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New Orleans Riverboat Cruises

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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. 


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.

If you are considering purchasing tourist discount packages, keep in mind that some of these cruises are included at no additional cost in several New Orleans tourist attraction discount passes

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 cruises to choose from.

We narrowed down our favorites and compiled a list that describes each trip based on experience type, ticket price, and duration.


The Natchez Steamboat is the ninth boat with the name. The current boat boasts modern safety mechanisms within a classic, exquisite oak exterior.

Steamboat Natchez Historical Cruise

Take part in her adventure with daily two-hour jazz cruises, including a daytime cruise or an evening cruise. You can cruise with or without lunch or dinner.

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. 

This company has received better than 4 out of 5-stars average rating on TripAdvisor and Get Your Guide (read the reviews). 

NOTE: As of August 2021, the Steamboat Natchez has been taken out of service to be refurbished. In its stead, Riverboat City of New Orleans will be used. 


This is the newest addition to the New Orleans Steamboat Company, and it will be taking over for the Steamboat Natchez while that vessel is under repair.

Just like the Steamboat Natchez, this boat is also a paddlewheeler, so functionally, very little will change.



The Riverboat City of New Orleans will be operating all the sightseeing, lunch, brunch, and dinner Jazz cruises for the New Orleans Steamboat Company for the time being.

Rest assured that even aboard this new vessel there is plenty of room across its multiple decks to accommodate plenty of guests and fill in for its sister boat.


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.

This vessel's review profile is a tad lower than its competitor but still good with an overall average rating of 4 out of 5-stars on TripAdvisor and Get Your Guide (read the reviews).



There are basically two different cruises to choose from, one from each company.  

The main differences seem to be that the Creole Queen includes a stop at Chalmette Battlefield at the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.

It is also included at no extra charge with the purchase of either the New Orleans Sightseeing Pass and the New Orleans Power Pass.

The Steamboat Natchez offers jazz music on the lunch cruise during the high season. 

Steamboat Natchez Harbor Jazz Cruise 

An overwhelming majority of reviews for this jazz cruise are very positive (read the reviews).

Steamboat Natchez Historical Cruise

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

What You’ll Experience:

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

Duration: 3 hours total, 2-hour cruise

  • Departs at 11:30 am and 2:30 am


Cancel up to 24 hours in advance for a full refund.


Creole QueenHistorical River Cruise

This vessel has a daytime destination, Chalmette Battlefield at the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.

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

This vessel's review profile is a tad lower than its competitor but still good with an overall average rating of 4 out of 5-stars on TripAdvisor and Get Your Guide (read the reviews).

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.


Lunch is only purchasable onboard.

Cancel up to 24 hours in advance for a full refund.

TIP: It is also included at no extra charge with the purchase of either the New Orleans Sightseeing Pass and the New Orleans Power Pass.


Evening Jazz Cruises with Optional Dinner

Below is a brief comparison of the two paddlewheel boats that cruise the Mississippi River every evening. 

For a more in-depth look, including what's on the menu, read our post on NOLA dinner cruises

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 not everyone was thrilled with the food selection (read the reviews). 

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.


Included free with the New Orleans Sightseeing Pass (dinner is extra).

Cancel up to 24 hours in advance for a full refund.


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 (read the reviews).

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 (includes dinner):

  • $84 - Adult 
  • $40 - Child (6-12) 
  • $15 - Child under 5

Get more information or to book

Cancel up to 24 hours in advance for a full refund.



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 out of 5 stars rating on TripAdvisor. 

There are a few negative reviews, but most of them seem to come from customers who were expecting the typical tourist experience.

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.

Cost (cash only):

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


  • Sunday - Thursday | 6:15 am - 8:45 pm
  • Friday - Saturday | 6:15 am - 10:45 pm

Get more details on their website.


Combination Packages

As we have stated above, the New Orleans Power Pass and the Sightseeing Pass, are all-inclusive tourist attraction passes, include 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 a guided history of the region


  • Adult $78 
  • Child (6-12) $30
  • Child (5 and under) Free 
  • You save $7-$11/adult by purchasing together.  You don't appear to save anything for a child ages 6-12.

Get more information and purchase tickets.


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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 out 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 in 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.


  • Bayou St. John Tour  $49 per person
  • Honey Island Tour  $59 per person without transportation
  • Manchac Mystic Tour - $59 per person without transportation
  • Extra $20 for transportation from French Quarter only for Honey Island and Manchac Mystic Tours


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.

NOTE: As of August 2021, some of these tours appear to be unavailable due to the pandemic.



Tours Offered

The categories (beginner, intermediate & intermediate to advanced) are based on distance, the 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 tour 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.

Never Kayaked?

The Big Easy Bayou is your best option for 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!



About The Author


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!
Updated: October 12th, 2021
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