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Classic Mississippi River Itineraries
Mississippi River Cruise itineraries follow two main routes - the Upper Mississippi route and the Lower Mississippi route. Some Mississippi River cruises cover the entire river.
When you travel an Upper Mississippi itinerary, you’ll see some lesser known parts of the United States and discover the true heart of small town America. This route has the shorter season. Cruises along the Upper Mississippi typically operate between June and October.
When you travel the Lower Mississippi itinerary, you'll be hitting some more major cities, known the world over. Prepare to eat your heart out in New Orleans, and tap your toes to some classic blues in Memphis.
Classic Upper Mississippi River Cruise
Day 1: St. Paul, Minnesota - Most Upper Mississippi River cruises begin or end in Minnesota. Before embarking, you can enjoy a day visiting historic mansions, go hiking, and visit several art galleries.
Day 2: Red Wing, Minneapolis - This surprisingly picturesque city features several parks that are great for wildlife viewing! Birders should especially take note and bring the binoculars. Craftsmanship and artwork take center stage in Red Wing, so be sure to leave time for antiquing and shopping if that’s your thing.
Day 3: La Crosse, Wisconsin - Many history tours are offered through this midwestern town, which thrived during the heyday of river travel along the Mississippi River. Today, historical tourism is one of the main ways La Crosse has adapted to the changing needs of the residents living in the one-time boomtown of the 1920s.
Day 4: Duboque, Iowa - Known for tree lined streets and beautifully restored Victorian mansions, Duboque may not be a well known name, but it is a classic stop on any Mississippi River cruise. As one of the oldest settlements along the banks of the Mississippi, history tours through Duboque provide fabulous context to the importance the Mississippi has played through the years. Don’t miss a visit to the National Mississippi River Museum.
Day 5: Davenport, Iowa - Remain in Iowa for another port of call at Davenport. This “Most Livable City” is a beautiful example of quintessential small town America. If you happen to be traveling during the Mississippi River Blues Festival, be sure to see if you can sneak a listen! Also in Davenport is a popular Native American history museum, well worth a visit.
Day 6-7: Overnight River Cruising to the first port of call in Missouri.
Day 8: Hannibal, Missouri - The place on many Mississippi River cruisers bucket list, Hannibal Missouri was the home of Samuel Clemens, otherwise known as Mark Twain. The prolific writer has become somewhat synonymous with the American literary voice, and the voice of the South.
His words and humor have been appreciated around the world, and he is held in particular reverence along the Mississippi. In Hannibal you can visit his boyhood home and learn more about his life and works.
Day 9: St. Louis, Missouri - End your cruise in St. Louis as the beautiful Gateway Arch greets you over the river.
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Classic Lower Mississippi River Cruise
Lower Mississippi River cruises are available for a longer season - almost year round - and are the more popular route for travelers. New Orleans is a major port of call and starting point for many lower Mississippi River Cruises.
Day 1: New Orleans, Louisiana - Start your Mississippi River Cruise off with a bang when you begin in vibrant New Orleans. Known for excellent food and drink, New Orleans culture is all about having a good time! Definitely visit Bourbon St, the French Quarter, and Jackson Square.
Day 2: Oak Alley, Louisiana - As you begin your journey north on the Mississippi, you’ll make a stop to see Oak Alley Plantation. Situated just off the bank of the Mississippi, a beautiful quarter mile tree-lined walk brings you toward the historic plantation. Most cruises offer excursions with a guided tour of the house and grounds. This is a great introduction to the history of the American south which will be a major theme during your Mississippi River cruise.
Day 3: Baton Rouge - Remain in Louisiana for one more day as you explore Baton Rouge, the state’s capital. Known for antebellum landmarks and, as everywhere in the south, incredible eating opportunities!
Day 4: St. Francisville, Louisiana - Classic small town America awaits you in this southern gem. Pre-Civil War history tours will highlight St. Francisville’s position as a major port town along the Mississippi. You’ll also have the opportunity to visit more restored southern plantation houses such as Myrtles Plantation and Rosedown Plantation.
Day 5: Natchez, Mississippi - Your first stop outside of Louisiana is enchanting Natchez Mississippi. Southern hospitality is the name of the game here, and the city is a bit of a hidden secret for classic southern plantations. One of the oldest settlements made by Europeans in the United States, Natchez holds a wealth of history and fascinating stories of early America.
Day 6: Vicksburg, Mississippi - Vicksburg is an extremely popular destination for Civil War buffs. The city hosts reenactments, and was a site of a major battle during the American Civil War. If Civil War sights aren’t your thing, honestly, you’re a bit out of luck. Most excursions and tours around Vicksburg are Civil War centric - and the history really provides an excellent context to the region of the Mississippi you’ve traveled on your cruise.
Day 8: On the water - Spend the day sailing toward your final port of call in Memphis, Tennessee.
Day 9: Memphis, Tennessee - A famous destination around the world for it’s incredible music legacy, Memphis is all about Elvis. Excursions to Graceland will be a major highlight in Memphis! If you love checking out new musicians, definitely head to historic Beale Street for seeing aspiring musicians in bars and other venues. It is also in Memphis where you can visit the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King was assassinated.
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