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Boat Tours & River Cruises in New Orleans

New Orleans has earned the name of The Big Easy for its relaxed atmosphere. There is no better way to understand New Orleans than by taking a cruise on the Mississippi River. Admire the lights of the city, enjoying the breeze on the Mississippi while listening to one of the best jazz bands in the city.

The Cajun culture of the New Orleans Bayou is also an integral part of the city's history, cuisine, and atmosphere. Hop aboard a boat and set out to explore the swamps and Cajun villages just outside New Orleans.

What types of boat tours are there in New Orleans?

River cruises

The most typical boat tours in New Orleans are definitely the Mississippi River cruises. New Orleans is the iconic city of jazz and river cruises offer an incredible atmosphere for a leisurely dinner accompanied by jazz notes. Mississipi cruises take you back over 100 years, transporting you on steamships that date back to that era.

Airboat tour (airboat)

Explore the swamps near New Orleans with a swamp tour on an airboat. The wetlands around New Orleans are a protected nature reserve, home to alligators, reptiles and many species of birds. Visit all areas of Honey Island's swamp on a boat or airboat tour.

Sailboat tour

New Orleans is very famous for its Mississippi, but it is built on the shore of a large lagoon that can be explored by sailboat. Try a sailing tour to see the sunset: the lagoon is so wide that the sun seems to set directly on the water.

What are the best river cruises in New Orleans?

Two cruises vie for the best river cruise title in New Orleans: the Natchez and the Creole Queen.

Natchez

The steamboat Natchez is a legendary vessel, present in New Orleans since 1975. The Natchez is the latest in a long line of steamboats, including the Natchez VI, which have won several times the famous steamboat competitions on the Mississippi.

The Natchez is an icon of New Orleans and has contributed to the city's relaxed and fun atmosphere. Jazz music is an integral part of Natchez. The exterior and interior style of the cruise recalls the splendor of the nineteenth century.

Creole Queen

The Creole Queen is a charming old paddlewheel boat inaugurated in 1983. The boat is modeled with decoration and architecture based on the ancient paddlewheelers that moved on the Mississippi in the 1800s.

As with Natchez, jazz music is an integral part of the Creole Queen. You can listen to great live jazz and enjoy a buffet of Creole cuisine, or simply enjoy the views over the city and the French Quarter.

What do river cruises in New Orleans include?

Both Natchez and Creole Queen cruises offer jazz cruises on the Mississippi, with optional lunch or dinner.

Jazz Cruise Natchez

Enjoy a romantic 2-hour cruise on the Natchez steamboat. Let yourself be carried away by the Mississippi's current on the notes of the Dukes of Dixieland, a famous jazz group.

The Natchez offers its visitors a day or evening jazz cruise, with optional brunch, lunch or dinner. Choose the option you prefer, but don't leave New Orleans without experiencing the Natchez atmosphere.

The cruise sets sail from the center of the French Quarter, sailing along the Mississippi. You can admire the skyline of the city, as well as become passionate about the history and construction of the Natchez, by visiting the Museum of the Engine Room, where the steam engine is present.

Tickets for the Natchez include the two-hour jazz cruise and brunch, lunch, or dinner if the option is selected. The cuisine onboard is loved by many participants and is based on local Creole cuisine. Meals are served as a buffet. The menu includes pork loin, seafood pasta, herb potatoes, traditional roast, chicken, sausages, green beans, bread, chocolate pudding and drinks. There isn't much vegan on offer, but you can bring food or snacks on board. Brunch offers more cold dishes, while the dinner menu can include other meat and fish dishes. Either way, if you want to try typical New Orleans cuisine, eating on the Natchez cruise is a great choice.

Temporarily, the steamboat Natchez is paused for maintenance. However, the voyages are all available on the cruise City of New Orleans, which is the Natchez copy launched a short time ago.

Creole Queen Cruise

The Creole Queen cruise offers similar services to the Natchez but for a slightly lower price. In addition, the Creole Queen offers a historical sightseeing cruise which lasts 3 hours and includes explanations of several historical places in the city.

The sightseeing cruise focuses on the history of New Orleans. It includes narratives from a local historian that explains the history of different points of interest in the city that are seen from the cruise. The cruise will sail along the river to Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and the Battlefield of Chalmette. Other highlights of the tour include the city's founding, the growth of the French neighborhoods of Treme and Marigny, the US purchase of Louisiana, and the Battle of New Orleans. During the cruise, there will be a shore excursion to the battlefield, including a one hour visit.

Evening jazz cruises offer that sociable and elegant New Orleans vibe. You will enjoy live jazz music from Sullivan Dabney, Jr. and the Muzik Jazz Band, the tasty buffet dinner, the amazing cocktails from the bar and the breathtaking view of the illuminated city.

The dinner or lunch menu is inspired by the typical Creole cuisine. It includes Cajun baked chicken, roast beef, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, beans, rice, Caesar Cajun salad, chicken and gumbo sausage, white chocolate bread pudding, bread corn and drinks.

What are the differences between the steamship Natchez and the Creole Queen?

The river cruises offered by Natchez and Creole Queen are very similar. On both boats, you will enjoy a jazz cruise, a typical New Orleans atmosphere and a typical Creole meal. Both boats offer sightseeing cruises, jazz cruises, and brunch, lunch or dinner cruises.

A unique feature of the Creole Queen is the historical sightseeing cruise. This cruise is excellent for those who want to know more about the history of the city.

The Natchez also offers a visit to the museum inside the Engine Room, where you can see the steam engine. The Creole Queen has a modern and less polluting diesel engine. Another difference is the jazz live band: Dukes of Dixieland play on the Natchez while Sullivan Dabney, Jr. and the Muzik Jazz Band play on the Creole Queen.

