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Choosing Between An Upper Or Lower Mississippi River Cruise

27th February 2018

With it being such a vast waterway, the Mississippi River is split into two main cruising regions – the Upper and the Lower Mississippi. Both areas offer something different to guests and so it’s important to know the differences when deciding which route to take. Of course, if you really can’t decide, there is no reason to make a decision at all. A limited amount of sailings each year will take you on an extended trip along the entire length of the river.

However, for those looking for a cruise lasting around a week, here are some things that will help you compare the two choices. Once you’ve made up your mind, call us on 0800 954 0064 or enquire about of Mississippi River cruises here.


Lower Mississippi

New Orleans

There are many different options when taking a Lower Mississippi River cruise, giving you greater flexibility with your itinerary. Sailings operate from Memphis to New Orleans (or reverse), Memphis to St. Louis (or reverse) and New Orleans to St. Louis (or reverse). There are also round-trips from Memphis and New Orleans available if you would rather finish where you started. However, these will usually offer fewer ports in order to get you back within the time. Other stops typically include places such as Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Natchez, Mississippi; and Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Upper Mississippi


There are slightly fewer itineraries to choose from on the Upper Mississippi, with most sailings taking place between St. Louis and St. Paul (or nearby Minneapolis). Having said that, there are also occasional round-trips from either of these destinations. Ports offered on these cruises include La Crosse, Wisconsin; Dubuque, Iowa; and Hannibal, Missouri.

Time Of Year

Lower Mississippi

Baton Rouge

Because of the heat and humidity, the majority of river cruises on the Lower Mississippi tend to take place in either spring or autumn, with the ideal times being October – November or April - May. This will also mean that you avoid the swarms of mosquitoes that buzz along the river banks during the summer months.

Upper Mississippi


Whilst the upper parts of the river don’t get quite as hot as those in the south, this region of the Mississippi is prone to high water levels. Downpours mean that the ships are not able to pass under the various bridges, so the sailing season doesn’t start until after July. Therefore, the optimal time to explore the northern section of the waterway is between August and October.

What You’ll See

Lower Mississippi


This part of the river is all about big cities, music and food for the soul, and the American Civil War. Therefore, if you are interested in history, jazz, Elvis or you simply want to enjoy some home-cooked southern comfort food, this is the itinerary for you. Stops in Memphis and New Orleans will have your feet tapping to the sound of saxophones, whilst a visit to the Nottoway Plantation will transport you back to the Antebellum era. If you are more interested in the period immediately after this, though, your arrival in Vicksburg will give you plenty of opportunities to learn about a battle which defined American history.

Upper Mississippi

Eagle Mississppi

The stretch between St Louis and St. Paul is more about small towns that offer easy access from the river, rather than large, bustling cities. This is a much more scenic landscape, with the chance to spot eagles, hawks and otters along the banks or circling above you. With a more modern feel, Upper Mississippi cruises are also a great choice if you like the technical and practical side of river cruising. No less than 20 locks will be traversed on your journey, helping you to navigate the changes in water level. Finally, choose this region to follow in the footsteps of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer – two legendary characters created from the genius mind of Mark Twain.

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