Which New Orleans Dinner Cruise is Best?

This post covers New Orleans riverboat dinner cruises, including tickets, discounts, menus, music, reviews, as well as 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 Creole Queen Paddlewheeler.

As of 2021, the Steamboat Natchez is out of service for refurbishment and has been replaced by its sister boat, the Riverboat City of New Orleans.

Even when the Steamboat Natchez returns, there’s a good chance that the new Riverboat City of New Orleans will still be used for some cruises. 

Each riverboat provides both a sunset dinner cruise and a lunch cruise in addition to several other services.Mississippi River Cruise

At least one of these cruise companies offers discounts or even free admission through various attraction discount 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 New Orleans.

NOTE: As of September 2021, all Riverboat Cruises in New Orleans will require you to provide proof of vaccination before receiving your boarding pass. 


In this section, we will give you a detailed breakdown of the dinner cruises offered by Steamboat Natchez (directly below) and the Creole Queen Paddlewheeler.

The Steamboat Natchez

Take a memorable trip down the 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.

NOTE: Don’t forget that as of 2021, the Steamboat Natchez has been temporarily replaced by the Riverboat City of New Orleans.


This photo of Steamboat Natchez is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Dinner Jazz Cruise Tickets

  • Tickets: $87/Adults | $40/Kids (6-12) | $19.25/Kids (2-6)
  • Availability: Nightly at 6 pm (20:00) or 7:45 pm (21:45)
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Purchase tickets or learn more.
  • This cruise will return to service on September 24th, 2021

TIP: Sometimes this cruise is available at a discount.

Steamboat Natchez Dinner Menu

  • Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
  • Natchez Tossed Salad
  • Bayou Seafood Pasta
  • Creole Creamed Spinach
  • Green Beans Almondine
  • Paddlewheel Primavera
  • Steamboat Round
  • Pork Loin
  • Bananas Foster
  • White Chocolate Bread Pudding


Steamboat Natchez Dinner Menu


If you want to learn more about food in this city, 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 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. 

Overall ratings for this excursion are quite excellent (read the reviews). The majority of guests enjoyed their meal 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 Toulouse St. and the Mississippi River (at the Steamboat Natchez Dock), just one block from Jackson Square in the French Quarter.

There is no changing room.

The Creole Queen Paddlewheeler

This company also provides a 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 Paddlewheeler is included for free or at a discount with most New Orleans tourist passes and other discounts.


The Creole Queen Riverboat in New Orleans. Image Source: Pixabay user skeeze under CC0 Creative Commons License.


Dinner Jazz Cruise

The Creole Queen Paddlewheeler is included for free or at a discount with most New Orleans tourist passes in addition to other discounts.

Dinner Menu

  • Chicken & Sausage Gumbo
  • Louisiana Creole Jambalaya
  • Cajun Braised Beef Brisket
  • Cajun Seafood Pasta
  • Cajun Baked Chicken
  • Red Beans & Rice
  • Southern Style Green Beans
  • Corn Mac Choux
  • Caesar Salad
  • Bread and Butter & Cornbread
  • White Chocolate Bread Pudding
  • New Orleans Coffee

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


This photo of Creole Queen Mississippi River Cruises is courtesy of TripAdvisor

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

If you are a vegetarian, you may want to stick with meals such as the corn mac choux, the red beans & rice or the southern style green beans.

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

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.

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.


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

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

You can save money on at least one of these activities by using a New Orleans tourist pass.

The Steamboat Natchez

In addition to their dinner cruise, this company also offers a Harbor Jazz Cruise which includes an optional buffet lunch.

As you travel along the Mississippi River, a tour guide will provide several historical facts about New Orleans.

During these lunch cruises, you also have the option of choosing no set lunch. Your alternatives are eating a snack at the Captain’s Salon on the lower deck or to bring your own food aboard.

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

Although the service isn’t much different from their other outings, there are a lot of wonderful meal options available that aren’t available during the dinner or lunch cruise.

