There’s nothing quite like rollin’ down the river in Louisiana, watching city skylines and natural areas slowly pass by from the comfort of your floating paradise.
Paddle wheelers and riverboats offer a nostalgic way to explore the area – and one that’s gaining popularity among a new wave of travelers looking to experience a slice of America’s past, when riverboats regularly plied our country’s water carrying both passengers and freight. Today’s Louisiana riverboats are all about fun and exploration, but exactly how you choose to cruise is up to you! At ports of call in New Orleans and other Louisiana river towns, you can hop aboard to see the sights, dine and dance, learn and love, get a taste of river life, roll the dice or just … relax.
Most Louisiana riverboats host a variety of tours featuring different themes and destinations. It’s a lot to digest (we know!) so we’ve pulled together this handy roundup of just a few experiences that await.
Sightseeing River Cruises in Louisiana
See the sights from a different perspective aboard a riverboat cruise offering sweeping views of the water and surrounding landscape.
Daily cruises on the Steamboat Natchez – the only steamboat in New Orleans – provide passengers an up-close look at this bustling port city. The paddle wheeler departs near historic Jackson Square twice daily, letting riders can soak up the buzz of the city while listening to live jazz music and digging in to a lunch buffet.
During this two-hour cruise, you’ll learn why the city was founded on this beautiful crescent of the lower Mississippi River through live narration of the area’s history. Smartphone signs on board direct you on a self-guided tour and the museum-quality Steam Engine Room is open to visitors.
A two-hour weekly Sunday Jazz Brunch Cruise offers the same sightseeing and live music, along with drinks and a mouthwatering brunch featuring local flavors like chicken and sausage gumbo, shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy, a waffle station and bananas foster, a New Orleans original!
Dinner & Dancing River Cruises
River cruises take on an even more romantic feel as the sun goes down, with evening dinner and dancing tours that make for a great date night with someone special or a perfect, floating backdrop for a celebration with family and friends.
In New Orleans, the deluxe 800-passenger paddle wheeler Creole Queen offers a daily Mississippi River Dinner Jazz Cruise with live music and a lavish Creole feast. After dinner, you can enjoy a signature Louisiana cocktail and take a stroll on the deck – or a spin on the dance floor.
Coming to New Orleans in 2019, the newly named and renovated 3,000-passenger Riverboat Louis Armstrong (310 feet long, 70 feet wide and a towering 98 feet tall) will operate as a floating jazz club and restaurant with four decks of entertainment, opening just in time for Carnival. Fun fact: The boat’s name was inspired by the jazz great’s own life story. Too young to play trumpet in the city's bars, Armstrong instead played on the docks near where steamboats stopped along the Mississippi River, eventually making his way on board.
Holiday River Cruises
Why spend the holidays doing the same ol’, same ol’ when you can celebrate them on a themed river cruise that may just become your new family tradition?
A new addition on the water in 2018, the three-deck riverboat City of New Orleans offers a New Year’s Eve cruise where you can ring in the new year while soaking up the city’s spectacular skyline at night – and seeing it burst to life with fireworks at midnight. Featuring an upscale holiday buffet, premium open bar and a live dance band, you’ll want to dress in your holiday best for this one.
Other holiday cruises on the City of New Orleans and other Louisiana riverboats include Valentine’s, Easter and Thanksgiving dinner cruises, Christmas caroling cruises with Santa and more.
History River Cruises
Creole Queen’s Historical River Cruise offers sweeping views of the French Quarter, Port of New Orleans and other city landmarks set to the backdrop of a history narrator offering detailed descriptions that bring these sites to life. You’ll become immersed in the city’s landmarks, culture and river lore as you make your way to Chalmette Battlefield to tour the site of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans.
Luxury Riverboat Cruises
River cruises were so “high society” back in the day, and you can enjoy a taste of that again on the French-themed boutique luxury riverboat Louisiane. This deluxe line offers 5- to 16-day cruises based out of New Orleans that include several stops to see the sites in Louisiana, including Houmas House and Oak Alley plantations, Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Natchitoches and Shreveport.
Louisiane cruises are all-inclusive, providing transportation to/from hotels, bell service and buses for touring – plus all alcohol, meals and shore excursions. Even better? Guests receive a complimentary luxury hotel room in their departure city the night before their cruise. In New Orleans, that’s the swanky Hotel Monteleone.
Elsewhere Around Louisiana
Although many of Louisiana’s riverboats dock in New Orleans, cruise options await in other parts of the state as well.
In addition to the multiple Louisiane stops mentioned above, the 400-passenger American Queen – billed as the largest steamboat every built – calls on Baton Rouge, as do the 166-passenger American Duchess and the 150-passenger Queen of the Mississippi.
Part of American Cruise Lines, the 187-passenger American Harmony will begin cruising from New Orleans to Memphis in May 2019, making stops in Baton Rouge. Part of a new line of contemporary riverboats, the Harmony features lounges soaring 40 feet above the water with triple the glass of other riverboats to ensure astounding views. What’s more, grand suites with private wraparound balconies will feature complimentary room service as well.
Louisiana's waterways make for perfect sightseeing and themed adventures upon the magestic riverboats and paddlewheelers. Start planning your riverboat trip!
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