“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

No Viking Cruises on the Mississippi

When we heard that Viking was planning to start longship cruises on the Mississippi River, we were really excited. Viking river cruises are some of our favorite European travel memories. The idea of cruising up the Mississippi from New Orleans pushed all the right buttons.

Alas, it is not to be. Viking, a Switzerland-based company, has announced the termination of its plans. They’d still like to do it. The ports of call along the Mississippi would like to see it. And those communities would like to get those extra tourist dollars. But Congress said no — in 1886!

That’s when the Passenger Vessel Services Act was passed. The federal law requires that any ship carrying passengers between ports in the United States must have been built in the United States and be owned and operated by Americans. It’s similar to the Jones Act of 1920 that requires all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried on U.S.-flag ships, constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed by U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The Jones Act hampered relief efforts after Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria and drives up the cost of living in Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Alaska, and Guam.

These laws were passed to protect the U.S. shipbuilding and shipping industries and might once have helped in that regard. But today they are just a hindrance. America doesn’t build cruise ships anymore. In fact, they build very few commercial sea-going vessels at all. There’s been a 47% decline in the existing U.S. cargo shipping fleet in this century.

With the demise of Viking’s plans, states and cities along the Mississippi will see no new tourists or tourist money or tourism jobs and businesses.

And we won’t get to take that Viking cruise along the Mississippi River.