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Best companies for Mississippi River cruises

Get lost in your own backyard with a cruise through America’s heartland.

Updated

Steamboat River Boat Natchez docked on the Mississippi River

You can get a taste for cruising without sailing the seven seas when you explore one of America’s most iconic rivers. A Mississippi River cruise is all about old-fashioned paddlewheels, traditional steamships and ports that are crammed with history and American culture.

Best Mississippi River cruises

These cruise lines will take you on an upper, lower or complete Mississippi River cruise journey.

Best for a modern riverboat: American Cruise Lines

If you’re looking for a more modern riverboat with a touch of nostalgia, look no further than America Cruise Line’s fleet. Spacious staterooms include options for solo travelers and most have private balconies. The complimentary cocktail hour is well-attended and mealtimes are all pre-plated service, so no need to fight your way through the buffet line.
  • Room service included
  • No free alcohol
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover Card

American Queen Steamboat Company Logo

Best for an old-fashioned paddlewheel experience: American Queen Steamboat Company

The American Queen is a traditional steamboat with all the bells and whistles including paddlewheels that are more for merely show: Inside you’ll find grand interiors, elaborately designed public spaces and old-timey fun. The boat’s calliope plays on arrival and departure, a saloon-style theatre plays big band tunes and sumptuous Southern-inspired fare is served in the impressive dining room.

How we picked our best cruises.

When choosing cruises for this list, we look at the quality of routes available from each cruise line, prioritizing well-paced itineraries with port stops at key destinations along the Mississippi River.

We also consider onboard dining options, weighing the number, variety and overall quality of restaurants against passenger reviews. Finally, we weigh cabin amenities against each price point, looking for cruise lines that are known to deliver the highest value.

We also seek out customer reviews on travel websites and personal travel blogs, considering first-person experiences and each company’s overall reputation.

When is the best time to cruise to the Mississippi River?

The best time to cruise depends on the length of your itinerary and whether you’re interested in sailing on one half or for a complete Mississippi cruise. Lower Mississippi cruises are available for most of the year while cruises on the upper Mississippi are usually only available from June to October.

  • Lower Mississippi. Winter, spring and fall are the best times for a lower Mississippi cruise when you’ll avoid the worst of the heat of the summer.
  • Upper Mississippi. Summer is best for an upper Mississippi cruise for comfortable temperatures but your chances of rain are highest at this time. Consider late-spring or early-fall for an ideal combination of mild temps and a lower risk of rain.
  • Complete Mississippi. Avoid the humidity of New Orleans in the summer and the frosty cold of Minneapolis in the winter and plan to do a full Mississippi cruise either in early fall or late spring.

What are the must-do cruise excursions in the Mississippi River?

  • Graceland (Memphis, Tennessee). Visit the home of the King of Rock and Roll and get a peek into where Elvis lived and died. You’ll see his costumes, cars and airplane as you wander through the mansion’s main floor.
  • National Eagle Center (Red Wing, Minneapolis). Get nose-to-beak with a rescued bald eagle, climb into a life-size replica of an eagle’s nest and learn how to identify these mighty raptors in the wild.
  • Historic Home Tours (Natchez, Mississippi). Take in the cultural heritage of the Deep South while touring examples of antebellum architecture.
  • Lewis and Clark tour (Alton, Illinois). Follow in the footsteps of the intrepid explorers tasked to find the Pacific Ocean with a visit to the Confluence Tower and the Gateway Arch on the river’s Missouri side.
  • Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum (Hannibal, Missouri). Explore the home of one of America’s most beloved authors including a visit to six historically significant buildings plus two interactive exhibits.
  • Vicksburg National Military Park (Vicksburg, Mississippi). Cross both Union and Confederate lines to get a good idea of how tough the days were when fighting in this Civil War battlefield.

Current river cruise deals

TourRadar TourRadar

Mississippi River cruises starting from $1,562 per person

Last verified

Bottom line

Cultural intrigue and historical significance are on the agenda with a Mississippi River Cruise. Don’t get left behind and grab one of these top cruise deals to save on your next holiday.

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