How much do boat tours and river cruises cost in New Orleans?

The prices of boat tours and river cruises vary according to the services included. Also, discounts are often available if tickets are bought online. We recommend checking out several sites that sell tickets.

Natchez cruise

The prices of the Natchez steam cruise vary by type.

  • Daytime tourist jazz cruise - Adults: $ 38 | Children (6-12 years): $ 15.50 | Children (under 6 years): Free | Seniors: $ 34.25
  • Evening sightseeing jazz cruise - Adults: $ 50 | Children (6-12 years): $ 24.50 | Children (under 6 years): Free | Seniors: $ 45
  • Daytime Jazz Cruise with Lunch - Adults: $ 50 | Children (6-12 years): 24 $ | Children (under 6): $ 10.50 | Seniors: $ 45
  • Evening Jazz Cruise with Dinner - Adults: $ 87 | Children (6-12 years): 40 $ | Children (under 6): $ 19.25 | Seniors: $ 78.25
  • Sunday jazz cruise with brunch - Adults: $ 55 | Children (6-12 years): $ 27.50 | Children (under 6): $ 18.25 | Seniors: $ 50

Creole Queen

The Creole Queen is slightly cheaper than the Natchez. Please note that the day sightseeing cruise does not include live jazz.

  • Daytime sightseeing cruise - Adults: $ 36 | Children (6-12 years): 15 $ | Children (under 6): Free
  • Daytime Jazz Cruise with Lunch - Adults: $ 53 | Children (6-12 years): 24 $ | Children (3-5 years): 10 $ | Seniors: $ 45
  • Evening Jazz Cruise with Dinner - Adults: $ 79 | Children (6-12 years): $ 36 | Children (3-5 years): $ 12

Swamp boat tour

Tours by boat or airboat cost from $ 25 to $ 70. Small group airboat tours are the most expensive.

There are also swamp tours, which include a boat ride and a visit to one of the plantations near New Orleans, such as Oak Alley Plantation, the Laura plantation or the Whitney Plantation. These tours last a full day and cost between $ 90 and $ 200.

What are the best New Orleans swamp boat tours?

New Orleans swamp boat tour with transportation

Discover one of the last protected swamps in Louisiana. This 2-hour boat tour also includes round-trip transportation from New Orleans.

The tour destination is Honey Island Swamp, a protected nature reserve that is home to animals such as alligators, snakes, birds and wild boars. The boat tour is carried out with a boat on the shallow waters of the marsh. Your guide will explain everything about the swamp, its history and the fauna present. Besides, you will visit a Cajun village that can only be reached by boat.

High-speed airboat with only 6 - 9 passengers

Airboats are the perfect boats to tour the marshes. They are powered by an air motor: a large propeller that blows air behind the boat. In this way, the boats can go on very shallow waters and enter most of the marshes.

This tour departs directly from the swamp located south of New Orleans, just 35 minutes away. Hotel transfers can be purchased optionally. You will travel on an airboat through the dense vegetation of the swamp going in search of alligators. The likelihood of seeing alligators up close is relatively high - you will almost certainly see one in the summer and there is an over 50% chance of seeing one in the winter too.

New Orleans swamp tour by sightseeing boat

This boat tour explores the Barataria Marshes, located south of New Orleans. The captain takes you on this 4-hour boat adventure, explaining the history of the New Orleans swamps and the Bayou Cajuns' culture and lifestyle. The captain guides you through the marshes searching for local wildlife, such as alligators, turtles, birds and snakes. It is possible to see an alligator in the summer, while in the winter, it is slightly rarer, but it is still possible. The boat tour passes gorgeous natural areas, which offer many photo opportunities.

Where do boat tours depart from in New Orleans?

River cruises depart from the city center. Steamboat Natchez sets sail from the French Quarter, exactly from 400 Toulouse Street, New Orleans, LA, 70130. The Creole Queen sails from 1 Poydras Street, Riverwalk Market Place.

Swamp boat tours depart from several locations. Some offer hotel pickup, which is very convenient for those without a car. Other tours depart directly from the marshes. Check the exact location in the tour details.

How long do boat tours in New Orleans last?

The Natchez and Creole Queen river cruises last 2 hours.

Swamp boat tours last between 2 and 4 hours. Some of them include transportation from New Orleans and are therefore longer. Others depart directly from the marshes.

Which other outdoor activities are available in New Orleans?

New Orleans is famous for its atmosphere and music, but offers several exciting opportunities for outdoor activities lovers.

  • Bike tours. The city is flat and is well suited for a bike tour. Also, the French-style quarter is worth a visit. A bike tour is a good alternative to the classic walking tours through the French Quarter.
  • Kayak tours. You can visit the swamps on a boat ride, but you can also explore them on a kayak tour.
  • Helicopter tours. Marvel at the view of New Orleans from above, flying over the historic downtown and the Mississippi.
  • Swamp tours. The swamps of New Orleans are a protected reserve that certainly deserves to be visited.

Travel tips

  • If you choose a river cruise, such as the Natchez or the Creole Queen, check out several sites that sell tickets, as discounts are available. TourScanner compares dozens of websites for you.
  • Book your river cruise tickets as early as possible. During peak tourist periods, the cruises are sold out and you can run out of tickets. There are special cruises for days such as Thanksgiving or Independence Day. Book well in advance in these cases.
  • If you are on a vegan diet, avoid buying lunch or dinner on the cruise, as you will find little choice of vegan dishes. You can bring a packed lunch. For vegetarians, however, the choice of the menu should be sufficient.