By Chris Chamberlain
Book future fun! For the first time, Viking is accepting reservations for cruises along the Mississippi River aboard the Viking Mississippi, a new ship that will start sailing in August 2022. America has its share of river cruising options, but most revolve around paddle wheelers, which look historic but don’t compare to the luxuries of European river cruises. The gold standard of cruising companies has always been Viking River Cruises, the Swiss-based organization that operates a fleet of more than 75 river vessels and six ocean ships that cruise along the rivers and oceans of North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Russia, Egypt, China, and Southeast Asia.
The company has several different itineraries planned for both the Lower and Upper Mississippi between New Orleans, Louisiana, and St. Paul, Minnesota. Viking Mississippi’s planned ports of call include stops in seven states: Louisiana (Baton Rouge, Darrow, New Orleans and St. Francisville); Mississippi (Natchez and Vicksburg); Tennessee (Memphis); Missouri (Hannibal, St. Louis); Iowa (Burlington, Dubuque and Davenport); Wisconsin (La Crosse); and Minnesota (Red Wing, St. Paul).
“At a time when many of us are at home, looking for inspiration to travel in the future, I am pleased to introduce a new, modern way to explore this great river,” said Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen when the new Mississippi River cruises were announced on March 30, 2020. “We invented the concept of modern river cruising when we got our start 23 years ago—first on the rivers of Russia and then in Europe. Since then, many people have come to appreciate the unique exploration that comes with river cruising—but currently there are very few options to do so on American rivers. Our guests are curious travelers, and they continue to tell us that the Mississippi is the river they most want to sail with us. The Mississippi River is closer to home for many of our guests, and no other waterway has played such an important role in America’s history, commerce and culture.”
Since reservations were opened, several sailings have already sold out far in advance, and looking at the plans for the ship explains why cruisers are so excited. The Viking Mississippi will welcome 386 guests in 193 staterooms, all with expansive outside-facing windows and verandas. The five-deck ship is currently under construction in Louisiana, designed specifically for sailing on the Mississippi. The cutting-edge vessel will be the largest and most modern cruise ship in the region.
Cruisers can choose from seven different stateroom categories that range from 268 sq. ft to 1,024 sq. ft.: Veranda, French Balcony, Deluxe Veranda, Penthouse Veranda, Penthouse Jr. Suite, Terrace Suite, and Explorer Suite. All staterooms will feature a private veranda or French balcony, king-size bed with luxury linens, large flat-screen interactive TV, mini-bar, large glass-enclosed shower, heated bathroom floor, and 24-hour room service.
The Explorers Lounge in the bow section of the ship will certainly become a favorite gathering point for guests with its airy and sunny floor-to-ceiling windows and easy access to The Bow, a unique outdoor seating area at the front of the ship where guests can relax and enjoy ever-changing riverside views. The River Café will offer indoor/outdoor dining options from the top deck, as will the Aquavit Terrace, providing a casual dining space for an American barbecue experience. Combined with the River Café, the Aquavit Terrace will provide the most al fresco dining options on the Mississippi. The main dining room on Deck 1 will serve menus that change daily featuring cuisine that showcases regional specialties and local ingredients.
In addition to shore excursions at each port of call, evenings on the river will feature cultural enrichment activities such as musical performances representing the sounds of each region the ship travels through as well as guest lecturers offering entertaining presentations about the region’s art, architecture, history, culture, natural world, and other topics.
Every Mississippi River cruise fare includes everything guests need, with no surprises or hidden fees. Cruise fares include one complimentary shore excursion in each port of call, all onboard meals, plus all port charges and government taxes. Guests also enjoy many complimentary amenities as part of the fare, including beer and wine with lunch and dinner service, lectures, alternative dining at no extra charge, self-service launderettes, 24-hour room service, and free Wi-Fi.
Dreaming of your next getaway? Check out these itineraries aboard Viking Mississippi and book a trip to look forward to:
2022-2023 Viking Mississippi Inaugural Voyages
America’s Heartland (8 days; St. Louis to St. Paul)—From pristine farms nestled in rolling terrain to steep bluff rising from tributaries dotted with wooded islands, the Upper Mississippi offers a rich tapestry of beauty upon every turn of the river. This journey introduces you to the unforgettable experience of the locks and dams that control the flow of the heartland rivers. Hear stories of settlers migrating west; learn about Lewis & Clark, Mark Twain, John Deere and the Amish and Norwegian migrations; experience the regional music like polka and Norwegian folk; and taste regional cuisine showcasing local beer, produce and Wisconsin cheese.
Heart of the Delta (8 days; New Orleans to Memphis)—This journey on the Lower Mississippi is infused with American history, culture and heritage. Tour the area where the migrating French and Acadians settled; immerse yourself in the culture and lessons from the American Civil Rights Movement; discover the music of the South—jazz, blues and gospel; and experience the life and food culture of the south, from Cajun and Creole to the famed “dry” Memphis BBQ.
Southern Celebration (8 days; New Orleans–Vicksburg–New Orleans)—On this exploration of the Lower Mississippi, visit the historic homes of Louisiana and Mississippi; learn about Civil War history, touring sites like Vicksburg National Military Park; and discover the excitement and unique flavors of New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
America’s Great River (15 days; New Orleans to St. Paul)—Experience nearly the entire length of the Mississippi River on this incredible journey from the Gulf of Mexico to the northernmost reaches of the U.S. Relax and enjoy the variety of scenery, foliage and wildlife on this leisurely voyage. Enjoy Southern charm and beautifully preserved homes in Natchez; retrace the steps of Civil Rights leaders in Memphis; ascend the Gateway Arch in St. Louis; and visit “The Norwegian Valley” in La Crosse.
– Photos courtesy Viking River Cruises