The Mississippi River is about 2,350 miles long. It originates at Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota, runs through 10 states of the country and drains in the Gulf of Mexico. It provides irrigation to the farms and drinking water to millions of people. It bore the witness to the birth of the new and modern America. It is home to some of the most exotic migratory birds. In modern times, the Mississippi has become a major commercial route carrying about 175 million tons of goods through a system of 29 locks and dams. Because of its size and the cities and towns it passes through, it is perfect for a long cruise. The river and its ecosystem offer plenty of attractions not only for tourists but also for rafters, anglers, birdwatchers, and hunters. There are many types of themed cruises along the Mississippi river that are offered based on the variety of interests this one river can cater to.
When is the best time to plan for a trip to Mississippi?
The Mississippi river cruise is categorized in two – the upper and lower parts of the river. The Upper Mississippi includes St. Louis, Missouri, and St. Paul (Minnesota). Lower Mississippi includes Memphis, Tennessee, and New Orleans, (Louisiana).
The Lower Mississippi is much warmer and cruises are available throughout the year except Mid-January to late February. A complete cruise is for eight to nine days; however, shorter cruises are also available.
The Upper Mississippi cruises are available only between June and October.
What are the options of cruising in Mississippi?
Upper Mississippi cruises: These cruises are seasonal and the most common itinerary along this route is between St. Louis, (MO) and St. Paul and reverse St. Paul to St. Louis. This cruise lasts for eight to nine days. Shorter cruises are also available. There are some cruises between St. Louis and Ottawa (IL), and St. Louis and Memphis. Round trip cruises are available from Red Wing in Minneapolis. Cruises that combine with Upper Mississippi, Ohio River, and Cumberland River are also available.
Lower Mississippi cruises: This route offers more options as it is available throughout the year. There are many itineraries between Memphis and New Orleans (both ways). Occasional round trips from New Orleans are also available but they most likely will skip Memphis.
Complete Mississippi cruise: There are a few itineraries that combine the Upper and Lower Mississippi between New Orleans and St. Paul, MN. These can last for 16 to 22 days.
Things to expect in an Upper Mississippi cruise
Even though there is only one itinerary from St. Louis to St. Paul (or the reverse), this route takes you through some of the most beautiful and scenic locations. The cruise will pass through many small but modern towns. There are opportunities to spot wildlife. You could also spot otters and birds like egrets, hawks and bald eagles. You will cross about 20 locks. If there is rain and the water level rises, crossing under the bridges can be a problem. Hence sailing schedules are sometimes subject to change. Weather is not warm and humid. Some port stops covered are Hannibal, Missouri; Davenport, Clinton, and Dubuque, Iowa; La Crosse, Wisconsin; and Red Wing, Minnesota.
Things to look forward to in a Lower Mississippi cruise
The Lower Mississippi offers a variety for those looking for history, adventure, southern food, Jazz music, entertainment or simply a pampered and relaxing holiday. You can choose cruises which take you to ancient historical places. The ports that the cruise stops at are Oak Alley, Nottoway Plantation, Baton Rouge, and St. Francisville in Louisiana; Natchez, Vicksburg, and Greenville in Mississippi; and Helena in Arkansas.
Average cost of the Mississippi River cruise
The cost depends on many factors like:
- The itinerary
- If you make advance bookings
- The duration of the cruise
- The number of people
- The class you travel – budget or luxury,
- The liner
- The size of the staterooms
- The season
- Hidden costs
- The deals, discount, and last-minute cruise deals
The average cost differs and hence quoting a figure can be misleading. You can research either online, visit cruise liner websites or speak to your travel agent to identify a liner that fits your budget, schedule, and interests. Many websites have tools that can compare the costs between two liners and help you arrive at a decision.
Tips to choose the right cruise
- Book early to get early-bird offers and also some of the best staterooms and suites which are bigger and have a good view.
- If you get a good deal, you can also plan an additional stay at the ports where the cruise begins or ends.
- Make a list of all the hidden costs, facilities, and services that could be included in the cost so you can get the best bargain.
- Make a choice of the boat–choice of paddleboats and steamboats are available in most of the liners.
- Read reviews of your shortlisted liners or itineraries. They could offer tons of insights. Along with your own research, you will be all set to book your cruise either for yourself or with friends and family.