With new ships and itineraries, Viking's 2023 cruises on the Mississippi River and Great Lakes offer closer-to-home adventuresthat feel refreshingly far away
You’ve probably seen the headlines: The popularity of river cruising has been soaring in recent years – and for good reason. With fewer passengers aboard smaller, more agile ships that can access off-the-beaten-path ports, river cruising offers intimate, authentic, slower-paced travel experiences with more stops and longer stays in hidden-gem destinations — plus all the unpack-once convenience.
While river cruising on the Danube, Rhine and Volga rivers is de rigueur in Europe, the quintessential American river cruise is a trip down the mighty Mississippi River, which stretches more than 2,300 miles from Minnesota’s Lake Itasca, through the heartland of America to Louisiana and culminating in the Gulf of Mexico. A leisurely cruise on this legendary waterway offers up breathtaking scenery and captivating history at virtually every turn, bringing you into the midst of historic small towns and iconic cities alike.
Rambling on the Mighty Mississippi
Among the most anticipated Mississippi River cruises is Viking River Cruises’ voyage on the new Viking Mississippi, which launched in August 2022 and marked this Norwegian cruise line’s U.S. debut. Specifically built for sailings on the Mississippi River and modeled on the Scandinavian design-inspired Viking Longships, this modern five-deck ship – swathed with expansive windows – can accommodate 386 guests in 193 all-outside staterooms, each with a private veranda or French balcony, large flat-screen interactive TV, heated bathroom floor and a king-size bed (which can be reconfigured for a two-bed option) with fine linens.
The ship’s five decks are chockful of a long list of onboard amenities for dining, strolling, socializing, reflecting, relaxing, absorbing the scenery and more. Daily conveniences include elevators throughout the ship, laundry service and self-service launderettes and free Wi-Fi.
Luxurious as the ship may be, however, you’ll want to disembark at the many ports on your itinerary, taking time to roam dreamy destinations and immerse yourself in a trove of history and culture. In fact, Viking includes a guided shore excursion in every port on its five Mississippi River itineraries, which range from 8 to 15 days.
On the 15-day America’s Great River sailing, you’ll cruise the entire span of the Mississippi between St. Paul, Minnesota, and New Orleans, Louisiana, making stops in Red Wing and St. Paul, Minnesota; La Crosse, Wisconsin; Burlington, Dubuque and Davenport, Iowa; Hannibal and St. Louis, Missouri; Memphis, Tennessee; Natchez and Vicksburg, Mississippi; and Baton Rouge, Darrow, New Orleans and St. Francisville, Louisiana.
Imagine chowing down on Creole cuisine in New Orleans’ French Quarter; delving into Civil War history at Vicksburg National Military Park; and exploring Graceland, sampling barbecue and retracing the paths of Civil Rights leaders in Memphis. You also can visit a working farm in Iowa; learn about America’s literary heritage, including a stop by Mark Twain’s boyhood home in Hannibal; and climb the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Nature also abounds with superb birdwatching along the Mississippi Flyway as well as a wealth of wildlife as the ship navigates the intricate locks and dams of the Upper Mississippi.
Eight-day itineraries include New Orleans & Southern Charms, roundtrip from New Orleans, with a visit to the port city of Baton Rouge; the Heart of the Delta, from New Orleans to Memphis, presenting French and Acadian culture, from food to music to history; and America’s Heartland, from St. Louis to St. Paul, delving into stories of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Norwegian migration, Mark Twain’s literary legacy and more.
Cruising the Great Lakes and Canada
For many of the same reasons that river cruising holds immense appeal for today’s travelers – intimate ships, amazing scenery, fascinating ports and authentic experiences – cruising the Great Lakes and Canada is on an ever-growing number of cruisers’ travel bucket lists of late.
Comprising lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario (which, except for Lake Michigan, are shared between the U.S. and Canada), the Great Lakes make up the world’s largest surface freshwater ecosystem, spanning more than 750 miles across with some 10,000 miles of coastline. It’s no wonder that the Great Lakes beckon with a majestic canvas for exploration – and that Viking has answered the call of cruisers with several small-ship voyages that showcase the best of the Great Lakes and Canada.