Should you take a steamboat tour in New Orleans? I’m not here to judge. My advice depends on how long you are here and what you want to see. Let’s evaluate this, shall we?
THE CONS OF STEAMBOAT TOURS IN NEW ORLEANS:
If you are here for two nights in New Orleans and this is your first visit, this means you have one full day to explore the city. Unless you’re some kind of steamboat fanatic, your time is better spent doing other things. That’s just my opinion. You are free to do what you want, of course. It takes, like, 3-4 hours.
If you have a Huckleberry Finn idea of the Mississippi River, you are not going to find that in the Port of New Orleans. The river is very industrial on this stretch. So, if you dig looking at container ships and barges, oil refineries, and a sugar factory, you’ll dig this. If you expect to see cows grazing on the river banks, you’re going to be disappointed.
Don’t eat on the boat. If you take the dinner cruise, don’t get the dinner package. You can get better food both before and after the cruise at a real restaurant. I’m not saying the food will be bad, but, what would you rather have, a meal made to order or a buffet dished out to a party of 400 strangers from out of town? You know that crawfish etouffé and Shrimp Monica were prepared hours ago before it was put in the chafing dish under the heat lamps for you to enjoy.
Be warned, you won’t be cruising down to the Gulf of Mexico. You’ll be spending about an hour and a half headed downstream on the Mississippi River. During that time, the captain will tell you about the things you’re passing. Then, the boat turns around. There isn’t much to talk about on the way back because you’ve already seen it. Half the trip is informative, the other half is not.
THE PROS OF STEAMBOAT TOURS IN NEW ORLEANS:
While half the trip is informative, the second half is more relaxing. You’ll look at things you recognize and have the time to study them more closely. The breeze on the Mississippi River is always a delight. It is always cooler on the river than it is in the city.
There are bars on the steamboats so, even though you shouldn’t plan on eating a meal on the boat, there will always be plenty to drink. Bear in mind that this is a tourist boat. The drinks will be fine but they won’t be craft cocktails. Me? I stick to overpriced beer and wine.
The Mississippi River really is a natural wonder. The river is wide and the current is swift. It is called Big Muddy for good reason. The Father of Waters. The river is essential to New Orleans’ identity. The Port of New Orleans is one of the busiest ports in the world and you’ll get to see that up close and first hand.
The steamboats really are magnificent works of engineering and Victorian gingerbread. Stepping aboard is like being Mary Poppins or Samuel Clemens, whichever you prefer.
If you are in New Orleans for a week or five nights, I say, sure, take one of the steamboat tours in New Orleans. I did it on my first visit and I’ve done it a few times since I’ve moved here. It is nice to see the city from the river and get a different perspective. The travelogue from the captain is informative but seeing the industry and commerce on the river in person makes it sink in how important New Orleans is in the global economy. There are giant ships from all over the world. That’s something most people don’t realize—-they think New Orleans is just a place to get drunk in public.
If you are in New Orleans for only two or three nights, my answer is don’t do it. Unless you are a steamboat fanatic, my advice is to wander about the city and its various neighborhoods—-not just the French Quarter. Get a taste for the authentic New Orleans the way it is lived. Very few New Orleanians ever even see the river. It’s behind the levees.
Save it for your next visit. You’ll be back. Trust me, you’ll be back.
If you want to take a boat on the Mississippi, and I agree it’s worth doing, take the ferry to Algiers. It costs $2.00 each way, $1.00 for seniors, and you’ll get that breathtaking view of the French Quarter and the cathedral that postcards are made of. For a short trip, taking the ferry is the better use of your time. ‘Nuff said.
STEAMBOAT TOURS IN NEW ORLEANS FROM LA BELLE ESPLANADE:
No matter how long you want to visit New Orleans, I have a recommendation of where you should stay. You are on the right website. La Belle Esplanade has been ranked the #1 place to stay on TripAdvisor every month since April 2014. We’ve been ranked the #1 in Louisiana, too, #2 in the United States, and #16 place to stay in the world, too, as I never get tired of saying.
Our reputation is built on the personalized recommendations we make for our guests to get the most out of their visit, no matter how long it is. Nobody ever says their visit is too long. It is always too short—- The longer you stay in New Orleans the more you’ll discover to explore. We live in a kaleidoscope of a city. You’ll see for yourself.
La Belle Esplanade only has five quirky and luxurious suites. That’s why we can take the time to get to know what you are interested in and point you in the right directions. You don’t have to plan too much. We’ll know what’s going on while you are here and we are happy to tell you about it over breakfast. Every morning starts with local neighborhood delicacies and good conversation about all things New Orleans.
When you are ready, we’ll be here for you. Plan ahead and make a reservation early. As I say, we only have five suites and we tend to fill up early during busy seasons.
Some Steamboat tours, if you are interested.