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Which New Orleans Dinner Cruise is Best?

Updated: February 5, 2024

This post covers the New Orleans riverboat dinner buffet and jazz cruises.

We include tickets, ways to save, menu items, music, reviews, and information about various lunch cruises.

Disclosure: While our recommendations are always unbiased, we may receive a small share of sales through some of the links below at no cost to you. See the full text.


There are two main companies in New Orleans that offer cruise services on the Mississippi River: The Steamboat Natchez and the Paddlewheeler Creole Queen.

Each riverboat provides a dinner buffet-style cruise, lunch cruise, and other services.

At least one of these cruise companies offers cheaper tickets or even free admission through various attraction tourist passes available in the city.

If you’re looking to save money on dinner cruises, lunch cruises, and more, make sure to check our post about New Orleans tourist passes for the best deals. 

You do not need to purchase a dinner (or a lunch) to board these vessels.

Alternatively, you can also just buy a small snack on the ship or bring your own snacks onboard.

If you’re much more interested in either a boat tour or a jazz cruise, you can find more details about these less expensive options on our post covering New Orleans Riverboat Cruises.

Taking a riverboat dinner cruise is one of our top 10 things to do at night in NOLA.

What do you wear on a dinner cruise in New Orleans?

On a casual buffet-style dinner cruise, you may dress formally in evening gowns, jewelry, heels, or black suits.

It's recommended not to wear tops, swimwear, or skirts.

What do you wear on a riverboat lunch cruise?

For a riverboat lunch casual dressing is appropriate. You can wear short T-shirts, tops, sneakers, or scandals.

Bright dresses blouses, skirts, and hats go well with a riverboat with a jazz band.


This section will give a detailed breakdown of the buffet-style dinner cruises offered by Steamboat Natchez (directly below) and the Paddlewheeler Creole Queen.

The Steamboat Natchez

Take a memorable trip down the Mighty Mississippi River while a live jazz band performs onboard.

The Steamboat Natchez is associated with GrayLine Tours. This company offers at least two dinner cruises per night as well as a lunch cruise.

Steamboat Natchez Evening Jazz Cruise

Dinner Menu

  • Ticket without dinner:
    • $55/Adults | $27.50/Kids (6-12) | Free/Kids (2-5)
  • Ticket with dinner:
    • $102.50/Adults | $51.00/Kids (6-12) | $25.25/Kids (2-5)

  • Availability: Monday-Sunday
  • Boarding Time: 6:00 pm
  • Seating Times: 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm (2 seatings on 1 boat)
  • Cruising: 2 hours
  • Ticket upgrades can be made
  • Purchase tickets or learn more.
  • Natchez Tossed Salad
  • Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
  • Baked Chicken
  • Bayou Seafood Pasta
  • Creole Vegetarian Jambalaya
  • Herb-Garlic Fingerling Potatoes
  • Green Beans Almondine
  • Paddlewheel Primavera
  • White Chocolate Bread Pudding
  • Bananas Foster
  • Dinner Rolls
  • Coffee and Iced Tea

TIP: Sometimes this cruise is available at a savings.

Steamboat Natchez Dinner Menu

If you want to learn more about food in New Orleans, check out our list of the 13 must-eat foods of New Orleans and our pay-what-you-like food tour.

The Steamboat Natchez cannot currently accommodate requests for gluten-free or Kosher meals.

Most of their food also has some form of dairy in it – whether that be cheese, butter or milk – so vegan customers might have some trouble finding something they are comfortable eating on the menu.

Because of this, the Steamboat Natchez allows passengers to bring their own snacks aboard. 

Otherwise, vegetarians might want to stick to the Natchez Tossed Salad and the Green Beans Almondine. 

Steamboat Natchez Evening Jazz Cruise Reviews

Overall ratings for this excursion are pretty good. The majority of guests enjoyed their dining and 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 positive review.

All cruises begin and end at the Gray Line “Lighthouse” ticket office at 400 Toulouse St. and the Mighty Mississippi River (at the Steamboat Natchez Dock), just one block from Jackson Square in the French Quarter.

There is no changing room.

The Paddlewheeler Creole Queen

This company also provides a buffet-style dinner cruise with live jazz music.

Ticket prices are a bit more affordable across the board and this cruise is about as long as the service offered by their competitor.

To top it all off, the Creole Queen is included for free or for less money with most New Orleans tourist passes.

Creole Queen Dinner Jazz Cruise

Dinner Menu

  • Ticket without dinner:
    • $55/Adults | $26/Kids (6-12) | Free/Kids (3-5)
  • Ticket with dinner:
    • $95/Adults | $40/Kids (6-12) | $15/Kids (3-5)

  • Cajun Caesar Salad (D,W,S,E)
  • Chicken & Andouille Sausage Gumbo (D,S,W)
  • Fish of the Day (F)
  • Louisiana Creole Jambalaya (S,W,D)
  • Cajun Baked Chicken (W,D)
  • Beef Brisket
  • Garlic Mashed Potatoes (D)
  • Cajun Seafood Pasta (D,S,W,F)
  • Red Beans & Rice (S)
  • Fresh Roasted Vegetables
  • Paddlewheeler White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce (D,E,S,W)

TIP: The Creole Queen is included for free or at savings with most NOLA tourist passes.

