A Swiss company’s plan to offer tourists cruises along the length of the Mississippi River, with stops in Dubuque, drew a step closer to reality this week as its new 386-passenger ship was floated out of a south Louisiana shipyard.
Viking River Cruises of Basel, which in 2015 announced the plans for Mississippi River cruises, toasted the completion of the Viking Mississippi in a celebration at a Houma, La., shipyard.
“It is a proud moment that this new ship has met an American waterway for the first time,” said Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking, in a press release. “Our guests have long wanted to sail the Mississippi River with Viking, and we very much look forward to welcoming them on board this summer.”
The ship has 193 staterooms ranging from 268 to 1,024 square feet, each with “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 and 24-hour room service,” the release states.
The 450-foot ship will have a crew of about 150.
The ship is set to debut in June, bringing more than 7,500 guests to the river and more than 17,600 guests during the first full sailing season in 2023, company officials said.
The Mississippi River itineraries feature stops in seven states: Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The company’s website features two trips that feature Dubuque as a stop — the “America’s Heartland” trip from St. Louis to St. Paul and the “America’s Great River” trip from St. Paul to New Orleans. The former is an eight-day trip with a starting price of $4,499 and the latter is a 15-day trip with a starting price of $9,999.
Travel Dubuque officials have said Viking is scheduled for 10 stops in Dubuque this summer, beginning in July. Viking will contribute to a total of 125 planned stops among all the riverboat companies in the city this year.
In a 20-year agreement with Viking, the City of Dubuque is constructing a $1.8 million dock near Grand Harbor Resort and Water Park. Viking will pay nearly half the construction cost in exchange for exclusive docking rights while its vessel is in the city. Construction will begin this spring.
Two other U.S. companies already offer cruises up and down the river. American Queen Voyages, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and American Cruise Lines, based in Guilford, Conn., expect to carry a total of 50,000 people on the Mississippi this year, spokespeople said.
American Queen has three paddlewheel cruise boats that operate on the Mississippi, the smallest able to carry 166 passengers and the largest 417, spokesperson Michael Hicks said. He added that American Queen expects about 20,000 passengers on the Mississippi River this year.
American Cruise Lines has two paddlewheelers and three modern riverboats on the river and plans to launch a fourth modern riverboat late this year, spokesperson Alexa Paolella said. Both also operate in other parts of the United States. She said the boats will carry 30,000 people on Mississippi River routes this year.