New Orleans Riverboats, Paddleboats and Cruises

This post compares the various different riverboat tours, paddleboat tours and cruises available to you in New Orleans to help you choose the right one from you. You’ll have a bon temp (good time!) taking a boat tour on the Mississippi River during your trip to New Orleans. In fact, many visitors to the city say that their time on the water is their favorite experience!

The two most popular cruises are aboard the Creole Queen Paddlewheeler and Steamboat Natchez (details below), but you can hop a ferry for just a few dollars. Each offers a variety of tour types to choose from. We narrowed down our favorites and compiled a list that describes each trip based on experience type, ticket price, and duration.


Evening/Dinner Cruises

Combination Packages

Swamp Tours

Daytime/Lunch Cruises

Public $2 Ferries

Kayak Tours


If you are considering purchasing tourist discount packages, keep in mind that some of these cruises are included at no additional cost in the New Orleans Power Pass.

To start off with, let us introduce you to the two big boats plying the Mississippi River and providing New Orleans Riverboat tours and cruises.

 NATCHEZ STEAMBOAT

The Natchez Steamboat is the ninth boat of the name. With an impressive history that includes being the undisputed winner of centuries of steamer races, Natchez VI beat Robert E. Lee in a race along the Mississippi. The current boat boasts modern safety mechanisms within a classic, exquisite oak exterior. Take part in her adventure with daily two hour jazz cruises. Listen to the Captain and crew, some of whom have been with the ship since 1975 maiden voyage, operate like the seamen of a time gone by. Did we mention they serve dinner along the French Quarter?

 

 
This company has received a 4 star rating on TripAdvisor. Although some of their customers have left negative feedback, a majority of guests enjoy their trip on the Natchez. Few of the poor ratings have much in common, which could indicate that these are not typical issues. Thousands of passengers have left comments suggesting that nearly all of the services they offer are excellent. Couples were the most likely audience to enjoy their excursion, but family and friends also report having a fun time on this steamboat.

 


CREOLE QUEEN PADDLEWHEELER

Built in 1983 with the esteem and allure of the late 1850’s paddlewheelers, the Creole Queen features an enormous 24-foot paddlewheel and modern amenities for elegance and safety. Browse the list of tours below to pick which experience is best for you; gather on the 1,000 passenger deck for live music, dancing, a history lesson, or maybe enjoy lunch or dinner in one of the Queen’s three private dining rooms!

 

 
Much like their competition, this company has also been given an overall rating of 4 stars on TripAdvisor. Most customers feel that the Creole Queen offers an interesting and informative trip down the Mississippi River. Each cruise they provide has received far greater praise than disapproval. As tends to be the case, couples were more impressed with this boat trip than any other audience. That being said, families and friends were also quite happy with their experience.

DAYTIME CRUISES WITH OPTIONAL LUNCH

There are basically two different cruises to choose from, one from each company.  The main differences seem to be that Creole Queen includes a stop at an American Civil War battlefield and is included in the New Orleans Power Pass while the Steamboat Natchez offers jazz music during the lunch cruise during the high season.

 


Steamboat Natchez Harbor Jazz Cruise (Daytime, optional Lunch)

An overwhelming majority of reviews for this jazz cruise are very positive. Some reviewers have even described their band as “magnificent,” suggesting that the music played on board was absolutely wonderful. Some customers feel that the experience is a bit too touristy, but they are definitely in the minority. Most guests leave excellent feedback stating that they loved this musical trip on the Natchez. This activity is particularly popular among couples.

Experience Type: Scenic/Tourism/History

What You’ll Experience:

  • Live narration on the history of the area
  • Live jazz concert
  • Steam Engine room open to visitors
  • Lunch (optional) in dining area onboard

Duration: 3 hours, 2 hour cruise

  • Departs at 11:30 am and 2:30 am

Cost:

Before you buy… Check the reviews, as some visitors say the food is not worth the added cost; but the staff is extremely friendly!  Many more visitors recommend the Evening Jazz Cruise option (see below) when choosing to ride the Natchez.

 


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Creole Queen – Historical River Cruise

This trip is very well received by most customers. As a matter of fact, there are currently only three negative reviews for this historical cruise. All three unhappy passengers had different complaints, so there is very little reason to expect that these comments might represent a significant issue with the service offered by Creole Queen. Most guests loved their experience, describing it as informative and humorous. An overwhelming majority of positive reviews came from couples.

Experience Type: Family Friendly, Educational

What You’ll Experience:

  • Highly Recommended for history buffs!
  • Battle of New Orleans
  • 1,000 passenger paddlewheeler on the Mississippi River, with a 24-foot paddlewheel
  • Costumed re-enactor recounting history/stories of Louisiana’s most historical places and events
  • Disembark for a guided tour of Chalmette Battlefield by National Park Rangers from the Battle of New Orleans

Duration: 3 hours

  • Departs at 10 am and 2 pm daily.