Allergens: Diary(D), Wheat (W), Soy (S), Eggs (E), Fish/Shellfish (F)

Most of the food included on this menu are not gluten-free, vegan, or vegetarian.

If you are a vegetarian, you may want to stick with the fresh roasted vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes..

All three options may include some form of dairy such as butter, cheese, or milk.

If you want to learn more about dining in this city, check out our list of the 13 must-eat foods of New Orleans and our pay-what-you-like food tour.

Creole Queen Reviews

The evening cruise offered by this company is also highly rated. There are a few negative reviews, but positive comments overshadow them.

Several reviewers felt that the music was wonderful. Quite a few guests were also happy with the food quality, indicating that their dining was very tasty.

Couples were far more likely than any other group to enjoy their trip.

Creole Queen Age

Creole Queen was built in 1983 by Halter Marine at Moss Point. She was consecrated in September 1983. 2024 makes her 41.


The following section will focus on New Orleans lunch cruises from the Steamboat Natchez (directly below) and the Paddlewheeler Creole Queen.

We will also provide details about a brunch cruise alternative you may want to consider.

Using a tourist pass, you can save money on at least one of these activities.

The Steamboat Natchez

In addition to its dinner cruise, this company also offers a Daytime Jazz Cruize.

You can either ride along for just the Jazz or purchase the option that adds a buffet-style lunch meal.

Traveling along the Mississippi River, a tour guide will provide several historical facts about NOLA.

In addition to this daily option, you might also want to consider their Sunday Jazz Brunch Cruise.

Steamboat Natchez Daytime Jazz Cruise

Lunch Menu

  • Ticket without lunch:
    • $42/Adults | $20/Kids (6-12) | Free/Kids (2-5)
  • Ticket with lunch:
    • $60/Adults | $30/Kids (6-12) | $14.00/Kids (2-5)

  • Availability: Monday - Saturday
  • Boarding Time - Morning: 11:00 pm
  • Seating Times Lunch - Morning: 11:00 am & 12:15 pm
  • Board Time - Afternoon: 2:00 pm
  • Seating Times Lunch - Afternoon: 2:00 & 3:15
  • Cruising: 2 hours
  • Purchase tickets or learn more.
  • Southern Fried Fish
  • Red Beans & Rice
  • Jambalaya
  • Salad Du Jour
  • White Chocolate Bread Pudding
  • Coffee and Iced Tea

Steamboat Natchez Sunday Jazz Cruise

Brunch Menu

  • Ticket without lunch:
    • $42/Adults | $20/Kids (6-12) | Free/Kids (2-5)
  • Ticket with lunch:
    • $75/Adults | $37.50/Kids (6-12) | $21.50/Kids

  • Natchez Tossed Salad
  • Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
  • Grillades and Grits
  • Crescent City Eggs
  • Pain Perdo
  • Turkey Sausage
  • O'Brien Potatoes
  • Creole Creamed Spinich
  • Mini Croissants
  • Fruit Salad
  • Bananas Foster
  • White Chocolate Bread Pudding
  • Coffee and Iced Tea

As you can see, there are many more options for Sunday brunch than for lunch.

It’s also worth noting that vegans and vegetarians will have the option of Salad du Jour in the lunch cruise and the Natchez tossed salad on the Sunday brunch cruise.

Sadly, there are no foods specifically made to be gluten-free, most of their food is prepared with dairy products like milk, cheese, and butter.

Steamboat Natchez Jazz Lunch and Jazz Brunch Reviews

Most guests leave excellent feedback stating that they loved this musical trip on the Natchez.

Some reviewers have even described their band as “magnificent,” suggesting that the onboard music was absolutely wonderful.

There are some visitors who don’t enjoy the tour portion of this cruise, but most people don’t have any complaints.

NOTE: There are two different ways to save money on this cruise. For more information, please read the Ways to Save section.

The Paddlewheeler Creole Queen

Much like its competitors, this company also offers a historic cruise with an optional dinner buffet meal.

This trip is available as either a brunch or lunch cruise, with the first departure at 10:00 am.

Although there isn’t any live jazz on this excursion, they do have bottomless mimosas for only $20 during the morning outing.

Paddlewheeler Creole Queen Jazz Brunch

Brunch Menu

  • Ticket without lunch:
    • $42/Adults | $20/Kids (6-12) | Free/Kids (2-5)
  • Ticket with lunch:
    • $75/Adults | $37.50/Kids (6-12) | $21.50/Kids

  • Seasonal Fresh Fruit
  • Homemade Biscuits
  • Chieck and Andouille Gumbo
  • Scrambled Eggs
  • French Toast & Powered Sugar
  • New Orleans Barbecued Shrimps & Creamy Grits
  • Home-Style Potatoes
  • Spinach Madeline
  • Breakfast Sausage
  • Crisp Barcon
  • Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce
  • Coffee and Iced Tea

Although they can’t guarantee any gluten-free meals, vegetarian and vegan diners may find that the vegetable of the day is a perfect option.

