River towns move full steam ahead with efforts to be ports for Viking cruises


River cruise boats carrying hundreds of well-heeled tourists. It should come as no surprise that Minnesota river cities up and down the Mississippi would like for those boats to dock at their ports.

The Pioneer Press reports that St. Paul, Stillwater and Red Wing are all trying to get into the act now that Viking announced plans to launch Mississippi River cruises that will amble up the river from New Orleans to Minnesota starting in 2017.

The cruise giant expects to spend $1 billion on six luxury boats tailored to the Mississippi and is in discussions with the city of St. Paul to secure dedicated dock space.

The Winona Daily News adds that it's possible that ships will dock in La Crosse, Wisconsin, noting city officials there have been approached about that city being a possible stop.

The Red Wing Port Authority said it will spend $5 million to build dedicated dock space.

The mayor of Stillwater told the newspaper he will contact Viking on Friday to make a pitch for the company to stop in his St. Croix River port city.

"Of course, they would have to come to Stillwater; it's the most gorgeous part of any river trip," Mayor Ted Kozlowski said.

"Viking has not announced further details about the Mississippi River cruises," Viking spokesman Ian Jeffries said in an email to the Pioneer Press. "The company will be planning its own announcement later in the coming year."

Kristen Montag with Meet Minneapolis told the Pioneer Press a 300-passenger cruise vessel likely could not pass through the lock and dam system into downtown Minneapolis, making St. Paul the end of the line. But she said Meet Minneapolis hopes to establish a working relationship with Viking that might allow visitors to spend a night or two in Minneapolis.

In addition to capturing tourist dollars, the cruise ports will also add jobs. The Associated Press reports Viking's move will produce 416 new jobs in New Orleans, where the boats will dock near the French Quarter. Cruises will head north to Memphis, St. Louis and St. Paul, Minnesota, depending on the season.

Viking plans to construct the six boats at U.S. shipyards over the next three years.

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