri and St. Paul, Minnesota. A Lower Mississippi River Cruise sails from Memphis, Tennessee and New Orleans, Louisiana. In addition to cruises directly on Mississippi River, there are also cruises that cruise its tributaries including the Ohio, and Tennessee Rivers.
The Lower Mississippi River has the longest season, which typically runs from November through December and April to mid-June, with most sailings on the bottom one-third of the river (New Orleans to Memphis). In the spring and early summer, the Upper Mississippi is generally too high for riverboats to traverse, so the Upper Mississippi itineraries don't typically begin sailing until July.
With Louisiana and Mississippi at their hottest and muggiest during the summer, the bulk of the summer season is split between Upper Mississippi sailing and Ohio River sailings, with the Upper Mississippi taking over again for the most of October. Even on the Upper Mississippi, temperatures can climb the 90s, and humidity is high during the summer. Always be prepared for sudden thunderstorms brought on by the humidity. The weather cools down quite considerably (especially in the morning and evening) come fall. Mosquitos also can be a problem in several of these states, as they all experience high humidity in the summer, so be sure to bring bug spray.
Pricing of Mississippi River Cruise
On average, U.S. river cruise prices about $400 to $500 per person, per night. Booking six months in advance of peak season departure is advised. For example, American Cruise Lines offers a discount of $400 per stateroom when a cruise is booked three months or more in advance. Unlike European river cruises, shoulder season doesn't matter here, since ships sail only at peak times. On the East Coast, this means late June to late September.
Also, consider booking your Mississippi river cruise as early as 12 months in advance for peak season departures and nine to twelve months for other periods. There are also discounts for groups of eight to ten people. Cruise lines will post last-minute sales when a ship doesn't fill to capacity, but that deal is often offset by airfare, which can be pricey when purchased on a last-minute basis.
Other considerations include airfare, travel cancelation insurance, trip extensions, and pre- and post-cruise land stays. When choosing a ship, consider its age, amenities, storage, optional tours, and the size of the cabins. As a rule of thumb, the lower the deck, the cheaper the cabin, and the cruise fare itself. A lot of prices starting at the lowest category look very similar, but on a newer ship, you may be getting 35 percent more space in the cabin. You may get a similar price at two operators, but one of them may be giving you a lot more in term of value.
American Queen Steamboat Company
This company advertises itself as the most inclusive river cruise product in North America, with fares that encompass complimentary wine and beer with dinner, all shore excursions, bottled water and soda, and a one-night stay in a deluxe hotel in the city of embarkation.
Lead-In rates start at $2,000 per person with category AQ-E interior staterooms ranging from 132 square feet to 140 square feet. Per day, it's about $260 per person.
American Cruise Lines
Packages for this company start at around $3,000. This may seem like a large jump in price when compared to the starting price of American Queen Steamboat Company, but the staterooms are the largest in the industry with private balconies, floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, and breakfast room service brought to their terrace. Cruise also includes a complimentary cocktail hour every evening and live entertainment each night, with a focus on music and history.
Mississippi River Cruise: How They Compare
Several itineraries are available in a Mississippi River cruise between Memphis and New Orleans. These cruises are 8 to 9 days long. There are also 5 to 6-day packages are round trip from New Orleans. The lower Mississippi River itineraries are available throughout most of the year, with the exception of mid-January to late February. There are a couple of itineraries that combine both the upper and lower sections of the river for a 16 to 22-day trip.
Itineraries for the Upper Mississippi River are restricted to the summer season, but these trips are 9 to 16 days long. There are themed itineraries available during the winter holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve/Day. Other themes include Life on the Mississippi, America's Heartland, Mark Twain, and Fall Foliage. Prominent cities often visited include New Orleans, Memphis, St Louis, and St Paul/Minneapolis area.
American Cruise Lines
American Cruise Lines features three ships with a guest capacity between 150 and 185: America, The Queen of the Mississippi, and the upcoming American Song. Stateroom size is generous on all of these ships starting 200 to 250 square feet for the small rooms. The largest staterooms are between 450 and 900 square feet. All three of their ships were newly built just for the Mississippi River cruise. Each ship provides onboard historians and naturalists and the largest staterooms of any cruise ship.
