The Mississippi River is one of the most navigable rivers in the world and has had an incredibly important role in US history. One of the best ways to explore this central part of the United States is with an extended Mississippi River cruise - it is even possible to do so on a vintage paddle steamer. Enjoy the highway into the interior of the nation that connects cities like St. Louis to the ocean.

In Europe, one of the greatest things to do is to cruise down the beautiful blue Danube - calling in at all the stunning cities along the way like Vienna and Budapest. America is home to the mighty Mississippi River - the third largest river in the world and offers scores of adventures along the way as well.

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What To Know About Paddle-Wheeled River Boats

The golden aged of paddleboats meandering up and down the river is long over, but today we live with their heritage. There are a number of these vintage paddle steamers still running on the river today. These are:

  • Belle of Louisville (Now Over A Hundred Years Old)
  • Natchez
  • Minne-Ha-Ha
  • Chautauqua Belle
  • Julia Bella Swain
  • American Queen

There are other paddleboats on the Mississippi as well, but these are no longer running on steam power. One of the few to offer overnight trips is the American Queen (she was previously in the US Ready Reserve fleet).

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River Tours And Journeys Up And Down The River

There are numerous river tours up and down the Mississippi. One can choose from short cruises just in front of the Arch Gate in St. Louis with commanding views of St. Louis' skyline to extended multi-day expeditions down the river.

One of the companies offering these extended expeditions is the American Queen Steam Boat Company. They offer authentic paddlewheel riverboats that gracefully mender their way up and down the river taking their passengers back in time.

On their journeys, passengers can enjoy regionally inspired food. The wild salmon may be so fresh that it was caught that morning. American Queen boasts their onboard Grand Saloon where one can relax and enjoy the music, folklore, storytelling and other traditional river theatrical delights. Here are a couple of the cruise options offered by the American Queen.

New Orleans To Memphis

  • Reverse: Can Also Be Booked As Memphis to New Orleans
  • Duration: 9 Days
  • Price: $2,599.00 (Plus Taxes and Gratuities)

In this cruise of the Lower Mississippi River, one can explore the full stretch of the mighty river flowing from Tennessee out to the Gulf of Mexico. It is more than just a cruise, it is a whole new way to see and explore the United States and gain new insight into the country. It is the chance to see the American South in an all-new way.

Minneapolis To New Orleans

With this trip, one can virtually slice right through the middle of the United States from end to end.

  • Duration: 14 Days
  • Price: From $5,000.00 (Plus Taxes and Gratuities)

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With cabins, there are a few to choose from. On the high end there are the Deluxe Outside Staterooms and on the lower end the Inside Staterooms (with others in between). Note that cabin options may vary by boat, American Queen operates four boats the - American Queen, American Dutchess, American Countess, and the American Empress. Cabins include:

Deluxe Outside Staterooms With Bay Window

  • Price: $4,299.00
  • Size: 190 Square Feet With a Bay Window
  • Beds: Queen Bed or Two Single Beds
  • Other: Fall-Screen TV, Full Bathroom, Cabin Deck

Inside Staterooms

  • Price: $2,599.00
  • Size: 132 Square Feet
  • Beds: Queen Bed or Two Single Beds
  • Other: Full Bathrooms With Shower, Flat-Screen TV, Texas Deck

Other companies offering long cruises on the Mississippi are the American Cruise Lines and New Orleans Steamboat Company. They operate similar routes to American Queen and have a selection of old-timey pabbled boats and modern riverboats. They have nine Mississippi River itineraries - their longest is also the Complete Mississippi River Cruise transversing the entire length of the river.

Cruising up and down different rivers in the world is a very different experience. The Danube with its many old cities is very different from the Amazon with its tropical rainforests (certainly go on an Amazon River cruise if visiting the dazzling Amazon River Basin). And the Amazon River is very different again to the Murray River in Australia (see here for how to explore the Australian Outback by hiring one's own houseboat). And that is not to mention a ride on the River Nile!

There are many ways to explore the nation. Next time consider slowing things down with a  cruise down the Mississippi!

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