The Viking River Cruise You've Always Dreamed of is Coming to America

Melinda Crow

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Photo courtesy of Viking

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA-- The European river cruise line that made river cruising famous to Americans is finally coming to us. It's been a long road to get here, but now that construction of the appropriately named, Mississippi, is underway, bookings are rolling in-- so fast that the company announced this week that it was opening 2024 sailings for booking.

Viking's history

Viking was founded in 1997 and provides destination-focused journeys on rivers, oceans and lakes around the world. Designed for experienced travelers with interests in science, history, culture and cuisine, Chairman Torstein Hagen often says Viking offers guests The Thinking Person's Cruise® in contrast to mainstream cruises.

The company has spent most of its 24 years in operation expanding it fleet, which now includes 76 owned and chartered river ships, five ocean-going ships. Ships under construction in addition to the Mississippi, include three ocean ships, a purpose-built river ship for Vietnam, and two expedition ships.

Hurdles to operating exclusively in U.S. waters

The challenge for any cruise line hoping to cruise U.S. rivers is the Passenger Vessel Safety Act (PVSA) which restricts the transportation of passengers exclusively between two U.S. ports to vessels smaller than 5 tons unless those ships are owned by U.S. citizens and (this is the big one) built in the U.S. The ship must also operate under all applicable U.S. laws (not those of another country), including employment laws.

Viking will operate its U.S. river fleet under charter from a U.S. company, Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO), which is currently building the first ship in Louisiana.

The ship

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.

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Photo courtesy of Viking

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.

Cruises from New Orleans

The Mississippi will sail between New Orleans and St. Paul, MN. The full-length 15-day routes are fully booked for the short inaugural season, which begins in August 2022, but shorter segments available, including a round-trip New Orleans option, as well as several New Orleans to Memphis routes. Beginning in 2022, the ship will operate year-round. Fares for the remaining 2022 unsold choices begin at $3,999 per person for an 8-day cruise, including for Christmas cruises.

Other News Break cruising stories you might enjoy:

Cruises from Long Beach You Can Still Book for 2021

Silversea Bringing Luxury Expedition Cruising to the West Coast in 2022

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