The America is one of the finest Mississippi paddle wheelers ever built and includes features never before seen on the Mississippi. Launched in 2016, the America embodies a casual ambiance and relaxed atmosphere while providing panoramic views of the passing scenery. This ship can hold a capacity of 185 guests.
Queen of the Mississippi
Experience breathtaking scenery from the privacy of your stateroom as the Queen of the Mississippi makes its way down the legendary river. Built in 2015, this ship offers an authentic paddle wheeler experience with all the comforts of home. Guests can enjoy large staterooms with private balconies, hotel-style bathrooms, complimentary 24-hour room service, Wi-Fi, and more.
American Song will be the first modern riverboat ever in the U.S. and will introduce many pioneering innovations to America's waters. This new riverboat will feature lounges soaring forty feet about the water with triple the glass of other riverboats, presenting astounding views. American Song will also feature the Atrium a four-story glass-enclosed area with a large domed skylight that serves as the central gathering point for the entire ship.
Their new suite design will allow for unprecedented comfort while traveling, beginning with the new Grand Suites featuring 900 square feet of private space. These spacious suites include two glass walls and a wraparound private balcony. Complimentary room service during select mealtimes is available for every stateroom, but the Grand Suites offer ample space to host small cocktail parties or private dinner events.
American Cruise Lines Itineraries
Cruise the Mississippi River aboard the newest riverboats in the region and enjoy perfect comfort and modern amenities as you travel to each historic destination. Their themed cruises along the legendary Mississippi are perfect for music aficionados, culinary connoisseurs, and history enthusiasts.
Complete Mississippi River
Debarking from New Orleans and docking at St. Paul at the end of the trip, this line explores ten states in 22 days with great views and tours of southern plantations, stately antebellum houses, and Civil War battlefields. In Memphis, known for Blues and Barbeque, immerse yourself in the rich culture of one of the Mid-South's most vibrant cities. After cruising past the Gateway Arch Riverfront in St Louis, the journey to Hannibal, the hometown of the famous author Mark Twain.
Traveling up the river, get up-close views of bald eagle nests, beaver lodges, and great blue herons, from the comfort of your furnished private balcony. Other ports along the way include Oak Alley, Houmas House, Baton Rouge, St. Francisville, Natchez, Vicksburg, Greenville, Memphis, New Madrid, Cape Girardeau, Chester, St Louis, Davenport, Dubuque, La Crosse, and Red Wing.
Upper Mississippi River
The dramatic landscapes of the Upper Mississippi River have long inspired artists, writers, and steamboats passengers. It was here that literary great Mark Twain used the majestic river and its scenic bluffs as the settings in his most popular works. Explore the beautiful gardens and historic homes of La Crosse. Get close to nature in Red Wing as you witness a variety of bald eagle nests. Enjoy a guided tour of the Black Hawk State Historic Site which celebrates the story of the Sauk and Meskwaki Indians who once called Davenport home. Other ports include Hannibal and Dubuque.
Lower Mississippi River
Enjoy customized excursions from ports in Oak Alley where you gain an insider's perspective of classic antebellum homes and renowned plantations. Enjoy the rich history of the Civil War in Vicksburg as an American Cruise Line historian leads you through the National Military Park commemorating the campaign, siege, and defense of this city. Other ports on this route include Memphis, Natchez, St Francisville, and Baton Rouge.
This is a cruise from Nashville to St. Louis, following the Cumberland and Mississippi Rivers on a route of adventure and captivating history. Admire the picturesque scenery of America's Heartland, including the Kentucky Lakes and rolling landscape of 170,000 acres of protected forest. Guided excursions include the legendary Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, the National Quilt Museum if Paducah, and the Trail of Tears State Park in Cape Girardeau. Option for a private tour of the historic battleground where Ulysses S. Grant won his first major Union victory.
This epic 15-day cruise on the Mississippi travels from the northern reaches of St. Paul all the way down to the basin of New Orleans. View the dramatic landscapes of the Upper Mississippi River which have long inspired artists, writers, and the steamboat passengers. As you journey down the river, hear stories about southern life on the plantation and tour historic Civil War sites led by local experts. On the final stop, New Orleans, enjoy privileged access to its vibrant music scene and the best in Cajun and Creole cuisine.
