BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - You will soon be able to cruise the mighty Mississippi in style. Bienville Street Wharf at Woldenberg Park, near the French Quarter in New Orleans, has been selected to become the primary terminal in the home port for Viking River Cruises.
West Feliciana Parish will be a featured itinerary stop on a new Viking River Cruise.
"This is exciting news and a welcome tourism opportunity for the Parish. It will have a significant economic impact in West Feliciana," said West Feliciana Parish President Kevin Couhig. He added, Viking River Cruises' presence and passengers will enhance tourism in West Feliciana.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said, "We're proud to welcome Viking River Cruises to New Orleans. This investment will not only bring great new jobs to our state, but it will also showcase Louisiana and the Mississippi River to the rest of the world."
Viking's new service will result in the creation of 416 new direct jobs for Louisiana-based operations and vessel crews, with an average salary of $40,000, plus benefits; and Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project will result in an additional 368 new indirect jobs, for a total of more than 780 new jobs in the Southeast Region of the state.
With the launch of cruise operations on the Mississippi River in late 2017, two boats will be deployed per year, for a total of six new boats in the first three years. Cruises will take passengers on a journey along the Mississippi River from New Orleans to itinerary stops in St. James, East Baton Rouge and West Feliciana parishes; continuing upriver to Memphis, Tennessee; St. Louis; or St. Paul, Minnesota, depending on the season.
The specialty-built riverboats will have a full complement of luxury amenities and host up to 300 passengers at approximately one-tenth the size of oceangoing cruise vessels. Viking's cruises are renowned for their locally oriented educational and entertainment programs.
In West Feliciana, a site must be selected and prepared as an additional point of embarkation. The increase in current riverboat traffic, once Viking comes online, will require multiple locations with shore access.
West Feliciana Parish President Kevin Couhig said, "Efforts to secure a destination property have been underway for some time. However, the real work is just beginning. The ships must have a place to access the shore" He added, "A standard of excellence is the expectation of Viking River Cruises and their passengers. West Feliciana has all the qualities required to deliver that. However, we must work together."
Couhig shared that the Parish will need to purchase property suitable for use as a port, a transaction that will require an ordinance from the Council. He emphasized, "Currently disputed land is not on the table."
According to Couhig, "It would be difficult to overstate the potential opportunities and positive impact that this world-class company offers West Feliciana and [we] need to be ready. It's time to get down to business."