Cruise Canceled Due to Low Water Levels

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Viking Mississippi, the newest ship in Viking’s river cruises fleet, has had to cancel mid-way through her current voyage due to regional drought resulting in low water levels. It is unknown whether the ship’s next sailing will also be affected, as the ship is currently unable to reach the scheduled departure point in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Low Water Levels Cancel Cruise

The 450-foot-long Viking Mississippi, the largest of Viking’s global fleet of river ships, departed on its current sailing on Saturday, October 1. The sailing, a grand exploration of the Mighty Mississippi River from New Orleans to Minneapolis, was to have lasted 14 nights, arriving in St. Paul on Saturday, October 15.

According to CNN, the ship almost immediately ran into difficulty due to the river’s low water levels.

On Monday evening, October 3, the ship was halted when a nearby barge became grounded on sandbars, and other vessels were unable to move. That stopped Viking Mississippi for approximately 24 hours.

Rendering of the Viking Mississippi ship
Rendering of the Viking Mississippi ship (Photo Courtesy: Viking Cruises)

On Thursday, October 6, when the ship crossed into Arkansas, guests were informed the cruise had to be canceled.

“Unusually low water levels along the Mississippi River have caused sections of the river to be closed, impacting all northbound and southbound shipping traffic,” a statement from the cruise line said.

“The closures have caused delays that will prevent the Viking Mississippi from completing the sailing underway and from reaching St. Paul for her next scheduled departure on October 15.”

Guests Bussed to Memphis

The ship docked just north of Greenville, Mississippi, 150 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee. On Friday, October 7, guests debarked the vessel and were bussed two hours to Memphis to fly home.

No information is available about how those flights were arranged, compensation for the remaining days of the now-canceled voyage, or the plans for the ship for future sailings if the river’s conditions don’t improve.

Mississippi River Conditions

Fluctuating water levels are not uncommon on major waterways, particularly in the fall when summer droughts have impacted regional watersheds.

According to the National Integrated Drought Information Systems (NIDIS), the lower Mississippi watershed – from the Gulf of Mexico to Tennessee – is currently considered abnormally dry, with 100% of the region experiencing below normal precipitation.

The upper Mississippi watershed, which of course feeds the lower portion of the river as well, is also under drought conditions with below normal precipitation.

Drought along the Mississippi River
Drought along the Mississippi River (Photo Credit: Danita Delimont / Shutterstock

Much of the western and central United States – watershed regions that eventually feed into the Mississippi River through a series of tributaries – are considered to be in severe, extreme, or exceptional drought conditions.

These extreme droughts, which have become more severe and longer-lasting in recent years, have led to historically low water levels in many areas.

As water levels drop, sandbars and underwater hazards create more challenging conditions for river navigation, particularly for larger or heavier vessels.

Viking Mississippi is one of Viking’s largest river ships, measuring 450 feet (137 meters) long and weighing approximately 5,000 gross tons.

The ship can welcome up to 386 passengers, and offers the services of 148 crew members to help guests explore the richness of the Mississippi River region.

The vessel is the line’s only ship sailing the Mississippi River, and only began sailing this year. Viking Mississippi offers both northbound and southbound one-way journeys from 7-14 nights, with departures from St. Paul, Memphis, St. Louis, and New Orleans.

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