Highlights of the Mississippi River
This round trip Mississippi River adventure begins and ends in New Orleans, a melting pot of French, African, and American culture. Here you can enjoy its vibrant music scene and the best in Cajun and Creole cuisine. Travel to magnificent Houmas House Plantation and enjoy its beautiful gardens and unique collection of Louisiana art. Enjoy a one-of-a-kind guided tour of this vibrant city.
Additional Perks & Features
American Queen Steamboat Company
These ships are known for their combination of modern amenities and classic luxury. Offering gracious and elegant steamboat river cruises, climb aboard the American Queen for a memorable journey through U.S. history and nature.
Enjoy Victoria opulence with details like scrolling woodwork, fresh flowers, and lacy filigree or travel back in time with the words of Mark Twain, from the ship's collection. Enjoy nightly entertainment aboard our riverboat in the Grand Saloon or the Captain's Lounge or stroll up and down the decks admiring the views and scenery during your cruise.
Spacious luxury awaits aboard the floating masterpiece, the American Duchess. As the first all-suite paddle wheeler in the US, the riverboat offers guests large accommodations, vaulted ceilings, fine dining options, beautiful decks for strolling and luxury amenities. Embark on one of the river cruise ship's airy suites, including the Loft Suites that feature two stories of pure luxury: a full bathroom, a small dining area, beautiful lounge with a queen sofa-bed and desk area, a private balcony and an upstairs loft area. Stop by the Grand Dining Room or The River Club & Terrace for delicious and fresh fine dining options and enjoy Broadway caliber entertainment each night.
American Queen Steamboat Company Itineraries
American Queen Steamboat Company river cruises provide the ideal vacation experience for those seeking an inclusive river cruising experience with all the fluff and none of the hassles.
Upper Mississippi River
Cruising along the Upper Mississippi aboard our classic, steam-powered vessel carries you past peaceful fields of gold and soaring bluffs to storybook American towns and vibrant, bustling cities. Whether you are a fan of nature's raw beauty and wildlife or an enthusiast of history and culture, the upper reaches of the Mississippi from dynamic St. Louis to the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul will surely capture your heart.
Lower Mississippi River
The Lower Mississippi River is the river of legends. River cruising through the rich history and cultural diversity of the Old South is like taking a step back in time. Sugar cane is still grown just as it was a century ago and lovingly restored mansions grace the Great River Road. From the sidewalk cafes and jazz clubs of New Orleans' French Quarter to the barbecue hotspots and soulful blues of Memphis and everywhere in between, the Lower Mississippi region is a beautiful celebration of modern-day attractions and timeless southern traditions.
Ohio, Tennessee, and Cumberland Rivers
On these river cruises, you'll discover America's cultural quilt in the cities and towns of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers. Cruising along the Cumberland River take you past forest-covered hills into Bluegrass Country and brings to mind old tales of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. The Ohio River is a kaleidoscope of big cities and small towns showcasing the best of American ingenuity and courage while the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers are a reminder of the wilderness that had to be conquered to expand a nation.
Additional Perks & Features
We consider American Cruise Lines to be the best value for a Mississippi River cruise, but you'll need to consider a private balcony against additional suite space, along with other amenities. Both companies offer cabins that are larger (and smaller) than their standard offerings. The Queen of the Mississippi's Owner's Suite measures 445 square feet, while the single staterooms measure 203 square feet with a balcony. American Cruise Lines' best offer the Queen of the Mississippi is probably the 304-square-foot Private Balcony staterooms.
The American Duchess from The American Queen Steamboat Company does offer something not seen on a Mississippi River cruise before: Loft Suites that measure at 550 square feet. But with the American Song launching this fall, it will outdo the American Duchess with Grand Suites featuring 900 square feet. You should also consider the ship's capacity. American Cruise Lines has a guest capacity of less than 200 for each ship while The American Queen Steamboat Company can accommodate over 400 passengers per ship. We consider American Cruise Lines to have a rating of four out of five stars.
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