Viking Cruises' Mississippi River Plans Spur Competition

ST. PAUL, MN (AP) — Viking Cruises' plan to launch service on the Mississippi River is generating some civic competition.

         The Red Wing Port Authority will spend $5 million to build dedicated dock space for a cruise ship. St. Paul officials are exploring ways to accommodate up to 60 cruises a year.

         And the mayor of Stillwater planned to talk with Viking officials Friday about putting a stop in his St. Croix River port city.

         A cruise ship could easily dock on the levee in downtown Stillwater where visitors could visit the shops and restaurants, Mayor Ted Kozlowski told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

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

         The European cruise company plans to spend $1 billion on luxury boats tailored to the Mississippi River, which would travel from a dock near the French Quarter in New Orleans to Minnesota. The cruises are expected to begin by late 2017, and Viking and has been in discussions with St. Paul city officials about dock space.

         Red Wing is set to start the redo of its riverfront this spring, according to Randy Olson, executive director of the port authority.

         "We are working with Viking officials to implement excursions (that would) include tours of historic Red Wing, Red Wing Pottery, local wineries and eagle destination sites," Olson said in an email.

         Kristin Montag, a spokeswoman for Minneapolis' convention and visitors association, said the boats likely wouldn't be able to get to Minneapolis because of the lock and dam system. But she said the association hopes cruise passengers might spend time in the city.

         River cruises have recently grown in popularity and use smaller vessels than ocean cruises to navigate narrow waterways. Boats planned for the Viking trips would carry up to 300 passengers.

         Viking plans to announce more details about Mississippi River trip itineraries later this year.

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