It’s still unclear when “non-essential” travel will be something we can all enjoy again. Even when discretionary travel is cleared, the freedom to just travel anywhere will be based on circumstances that may very well be out of our control for the foreseeable future. Even when things do open up (and assuming the economy bounces back), travel will probably be focused on local experiences, natural adventures, and supporting troubled communities.
One cruise line is already shifting its focus to do just that — right in America’s Heartland. Viking River Cruises just opened up bookings for a small-vessel cruise along almost the entire length of the Mississippi River, from St. Paul, Minnesota all the way to the Big Easy. There are also shorter cruises that cover Memphis to New Orleans and other stretches of Twain’s beloved river. Prices range from $3,699 for eight days to $9,599 for a 15-day cruise.
The catch? These are for sailings in September and October of 2022. That’s 29 months from now. It seems fair to hope that the travel world will be functioning in some way by then, right? Right?
The small format of the cruises offers a chance to avoid the over-crowding of ships with thousands of people, which is one advantage. Another advantage is that cruises like this hit several small communities along the Mississippi River through seven U.S. states — destinations that will need your travel dollars post-COVID. The last advantage to a roll-out like this is the fact that Viking is offering a “risk-free guarantee.” You’ll be able to change your booking for no extra charge up to 24-hours from your departure date. You’ll then be able to rebook a sailing up to 24 months later — that means you can push this booking to 2024, theoretically.
With more and more people feeling wary about mega-cruises, river cruises are being called out as a way for the troubled industry to get back on its feet. John DiScala, aka Johnny Jet, noted in a recent UPROXX article on the state of the cruising industry that “as someone who likes cruising, I would definitely go on a river cruise before I’d go on an ocean cruise.” And we’ve championed small river cruises in the past throughout Europe for their adaptability and access to local economies. Millennial-focused European river cruise outfit U River Cruises is currently offering 30 percent off of all of their sailing, plus risk-free cancelations and rebookings.
If you’re itching for a glimmer of hope in your travel life, one of these trips might just be it. We still, however, always recommend proceeding with the utmost caution.