Cost:

TIP: Free for holders of the New Orleans Pass.

 


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Evening Jazz Cruises with Optional Dinner

Steamboat Natchez – Mississippi River Jazz Cruise (optional Dinner)

Unlike their harbor cruise, this boat trip will take you down the Mississippi River. Ratings for this excursion are similarly excellent, but it’s worth noting that there are a handful of negative reviews. Although some passengers were unhappy with the food provided, a majority of them enjoyed their meal. A few guests complained about the quality of music, but most customers were very impressed with the live jazz band. Given how romantic this cruise can be, it’s not too surprising that couples were most likely to leave a complimentary review.

Again, there are two choices here.

Experience Type: Romantic/Scenic/Live Music

What You’ll Experience

  • Ride on the Creole Queen paddle wheeler
  • Live jazz music
  • Lavish buffet-style dinner | cash bar cocktails
  • New Orleans skyline along the French Quarter

Duration: 3 hours total, 2 hour cruise

  • Boards nightly at 6 pm and sails from 7-9 pm.

Cost:

 


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Creole Queen Evening Cruise (optional Dinner)

Just like their other services, the evening cruise offered by this company is also highly rated. There are a few negative reviews, but they are overshadowed by the positive comments. Some unhappy customers complained about their jazz band, but several reviewers felt that the music was wonderful. Quite a few guests were also happy with the food quality, indicating that their meals were very tasty. Couples were far more likely than any other group to enjoy their trip.

Experience Type: Romantic/Scenic/Live Music

What You’ll Experience

  • Ride on the Creole Queen paddlewheeler
  • Live jazz music
  • Lavish buffet-style dinner | cash bar cocktails
  • New Orleans skyline along the French Quarter

Duration: 3 hours total, 2 hour cruise

Cost:

 


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CANAL STREET/ALGIERS POINT FERRY

In operation since 1827, this ferry travels across the Mississippi River along Canal Street and ends at the second oldest neighborhood of New Orleans; Algiers Point.Unlike the paddlewheeler or steamboat, the ferry offers a cheap trip across the river from Canal Street. Just ask the locals who use this as their commute! Once you arrive, consider taking our self-guided walking tour of Algiers Point.

 

 

This company has received a 4 star rating on TripAdvisor. Although they don’t offer the same range of services as a boat tour or cruise, it’s clear that a lot of their customers are more than pleased with the transportation they provide. There are a few negative reviews, but most of them seem to come from customers who were expecting the typical tourist experience. The vast majority of comments have been positive, suggesting that this is a fun and quick trip which won’t cost a lot of money. Couples were the most likely audience to enjoy their journey, but passengers who brought their families and friends were also pleasantly surprised.

Experience Type: Leisurely/Affordable. Pet Friendly. Bikes/Scooters allowed.

Cost (cash only):

  • Pedestrian $2 each way
  • Senior (65+) $1
  • Children (2 & under) Free

Hours:

  • Monday-Friday 7 am – 3:30 pm
  • Saturday 10:30 am – 11:45 pm
  • Sunday 10:30 am – 9:45 pm

Get more details on their website.

 


LOWER ALGIERS/CHALMETTE FERRY

In operation since 1970, this ferry travels across the Mississippi River along Lower Algiers and ends at Chalmette. Unlike the Canal Street option, this ferry permits cars for an additional cost.  Unlike the paddlewheeler or steamboat, the ferry offers a cheap trip across the river. Just ask the locals who use this as their commute! Before you go, consider taking our self-guided walking tour of Algiers Point along with you.

Unfortunately, reviews for this ferry service aren’t very impressive. With a rating of only 2 ½ stars on Yelp, it’s clear that a lot of passengers didn’t enjoy their trip. Some customers indicate that driving is much faster, while others complain about frequent mechanical issues. Just based on the comments we have seen, it would appear that this might not be the best option for transportation. That being said, some reviewers have suggested that this is a much better option than driving. We’ll leave it up to you to decide!

Experience Type: Leisurely/Affordable. Pet Friendly. Bikes/Scooters allowed. Cars allowed.

Cost (cash only):

  • Pedestrian $2
  • Senior (65+) $1
  • Children (2 & under) Free
  • Vehicle Driver $2
  • Additional Passenger $1
  • Trailer $3

Hours:

Daily 6am-8:45pm

Get more details on their website.

