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Mississippi River Cruise Tips

Credit: Pixabay Creative Commons license
Credit: Pixabay Creative Commons license

Mississippi river cruises offer a much different experience than ocean cruises for anyone who loves traveling by water.

Unlike Caribbean and other ocean cruises, travel planners don’t have to give much thought to where they are going on the Mississippi. The massive river wanders more than 2,000 miles from Lake Itasca near Minneapolis in Minnesota to New Orleans in Louisiana. It’s an easy trip to plan.

And the Mississippi doesn’t have much competition in the U.S. Three other rivers are available in much more limited forms. They are the Columbia and Snake rivers in the northwest and the Ohio River in the midwest. The Ohio joins the Mississippi in Illinois.

Mississippi River Ports

The major ports of call from north to south are St. Paul, St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans.

Minor ports of call depend on the cruise and may include such destinations as La Crosse, WI; Bettendorf, IA; Dubuque, IA; New Madrid, MO; Greenville, MS; Vicksburg, MS; and Natchez, MS.

Like European river cruises, a Mississippi River cruise can last anywhere from about two weeks to a matter of days depending on where it begins and ends.

The longest possible cruise usually starts in Minneapolis and ends in New Orleans or vice versa. This cruise may take 16 days and 15 nights.

Otherwise, travelers can go on two shorter trips. A lower Mississippi cruise may begin in Memphis and end in New Orleans for eight days and seven nights or vice versa. The itinerary may include Vicksburg and Natchez in Mississippi and St. Francisville, Baton Rouge and Oak Alley in Louisiana.

An upper Mississippi cruise may begin in St. Louis, MO, and end in St. Paul, MN, or again vice versa. The itinerary may include stops in Hannibal, MO; Fort Madison, Davenport and Dubuque, IA; and Winona and Red Wing, MN.

Mississippi River Prices

Port New Orleans
New Orleans is a common port of call on Mississippi River cruises. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

A complete Mississippi River cruise is an expensive cruise to take because of the number of nights and because riverboats are smaller and more expensive than ocean-going cruise ships. One river cruise company quoted starting prices of $4,500 dollars or about $300 per night per person. That’s just for the cheapest cabin.

By comparison, a Caribbean cruise may cost less than $200 per night per person depending on the cabin location and other factors.

River cruises are often more expensive on a nightly basis than ocean cruises because riverboats are smaller than ocean cruise ships. Their smaller size means they have higher fixed costs that are spread among fewer passengers.

Less expensive Mississippi River cruises are available with shorter trips. For example, one river cruise company quoted an eight-night trip from Memphis to St. Louis starting at $2,100 or $263 a night. Prices assume double occupancy and do not include port fees.

These prices were for specific dates and based on availability. Prices rise and fall for individual cruises according to supply and demand.

Budget-minded planners will find it helps to track prices on a regular basis and choose the best price without too much regard for the date (if possible). Prices tend to be higher further out from the cruise trip.

Time of year is another factor in choosing a Mississippi River cruise. Prices and demand may drop during winter months because of cold temperatures and also drop during the hot and humid months of summer.

Prices and demand may rise during late spring and early fall because of more comfortable temperatures. Fall foliage also makes the fall months more attractive.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
May 03, 2022

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