Even so, it’s important to note that many of the items prepared for this cruise will be made either with or alongside dairy products such as cheese, milk, and butter.

Paddlewheeler Creole Queen Jazz Brunch Reviews

Most customers very well receive this trip.

Guests loved their experience, describing it as informative and humorous. An overwhelming majority of positive reviews came from couples.

There are a few negative reviews, but an overwhelming majority of guests enjoy this cruise on the Mississippi River.

TIP: This lunch cruise is offered by both the New Orleans Sightseeing Pass and the New Orleans Pass. The dinner buffet is not included, but it can be added on.


Both the Steamboat Natchez and the Creole Queen offer live jazz performances on their cruises.

Each company has at least one house band that will perform onboard throughout the trip. 

Steamboat Natchez

You can expect to hear the performance of Duke Heitger’s Steamboat Stompers during the cruise length.

The members of this band are noted for their work on various movie soundtracks, television shows, and albums.

At night, the Dukes of Dixieland will also play a variety of wonderful jazz music.

Much like the Steamboat Stompers, this band is also noted for their performances on television shows, most notably the hit HBO series Treme.

While boarding, calliope music will also be performed for approximately 15 minutes.

This music can be heard from the docks.

Creole Queen Paddlewheeler

This company only offers live jazz music on their dinner cruises, but they’ve also got a great band on hand.

The Sullivan Dabney Jr. and the Muzik Jazz Band is known for performing all over NOLA during events such as the French Quarter Festival and the Jazz & Heritage Festival.

This group has become something of a local legend, as they can frequently be seen and heard at various locations throughout the city.

One of the best ways to hear their music is simply to take a dinner cruise on the Paddlwwheeler Creole Queen!


If you’re not too concerned about getting something to eat while you’re taking a NOLA cruise, there are several dining options to consider.

First and foremost, it’s important to note that each of the lunch and dinner cruises listed above is also available without a meal.

In fact, at least with the Steamboat Natchez, you can bring your own food onboard or purchase small snacks and sandwiches in lieu of the organized meal.

You can also see the city from the water by taking the Algiers Point Ferry across the Mighty Mississippi River.

Alternatively, there are kayak tours through the swamps of Louisiana where you can get a close look at all of the beautiful wildlife in the area.

For more details on all of these opportunities, make sure to read our post about New Orleans Riverboats, Paddleboats and Cruises.

Swamp Tours

If you’re interested in seeing the swamps of Louisiana, there are a few different types of boat tours to consider.

The typical swamp boat tour will take you on a leisurely trip through the swamplands, but there are also airboat tours that are much faster and more exciting. 

To learn more about all of these services, read our post about New Orleans Swamp Tours.


If you’re looking for a great deal on tickets for either the Steamboat Natchez or the Creole Queen, there are a few options to consider.

In this section, we will provide all the information you need to save money on this activity.

Creole Queen Paddlewheeler

Both their Historic River Cruise and the Dinner Jazz Cruise are included for free with the New Orleans Sightseeing Pass.

You can also take the Historic River Cruise with the New Orleans Pass.

Unfortunately, the tickets offered with these services are only for admission onto the boat and they do not include either lunch or dinner buffet.

Other Ways to Save

If you’re looking for another way to save money on a New Orleans dinner cruise, make sure to check both Living Social and Groupon.

As of the time of this post, each service offers cheaper tickets to both the Creole Queen Paddlewheeler and the Steamboat Natchez.

While other savings and tourist passes are only good for admission, you can actually save money on full dinner/lunch/brunch cruises with either of these services.


While we've done our best to provide all the information you'll need to decide which riverboat cruise you'd like to take, you might have specific questions of your own you need help with.

Thankfully, our New Orleans Travel Tips group on Facebook is the perfect place to look for those answers. With more than 40,000 members, there's always someone willing to provide help.

Here are a few examples of interesting and helpful tips provided by members of our group:

  1. This reader wanted to know if there were jazz tours with no need to pay for dinner. There are, and we've talked about them above. Here's what others had to say.

2. This member sent in some general tips for visiting New Orleans. She enjoyed the evening riverboat cruise she went on. Note that if you want to do a walking tour, you can find one here.

3. This reader was looking for some family-friendly places to visit in New Orleans. This post is quite long and has a number of suggestions of things to do. Here are just a few of them:

For even more information about dinner cruises, or about anything at all in the New Orleans area, please feel free to ask for advice on the Free Tours By Foot New Orleans Travel Tips Facebook page.

We hope you enjoy your visit!


About The Author

Sarah Hester

Sarah first moved to New Orleans in 2001 to work for the American Red Cross of Southeast Louisiana. While working in the communities of New Orleans she fell in love with the unique culture of the Big Easy; it's food, music, architecture, wildlife, and most of all history. Read More... Sarah began her career with FTBF, first as a guide, then as an owner/operator. She believes every day is a good day if she gets to impart her love of her beloved New Orleans with Free Tours By Foot guests. She especially likes to convert new Who Dat Saints Fans!
Updated: February 5th, 2024
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