 


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Combination Packages

As we have stated above, the New Orleans Power Pass, an all inclusive tourist attraction pass, includes one free daytime ride on the Creole Queen.  Included in the cost of the pass is free entry into 25 other popular New Orleans attractions including:

  • National World War 2 Museum
  • City Bus Tour
  • Swamp Tour Plantation House Tour
  • New Orleans School of Cooking
  • Audubon Zoo
  • Audubon Aquarium
  • Mardi Gras World Museum
  • New Orleans Museum of Art
  • + 18 other attractions and tours

 


Paddle and Wheel Combo by Gray Line

This combo package is a great buy, and with a total of about 4 hours, you can see the city and take a cruise full of historical information. You save $7/adult with the combo ticket.  This combination pairs the daytime historical cruise aboard the Steamboat Natchez and the Super City Bus Tour (video below).

 

With an overall rating of 4 ½ stars on TripAdvisor, Gray Line New Orleans is very well received. In particular, both of the services offered through this combo ticket are positively reviewed by their customers. Much like the Steamboat Natchez, the Super City Bus Tour also enjoys mostly positive ratings. Although there are a few negative reviews for both tours, they aren’t indicative of any significant problems. This combo deal is most popular among couples.

You’ll Experience…

  • French Quarter
  • Jackson Square
  • Cabildo and Presbytere Museum
  • Historic Cemeteries
  • Bayou St. John
  • Besthoff Sculpture Garden
  • Tulane and Loyola University
  • Audubon Zoo
  • 2 hour cruise with guided history of the region

Price (as of March 2016)

  • $67 – Adult, $82 with lunch
  • $27 – Child (ages 6-12) 
  • Free – Child up to 5 years old
  • You save $7/adult by purchasing together.  You don’t appear to save anything for a child (6-12).

Get more information and purchase tickets.

 


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NEW ORLEANS KAYAK TOURS

Want a more intimate excursion on the water? Try kayaking! Explore the swamps of New Orleans, or paddle down Bayou St. John neighborhood inside the city with the safety of a guide at a beginner level pace.

 

 

Ratings for this kayak tour company are very impressive. New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours has received an overall score of 5 stars on TripAdvisor. Only a half dozen customers have seen fit to give them a negative review, and their comments don’t represent the typical experience with this service. An overwhelming majority of reviews for this service are incredibly positive, recommending this trip to anyone who wants to stay active while discovering the swamps of Louisiana. Although couples are the most likely audience to leave great reviews, guests who bring their friends along for the journey also enjoy these tours.

Tours Offered

Located inside the city, the Bayou St. John is one of the oldest neighborhoods of New Orleans. Learn the history of the homes and landmarks, originally settled by Native Americans, and later used for French trading routes.

This is the crowd favorite! Located 40 minutes outside the city, this tour takes you deep into the swamp bayous to see an abundance of wildlife amongst abandoned boat homes.

This tour is popular for its serene setting, and instagram-worthy photo opportunities. You’ll weave through cypress trees and experience wildlife on this wetlands kayaking trip.

Never Kayaked?

No problem! The extent of physical skill needed is the ability to paddle; and a lesson is provided at the beginning of the tour. The company provides all of the necessary equipment for your trip, but since you will be on the water for 2 to 2 ½ hours, you will want to be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and maybe even a hat for shade on the water.

Price

Without Transportation: $65

With Transportation (for Honey Island and Manchac only): $85

Duration

Tours last 2 to 2 ½ hours

Transportation adds 40 minutes each way outside New Orleans via car/shuttle for Honey Island Swamp and Manchac Mystic tours.

 


KAYAK-ITI-YAT TOURS

Tours Offered

The categories (beginner, intermediate & intermediate to advanced) are based on distance, necessary level of athleticism and exposure to variables/natural elements. None of the tours require previous kayaking experience.

There are no shuttle transportation costs as all of their tours launch from the city and are reachable by public transportation, bike or a cheap cab ride.

Best for first-timers and non-athletic travelers. This two hour tour of Bayou St. John is a great way to see the neighborhood and see some wildlife in a relaxed atmosphere. This is a history-based tours with culture, current events, ecology, and all things relevant to Bayou St. John, its surrounding neighborhoods, and New Orleans.

Looking for something more active? Check out this four hour lake tour that runs the length of Bayou St. John and back! Bonus, you’ll exit the kayak to stretch and walk over to Pontchartrain Lake, and maybe even take a quick swim! Like the Big Easy Bayou above, expect to learn about the history and culture of the area.

Three hours of exploring the Bienvenue Bayou, seeing first hand the efforts made to save this ecosystem, while still seeing the skyline of New Orleans in the distance.

Never Kayaked? The Big Easy Bayou is your best option with this company, and the only one recommended for beginners. Looking for more options? Consider looking at New Orleans Kayak Tours (above) for more newcomer-friendly trips.

Before you book…WARNING: There is NO exiting these tours halfway through and the Bayou Bienvenue 3 hour tour has no bathroom breaks. Be sure you are committed before you buy your tickets. This tour company is featured in several top travel recommendations for New Orleans, and explorers wishing to see more than Bourbon Street have given it rave reviews!

 


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