Dozens of onlookers came out Saturday to see a 368-passenger luxury cruise ship docked on the Mississippi River at Lambert’s Landing in downtown St. Paul.
The Viking Mississippi, custom-built to navigate the mighty river, arrived early Saturday and was scheduled to depart for its eight-day cruise to St. Louis at 10 p.m.
Swiss company Viking River Cruises was expecting up to 300 passengers from around the world to board the five-deck, 450ft long and 75ft wide vessel on Saturday. It is the first luxury liner in downtown St. Paul in about a decade.
Paul and Laura Gagnon from Minneapolis traveled to St. Paul to see how big the ship was.
“I never thought a cruise line would come here,” said Paul Gagnon. “We were watching it wondering if it could go further into Mississippi, but it seemed like it was about as far as it could go.”
Barbara Bezat of St. Paul pulled to the side of the road when she saw the cruise ship docked, then got off to see it. “Now I know why my friends go on cruises,” she said.
Kevin Laukkonen and his wife, Jane Gough, packed up their e-bikes and rode down from Coon Rapids to see the cruise ship as part of a bike ride they’ve been wanting to take on Saturday since being on a cruise and are boat owners.
Watching Viking Mississippi, Jane Gough said, “It’s nice to see your own hometown from a different perspective.”
“It’s good to see all this activity on the waterfront,” Kevin Laukkonen said.
Gough said she also really liked that something was built just for people to see the central part of the United States.
Teresa Mitchell came from Apple Valley to view and photograph the cruise ship.
She said she worked in downtown St. Paul and was watching the big riverboats on the Mississippi, but had to come see how a cruise ship could be docked downtown.
“It’s so huge,” she said. “It’s amazing. I love it. It’s like the ships in the ocean.
Mitchell said she also enjoys photographing the tall ships at the Lake Superior Sailing Festival. This year’s festival at Two Harbors ended on August 7.
Although she admires tall ships and tall ships, she said she wouldn’t go on a cruise because she’s afraid of water.
Over the course of eight days, the “America’s Heartland” cruise will make stops with city tours in Red Wing; LaCrosse, Wis.; Dubuque, Iowa; quadruple cities; Burlington, Iowa; Hannibal, Mo., and St. Louis.
The ship returns to St. Paul from St. Louis on September 17, then departs the same day from Lambert’s Landing for the 15-day “America’s Great River” cruise to New Orleans, which is sold out. Another sold-out departure from St. Paul is scheduled for mid-October.