Cruises on the Mississippi River
by Lauri Wakefield
Mississippi River cruise itineraries are usually separated into the Upper and Lower part of the river. The Upper Mississippi is generally considered to be between St. Louis, Missouri and St. Paul, Minnesota; and the Lower Mississippi is between Memphis, Tennessee and New Orleans, Louisiana. Cruises are sometimes combined with other waterways, such as the Ohio River and the Tennessee River.
Since the weather tends to be warmer in the southeastern United States, travel on the Lower Mississippi is available during most of the year; while cruises on the Upper Mississippi are more seasonal and usually only available between June and October.
About the Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is is one of the longest rivers in the world and the second longest river in the United States after the Missouri River. From northern Minnesota, the Mississippi flows for 2,340 miles and passes through or borders 10 different states before reaching its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico.
The Mississippi River has 12 tributaries. With regard to river cruises, the Ohio River is its major tributary. The two rivers actually meet twice – in Cairo, IL where the mouth of the Ohio River is located and also near Paducah, KY.
Cruising the Mississippi River
Cruises on the Mississippi are usually eight to nine days long. The most common itineraries are between St. Louis and St. Paul and also between New Orleans and Memphis. Some packages include cities, such as Nashville and Cincinnati, which are not located on the Mississippi River. Cruises between St. Louis and Cincinnati include travel on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.
A couple of other waterways worth mentioning are the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. They are indirectly connected to the Mississippi through the Ohio River. Some itineraries also involve travel on these rivers. There are a few packages available that travel to Nashville, which is located on the Cumberland River.
American Cruise Lines is the only company that offers year-round itineraries on both the Upper and Lower Mississippi River. Cruises are available between St. Louis and Memphis as well as between St. Paul and New Orleans.
Prominent cities often visited on a Mississippi River cruise include:
- New Orleans
- St. Louis
- St. Paul/Minneapolis
Companies that Cruise on the Mississippi River
This information is intended to give you an overview and a general idea of what different river cruise companies offer. With regard to itineraries – they change from year to year and sometimes within a year.
American Cruise Lines offers Mississippi River cruises year-round. The company’s two cruise ships have a passenger capacity of 150 each. Staterooms start at about 200 square feet – even the single staterooms.
- Packages: 8 to 22 days
- Lower Mississippi: 8 days
- Upper Mississippi: 8 days
- Both Lower & Upper: 8 to 22 days
- Number of Itineraries that include the Mississippi River: 11
- Lower Mississippi: 2
- Upper Mississippi: 3
- Both Lower & Upper Mississippi: 6
Ships on the Mississippi: American Eagle and Queen of the Mississippi (see related article Queen of the Mississippi Will Depart and a New Ship Will Enter the Mississippi River in 2016)
Interesting to Note: Most of American Cruise Lines’ itineraries include portions of both the Lower and Upper Mississippi River. It is also the only company can serve both parts of the river simultaneously and features cruises that combine the Lower and Upper Mississippi.
American Queen Steamboat Company cruises are available year round, but they are seasonal in nature. Travel on the Upper Mississippi is available from June or July to October. The remainder of the year, cruises are available on the Lower Mississippi between Memphis and New Orleans.
The vessel that operates on the Mississippi is the largest steamboat in history. Passenger capacity is 436. Staterooms are smaller than those featured on other cruises ships, though. They begin at 132 square feet.
- Packages: 5 to 9 days
- Lower Mississippi: 5 to 9 days
- Upper Mississippi: 8 to 9 days
- Number of itineraries that include the Mississippi River: 38
- Lower Mississippi: 22
- Upper Mississippi: 16
- Ships on the Mississippi: American Queen
Interesting to Note: Each sailing for American Queen Steamboat Company is listed as a separate itinerary. All itineraries have a specific theme.
Viking River Cruises (Mississippi River cruises will be available in 2017)
What’s the Best Choice for a Mississippi River Cruise?
If you prefer to cruise on a smaller vessel, American Cruise Lines offers the best option. Both cruise ships are each limited to 150 passengers. And stateroom size is significantly larger compared to its competitors on the Mississippi.
Cruises are available year-round on the Lower Mississippi if you cruise with American Cruise Lines. And if the chance to be able to cruise on both the Upper and Lower Mississippi River appeals to you, American Cruise Lines is currently your only option.
American Queen Steamboat Company offers several different themed-cruises. As a matter of fact, most sailings have a different theme.
If you prefer a larger ship, American Queen Steamboat Company is the better choice. The American Queen steamboat carries 436 passengers. See Ralph Grizzle’s video reviews of the American Queen.
Read Other Articles About the Mississippi River.