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Viking cruise ship can’t finish voyage because Mississippi River is too low

(CNN) — A Viking river cruise ship heading north up the Mississippi River can’t finish its voyage because of low water levels, according to a statement from the company on Thursday.

“Unusually low water levels along the Mississippi River have caused sections of the river to be closed, impacting all northbound and southbound shipping traffic,” the statement said.

“The closures have caused delays that will prevent the Viking Mississippi from completing the sailing underway and from reaching St. Paul [Minnesota] for her next scheduled departure on October 15,” the statement said.

The cruise line said guests have been notified of the issue, though they did not provide details on how many passengers have been affected.

The Viking Mississippi can hold up to 386 guests and was built in 2022, according to the company’s website. Viking was advertising a 15-day trip in October from St. Paul to New Orleans starting at $12,999.

Mississippi River caught in growing drought

The ship isn’t the only one facing problems on the United States’ premier river.

Amid drought conditions, low water levels along the Mississippi have forced several barges to run aground over the past week, the US Coast Guard said Tuesday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration maintains a drought information website. Its most current report said almost 53% of the lower 48 US states are in a drought. Much of the West is in some state of drought.

Drought and abnormal dryness “continue to develop and intensify from the Plains through the Mississippi River Basin, and have now extended further into the Midwest and Southeast. Low water levels are impacting barge traffic on the Mississippi River during the harvest, a crucial time,” NOAA’s site said.

CNN Weather forecasts on Thursday evening don’t point to much relief in sight either: No rain is expected in key river cities such as Minneapolis, St. Louis and Memphis.
Extreme weather has taken lives and messed up travel plans across the United State this summer and fall: Wildfires threatened Yosemite National Park; flash flooding crippled normally bone-dry Death Valley National Park; and Hurricane Ian impacted tourist sites in hard-hit Florida and the Carolinas.

Replay of Europe’s summer?

The Mississippi River situation has played out in other parts of the world this year.

The Rhine River is one of Europe’s most crucial trade routes — and a wildly popular cruise itinerary replete with fairytale castles and stunning views. Those cruises took a hit.

Some river cruise ships were able to lighten the load and carry on. Others had to change itineraries while some river ships had to cancel voyages altogether.

And now those same decisions are being revisited on America’s mightiest river.

Top image: The Viking Mississippi cruise ship docks in Dubuque, Iowa, on September 6, 2022, when the river was still passable for the ship. (Dave Kettering/Telegraph Herald via AP)

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