Mississippi River Cruises

Mississippi River Cruise
Mississippi River Cruise

Mississippi River cruises allow people to enjoy fun boating excursions on America’s most famous waterway. In many ways, they also offer the opportunity to get in touch with American history. Used in many Mississippi River cruises are paddlewheel boats that resemble those that used to ferry people along major United States rivers in the 1800's and early 1900's. Riding on one is like going back to the time when Mark Twain navigated the great river, and therein lies much of the allure for modern day passengers.  

Mississippi River Cruises
Mississippi River Cruises

Today, there are several companies that offer Mississippi River cruises and cruises on other major United States waterways. The ships that they employ can be very similar to ships that have since been retired. One of the most renowned ships that was formerly used for Mississippi River cruises was the Mississippi Queen. Once the largest paddlewheel steamboat in the world, it was built in 1976 and retired in 2008. In 2009, the Mississippi Queen was sold for scrap, with the dismantling process beginning in 2011. Another famous ship that used to be employed for cruises on the Mississippi and other major rivers was the Delta Queen. A National Historic Landmark, it is now docked in Chattanooga, Tennessee and serves as a landmark hotel. Picking up where these ships left off are vessels like the American Queen and the Twilight Riverboat.

American Queen

American Queen
American Queen

The American Queen, or the First Lady of the Mississippi, as she is also known, is owned by the Great American Steamboat Company. Used in part for Mississippi River cruises, this largest steamboat ever to be built also plies the waters of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers. Ports of call include, but are not limited to New Orleans, Chattanooga, and Pittsburgh. American Queen guests can even book a cruise that allows for the opportunity to make Hannibal a port of call. This Missouri city was the boyhood home of one Mark Twain. In relation to the American Queen itself, it was built in 1995 and has the features of a classic Mississippi riverboat, which is to say that it is quite elegant. You might even go as far as to liken it to a floating antebellum mansion. On the ship’s outside, lacy filigree adds an opulent edge, and the interior is adorned with intricate woodwork and antiques. Onboard accommodations come in the form of elegant cabins, and guests are treated to fine dining experiences and award-winning entertainment.

Generally speaking, American Queen cruises come in three main forms. There are Upper Mississippi cruises, Lower Mississippi cruises, and Ohio & Tennessee Rivers cruises. Special theme cruises are also offered, with examples including Civil War-oriented cruises and cruises that highlight the fall foliage in America’s Heartland. Two of the most popular American Queen cruise itineraries are the nine-day Memphis to New Orleans trips and the nine-day trips from St. Paul to St. Louis. On both journeys, passengers have the opportunity to enjoy shore excursions that highlight various river towns and cities. On the lower Mississippi, stops are made to explore the historic sites of Vicksburg, Mississippi and to tour the gracious antebellum mansions of Natchez, Mississippi. A one-night stay at a luxury hotel is included, and guests enjoy complimentary beverages that include free wine and beer with dinner. A renowned chef oversees the dining department, and there are cocktail hour socializing parties on a daily basis.

Riverboat Twilight

Riverboat Twilight
Riverboat Twilight

The Riverboat Twilight resembles an opulent Victorian steamboat from days gone by. As Mark Twain was known to do when referencing the more renowned steamboats of his time, you might even call it a “floating palace.” Found on the ornate ship’s three decks are cozy dining rooms and sundecks with lounge chairs. Heating and air conditioning help keep passengers comfortable at any time of year. The Twilight riverboat lacks accommodations, but that doesn’t stop it from executing overnight trips. Its two-day itineraries see it embarking from its home port in LeClaire, Iowa – the boyhood home of Buffalo Bill Cody. From there, the Twilight riverboat makes its way to Dubuque, Iowa, where guests spend the night in the comfortable and well-equipped Grand Harbor Resort. The following day, the vessel returns to LeClaire. Interesting attractions can be seen along the way, and as is common of a Mississippi River cruise in general, guests enjoy musical entertainment and are treated to rewarding dining experiences.

Spirit of Peoria

Spirit of Peoria
Spirit of Peoria

Another ship that is worth keeping in mind when it comes to planning a Mississippi riverboat cruise is the Spirit of Peoria. Used for cruises on both the Mississippi River and the Illinois River, it makes trips to such destinations as St. Louis and Starved Rock State Park (Illinois). The various cruises last anywhere from one to five days. Depending on the cruise in question, the itinerary might also include fun tours and informative storytelling sessions. During such tours and storytelling sessions, insight is given into the history and wildlife of the local area. It is worth considering all of the different Spirit of Peoria cruise itineraries when trying to find the right cruise fit. Much like the other popular river cruise companies of the U.S., it offers a variety of cruise options, including theme cruises and private charter trips.

Creole Queen

Creole Queen
Creole Queen

Christened in 1983, the Creole Queen is a 1,000-passenger riverboat that resembles a sternwheeler from the turn of the 19th century. Operating out of New Orleans, it is used for Mississippi River cruises that highlight such New Orleans area attractions as the French Quarter and the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. The attractive ship can also be used for dinner cruises and private parties. You can even have a wedding on the Creole Queen. Together, its three private dining rooms can accommodate up to 472 people for sit-down meals and up to 950 people for receptions. The ship’s richly-appointed interiors set the stage for unforgettable entertainment experiences.

Steamboat Natchez

Steamboat Natchez
Steamboat Natchez

Also based in New Orleans, the Steamboat Natchez is used for a variety of cruises. A typical Mississippi River cruise on this vessel lasts two hours and will be based around a meal and live jazz entertainment. Special event cruises that revolve around such things as Mother’s Day and Christmas Eve can also be enjoyed. The options don’t end there, however. The Steamboat Natchez is also known to host weddings and other private charter events, not to mention such school-related events as graduations and proms. Thanks to its climate-controlled indoor spaces, the Steamboat Natchez can operate in almost any weather conditions, and should guests so desire, they can visit the onboard gift shop and purchase reminders of their fun-filled voyages.

Padelford Riverboats

Padelford Riverboats
Padelford Riverboats

Anyone who is looking for fun and interesting things to do in the Minneapolis - St. Paul area is encouraged to keep Padelford Riverboats in mind. The flagship riverboat company in the Twin Cities area, it offers a variety of Mississippi River cruising options. The public cruises often revolve around general sightseeing, and it isn’t uncommon for passengers to spot bald eagles, herons, and other interesting birds along the way. The public sightseeing cruises last approximately one-and-a-half hours and focus on such area attractions as the St. Paul High Bridge and Pike Island. A full bar is provided, as are snacks. Other public cruises that are offered by Padelford Riverboats come in the form of special dining cruises and holiday cruises. Private charter trips and school-related trips can also be arranged, so the options are numerous. 

Top image: Prayitno / Thank you for (8 millions +) views (flickr)

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