By Paul Brady
Updated June 06, 2020
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It may be a dark time for the cruise industry, as many ships have returned to port and passengers shuffle plans as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. But today, at least one line is thinking ahead to a brighter future.

Viking just announced details of the purpose-built, 386-passenger cruise ship it will bring to the Mississippi River by 2022. The new ship, aptly named Viking Mississippi, will sail between New Orleans and St. Paul, Minnesota, with the inaugural trips slated for August.

“At a time where many of us are at home, looking for inspiration to travel in the future, I am pleased to introduce a new, modern way to explore this great river,” said Viking chairman Torstein Hagen in a statement. “Our guests are curious travelers, and they continue to tell us that the Mississippi is the river they most want to sail with us. The Mississippi River is closer to home for many of our guests, and no other waterway has played such an important role in America’s history, commerce and culture,” Hagen added.

On board the vessel, guests will find cool, contemporary Scandinavian-inspired design, as is typical of Viking ships. A variety of larger gathering spaces — the Explorer’s Lounge, the River Cafe, a Sun Terrace — will provide panoramic views of riverside scenery. All guest rooms will also have good views, and many will come with private verandas for personal outdoor space. (Some categories have French balconies, which provide fresh air but not outdoor seating.)

The ship will also have an “infinity plunge pool” on board, Viking says, plus a “360-Degree Promenade Deck,” which will encircle the entirety of the ship.

As for what to see and do, Viking has announced several eight-day itineraries that focus on northern or southern portions of the river. Trips between St. Louis and St. Paul include tours and guest lectures on board that discuss Mark Twain and westward expansion; sailings from Memphis to New Orleans have a focus on French and Acadian cultures as well as the civil rights movement and jazz. Viking will also host 15-day, full-river sailings.

For now, bookings are only available to past Viking guests, with broader availability coming in April.

Courtesy of Viking

It’s not the only commitment Viking has made to expanding its fleet. Earlier this year, the company detailed plans to launch expedition-style cruises, announcing two new ships also slated for 2022 debuts. As Travel + Leisure reported in January, “Both vessels will be small enough to make their way through narrow waterways like the St. Lawrence River in Canada but large enough to handle the open seas. Eventually, they’ll offer sailings through Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, along the coast of Brazil, and island hopping around the Caribbean.”