Who Gets A Stop When Viking River Cruises Hits The Mississippi?

Who Gets A Stop When Viking River Cruises Hits The Mississippi?

Viking River Cruises wants to run the Mississippi, and local towns are lining for a piece of the action.

You may have seen the commercials: A longboat cruise ship gliding effortlessly through picturesque medieval river towns on the Danube or Seine.

These Viking River Cruises appeal to a well-heeled, cosmopolitan crowd seeking to immerse themselves in history and culture. So when word got out that Viking wanted a cruise that ran the length of the Mississippi—going as far north as St. Paul—it left some scratching their heads.

The Mississippi is better known for its paddleboats and ties to agriculture than its castles and grandeur. But since the announcement, riverside towns like LaCrosse, Red Wing and Stillwater have quietly begun to market themselves as a potential stop, hoping to cash in on day visitors with disposable income.

Red Wing was first out of the gate through a bit of good fortune: It announced a $5 million “river renaissance” project, including a $1 million dock addition around the time Viking announced. City officials have used the coming upgrades as a selling point.

Stillwater is on the St. Croix, but it too has been in talks with the cruise line. A stop in Red Wing would likely preclude a stop in the city, but Stillwater Mayor Ted Kozlowski isn’t worried.

“We don’t have to pitch to Viking,” he says. “We’re a destination city that can accommodate, and they know it: We’ve got the great restaurants, bars and shopping.”

The healthy competition stems from the windfall a city can rake in with a stop. The Red Wing Port Authority found that the average cruiser spent $100 on shore. When thousands disembark at the same time every week, officials see dollar signs.

“It’s an affluent, upper-end demographic looking for exploratory tourism,” says Terry Mattson, president and CEO of Visit Saint Paul. The city would almost certainly be the port of call at the beginning or end of the cruise. (An eight-day summer cruise through Paris and surrounding areas runs upward of $3,000 per person.)

Viking, for its part, says they’ll make an official announcement later this year. But it’s almost certain that when they do, some local river town will be very, very happy.