Ship sail

A new Viking cruise ship will stop in St. Paul this weekend

A brand new cruise ship is expected to float in St. Paul on Saturday to pick up passengers for its first visit to the Mississippi River.

Viking, a Swiss-based luxury cruise line, is launching an 8-day voyage from St. Paul to St. Louis dubbed the “America’s heart” round.

“This is a huge deal for St. Paul,” said Terry Mattson, president and CEO of the Capital Convention and Visitors Bureau. “I think people will be really blown away by this ship. We’ve never seen anything like it here.”

Construction delays on Viking’s new boat – aptly named the Viking Mississippi – caused the company to cancel a few river excursions planned earlier this summer. The 386-passenger ship will return to St. Paul in mid-September to embark on its inaugural 15-day cruise to New Orleans.

Tourism officials say it’s been years — possibly more than a decade — since a cruise ship docked in St. Paul.

Viking negotiated a contract with the city to dock at Lambert’s Landing, a waterfront park near downtown that was once one of the busiest steamship ports in the United States. Mattson said St. Paul’s deal with Viking was “years in the making” and local leaders hailed it as a small part of their big vision to better connect the city to its underutilized riverfront. .

At 450 feet long, the Viking Mississippi was the first large cruise ship to be built in the United States in about two decades, according to one of the company promotional videos.

Tickets for the 15-day cruise cost $13,000 or more, while the cheapest rooms for a shorter trip from St. Paul to St. Louis’ leg cost $4,500. All cruises with stops in Minnesota are sold out for this year, but tickets are still available for 2023 and 2024.

Guests can pay more to spend an extra day or two in St. Paul before or after their cruise. Rebecca Pfeiffer, owner of Experience the Twin Cities, said her company is preparing tours for visitors traveling Thursday and Friday. Outings include a trip to the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, a visit to Fort Snelling, and a “Scenic Twin Cities” tour that will take tourists to Minnehaha Falls, Guthrie Theater and Saint Paul’s Cathedral.

Viking Mississippi’s first passengers will come primarily from other parts of the country, Pfeiffer said.

“We are ready to welcome them,” she said. “Can you imagine a beautiful ship coming and docking here in St. Paul? It’s going to be amazing.”

The comprehensive Mississippi River cruise will feature 11 stops on the way to New Orleans, including one at Red Wing, where visitors can visit the National Eagle Center near Wabasha or take a scenic cruise on Lake Pepin.

The ship will also stop in La Crosse, Wis.; Dubuque, Iowa; Quad Cities, Iowa; Burlington, Iowa; Hannibal, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; Memphis, TN; Vicksburg, Miss; Natchez, Miss. and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

This isn’t Viking’s first foray into the Midwest. Earlier this year, the company launched a Great Lakes cruise that includes a stopover in Duluth. Next on their list? A 71-day, $50,000 cruise from Duluth to Antarctica starting September 2023.