Harbor Jazz Cruise

  • Tickets: $50/Adults | $24/Kids (6-12) | $10.50/Kids (2-5)
  • Availability: Daily at 11:30 am & 2:30 pm
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Purchase tickets or learn more.

Lunch Menu

  • Jambalaya
  • Baked Chicken
  • Red Beans & Rice
  • Southern Fried Fish
  • Natchez Tossed Salad
  • La Louisiane Sliced French Bread
  • White Chocolate Bread Pudding

Brunch Menu

  • Waffle Station
  • Fruit Salad
  • Shrimp and Grits
  • Scrambled Eggs
  • Greek Style Yogurt
  • Biscuits and Gravy
  • Turkey Sausage Patties
  • Natchez Tossed Salad
  • Mini Croissants and Biscuits
  • Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
  • Brown Sugar Pineapple Glazed Ham
  • White Chocolate Bread Pudding
  • Bananas Foster

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

It’s also worth noting that vegans and vegetarians will have the option of fruit salad during brunch and the Natchez tossed salad for lunch.

Sadly, there are no foods specifically made to be gluten-free. You may also want to keep in mind that most of their food is prepared with dairy products like milk, cheese, and butter.

Some reviewers have even described their band as “magnificent,” suggesting that the music played onboard was absolutely wonderful. Most guests leave excellent feedback stating that they loved this musical trip on the Natchez.

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 discounts section.

The Creole Queen Paddlewheeler

Much like their competitors, this company also offers a historic cruise during the day with an optional buffet meal.

This trip is available as either a brunch cruise or a lunch cruise, with the first departure taking place 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.

Historic River Cruise

  • Tickets w/ no Buffet: $36/Adults | $15/Kids (6-12)
  • Tickets w/ Buffet: $53/Adults | $24/Kids (6-12)
  • Kids under 5 cruise for free
  • Buffet for kids under 5: $10
  • Availability: Daily at 10 am & 2 pm
  • Duration: 2 ½ hours
  • Purchase tickets or learn more.

Lunch/Brunch Menu

  • Red Beans & Rice
  • Cajun Seafood Pasta
  • Vegetable of the Day
  • Louisiana Creole Jambalaya
  • Chicken & Sausage Gumbo
  • White Chocolate Bread Pudding
  • Caesar Salad
  • Corn Bread

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.

This trip is very well received by most customers. Most 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 buffet is not included, but you can add it for only $20 more.


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

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

The Dukes of Dixieland (Steamboat Natchez) 


Steamboat Natchez

During the daytime cruises, you can expect to hear the performance of Duke Heitger’s Steamboat Stompers.

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



At night, the Dukes of Dixieland (first video above) will 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 daily at 10:45 am, 1:45 pm, and 5:30 pm 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 New Orleans 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 Creole Queen!



If you’re not too concerned about getting something to eat while you’re taking a New Orleans cruise, there are several 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 Mississippi River.

Alternatively, there are kayak tours through the swamps of New Orleans and 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 New Orleans, 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 Paddlewheeler, 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.

If you want to have a meal on board, you’ll have to purchase it separately.
Steamboat Natchez

This company does not currently offer any of their cruises through any tourist pass. However, you can purchase a combo ticket which includes their day cruise and the Super City Bus Tour from Gray Line.

As with the Creole Queen Paddlewheeler, this service will not include a meal.

The combo ticket is only $70 for adults, which means you’ll be paying about $35 for each activity. This is a savings of about $11 for the cruise alone, so it’s a pretty good deal.

If you’re planning to take a bus tour while you’re in New Orleans, we recommend taking advantage of this package.

Read our post about New Orleans tourist passes and combo packages to learn more about this opportunity.

Other Discounts

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 right now, each service offers a discount on both the Creole Queen Paddlewheeler and the Steamboat Natchez.

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



About the author

Manager | New Orleans

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.

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!