The image of a riverboat conjures stories of Huckleberry Finn travelling down the Mississippi, and people in old movies hanging out in the riverboat saloon on their overnight journeys.
I’ve always wanted to ride on one of those old-fashioned boats. The giant wooden wheels on the stern are such a simple design yet work so well. The same concept that propels a two-person paddleboat can push along a gigantic boat loaded with people.
As this trip was my first time seeing the Mighty Mississippi, what better way to see it than via riverboat?!
The ninth iteration of the Steamboat Natchez, it is one of only two steam-powered riverboats running on the Mississippi today. You can actually go all the way downstairs to see the steam engine in operation. It’s pretty cool.
The captain sends signals down to the operator in the steam room, and he turns some gears to change the speed and direction of the boat.
You can actually observe the pistons and connecting rod moving along in the engine room, and go back out to the stern to see them move along the paddlewheel. I don’t have much of an interest in engines, but it’s still cool to basically be inside a giant engine.
The engine room was unbearably hot and noisy. I felt bad for the operator sitting in there for 2-hour stints at a time, but someone has to do the job.
The brunch is split into two groups. We chose the earlier eating time since it was already a late lunch.
The food wasn’t anything to write home about; buffet food rarely is. I had to ask someone at the bar for a cup for coffee and prove I was part of the brunch. I found it a little odd that they wouldn’t leave the coffee cups out while the plates were left out for customers.
Regardless, I made sure to get my fill of food. I have an almost bottomless pit of a stomach, so buffets are perfectly designed for me.
The real pleasure of the brunch was listening to the band perform. The music made it feel like we were in an episode of Boardwalk Empires. Unfortunately if you go to the top deck, you’ll only hear the music very faintly over the speakers. If you were on the top deck the entire time, you wouldn’t even know the music was coming from a live band.
Make sure you stop inside to enjoy the performance. The band takes long breaks in between, so you have plenty of time to check out the top deck.
The Mighty Mississippi
Actually seeing the river was a little disappointing. We didn’t go too far up the river (how far could a slow-moving boat actually travel upstream in one hour anyway?), but what we saw was a bunch of factories and wasteland.
It seems that everywhere we go in the U.S. there are examples of human ecological destruction at every turn.
The river has probably been murky throughout history thanks to sediment being carried down river, but you can be 100% certain that if you swam in the Mississippi at the New Orleans end of it today, you’d be swimming in a ton of chemicals and sludge.
Humans like to take nice things and ruin them for everyone.
We purchased our tickets through the boat’s website. Our ride was $51 per adult for the cruise plus brunch. Looking on Viator, it looks like you may be able to get a cheaper rate through them. I see $34 on their website at the time of this writing.
It’s best to make a reservation in advance to ensure your seat. We actually called them while we were in New Orleans to change our reservation times twice. They were happy to do so, but you risk not having availability so be careful with that.
Arrive a half hour before. Not only will this give you time to eat before the cruise actually begins, but it will give you more time to hang out on the boat!
The cruise departs from the Steamboat Natchez Lighthouse Ticket Office, a block south of Jackson Square and across from the Toulouse Station parking lot at the end of Toulouse Street.
You’ll know you’re in the right place when you hear music being played from a large sort of steam-powered organ.