Photo by Gary Crow
MEMPHIS, TN--As a 30-year veteran travel writer, I have to tell you that one of my all-time favorite cruises has been a Christmas cruise on the Danube River. Imagine my excitement when I found out that as soon as December 2022 Viking River Cruises will offer a Christmas-season cruise from Memphis and New Orleans onboard its amazing new ship, the Viking Mississippi. The ship is currently under construction in Louisiana.
Here's what I know so far:
Mississippi has been described as a "longboat on steroids." The ships that Viking cruises on European rivers are long, fairly narrow, and flat, with wheelhouses that can be lowered hydraulically to squeeze the ship below bridges.
Renderings of the U.S.-built ship show the 5-story-high ship as somewhat of a blend of the company's longboats and its ocean-going vessels--with popular features from each. The ship will carry 386 passengers in 193 all-outside staterooms. Its European river ships average 190 passengers and the Viking Ocean ships carry 930 passengers.
According to the company:
"The new state-of-the-art Viking Mississippi is inspired by Viking's award-winning river and ocean ships and will feature clean Scandinavian design, as well as public spaces that are familiar to guests but that have been reimagined for Mississippi River voyages. Purpose-built for the Mississippi and currently under construction in Louisiana, the five-deck ship's cutting-edge design, expansive windows and comfortable amenities will make it the most modern cruise ship in the region."
Staterooms will range in size from 268 square feet (which is fairly large for a cruise ship cabin) to suites of 1,024 square feet. All staterooms 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 (which Viking is famous for) and 24-hour room service.
Similar to Viking's ocean ships, Viking Mississippi will have a glass-backed pool experience at the aft, allowing guests to take a dip while fully surrounded by their destination. The ship will also feature a full Promenade deck on Deck 1, allowing guests to circle the ship to fully enjoy the surroundings as the ship is underway.
Viking cruise fares include one excursion per port, WiFi onboard, beer and wine with lunch and dinner, specialty dining at no additional charge, and self-service launderettes. The line is famous for its onboard guest lecturers and cultural education.
The first three nights will be spent docked in Memphis. Night two offers after-hours privileges at Graceland-- all aglow in its holiday cheer. Day four is for scenic cruising along the Mississippi River, while day five will be spent in Vicksburg, which I can only imagine all decked out for the holidays. Shop till you drop on day six in Natchez, before landing in Baton Rouge on day seven. The final stop is New Orleans.
With plenty of time in advance to plan for the arrival of this new cruise ship, I would expect these ports to schedule markets and events around this holiday itinerary.
Sailing dates in 2022, include December 10, 17, 24, and 31, alternating routes between Memphis and New Orleans. While some cabin categories are already sold out, there are still plenty available, with fares starting at $3,999 per person.
Viking announced this week that bookings are open for all cruises through 2024. During warm weather, the ship will sail between New Orleans and St. Paul, MN on a 15-day itinerary, but shorter segments will be available year-round.