The Mississippi River is New Orleans’ lifeblood. Originally settled by Native American hunter-gatherers, the Mississippian settlements had grown to include complex organization and large centers of population by 800 C.E. Meaning “Great River,” the name “Mississippi” comes from a French interpretation of the Objibwe/Algonquin name for the river, “Misi-ziibi.”
The river basin was explored by Joliet and Marquette in the 17th century, and later claimed for Louisiana by Robert de la Salle. In 1718, New Orleans was established along the river’s crescent, giving the settlement its eventual nickname of “Crescent City.”
In the 1830s, steamboat commerce began to replace traditional riverboat vessels as a way to transport both passengers and cargo. Unlike their predecessors, steamboats could travel in shallow waters, as well as against the river’s current: an ability that opened up avenues of trade and travel for New Orleanians and their upriver counterparts. A voyage upriver to the Ohio fork originally took about three weeks by steamboat; as boat technology and navigation improved, however, the travel time was reduced to four days.
The Mississippi remains a pivotal part of New Orleans’ business and tourist economies. These days, steamboats have long since been replaced by more economical diesel vessels, but a few remain in use, providing passengers with a firsthand experience of steamboat life on the mighty Mississippi. Two of these are the Steamboat Natchez and Creole Queen, which both offer nightly Mississippi dinner and jazz cruises. The Creole Queen also offers a cruise by the Chalmette Battlefield, with a stop at the site of the Battle of 1815, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, and the Malus-Beauregard House.
Ocean Cruises From New Orleans
Located in Baggage Claim next to Belt #1
- Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival's DREAM has New Orleans as its home port and cruises Sunday-Sunday, and the ELATION offers 4 & 5 day cruises.
- Norwegian Cruise Line
NCL's DAWN departs out of New Orleans from October - May offering weekly cruises - Sunday-Sunday.