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The Viking Mississippi cruise ship has made its first appearances in St. Paul, docking at Lambert's Landing in Lowertown for voyages along the Great River. It's the most high-end modern cruise ship to appear on the Upper Mississippi to date.

The all-new vessel represents the second theater in the boutique Viking Cruises' 2022 invasion of the Midwest. This summer the cruise line began its ambitious explorations of the Great Lakes, including stops at Duluth, aboard the expedition ship Viking Octantis.

I was lucky to join a new seven-day Viking cruise of the Great Lakes this summer, so Octantis was my point of reference during a press tour of Viking Mississippi on Saturday as passengers boarded for the inaugural 14-day voyage from St. Paul to New Orleans. From the moment I stepped onboard, the ship felt familiar, with Scandinavian design flourishes, layout and features carried over from the Viking fleet.

But Viking Mississippi is a completely different kind of cruiser. Whereas Octantis is a seafaring, Arctic-class expedition vessel, Mississippi looks and feels like a riverboat, paying tribute to classic river cruisers of yore — although there's no smokestack or paddle wheel on this diesel-electric vessel. Viking Mississippi hosts the exact same number of passengers as Octantis (368), but it's a whole 32% shorter at 450 feet. The difference is mostly explained by the absence of the scientific equipment and facilities — there are no submarines or Zodiac boats for the river journey.

In the place of science and adventure, Mississippi's design puts the emphasis on relaxation, broad river views, socializing, and most of all, music. For a ship that will frequent New Orleans, Memphis, St. Louis and, yes, Minnesota, Viking has rightly decided to pay tribute to the sounds of the American interior.

Moving into the first deck's Living Room communal space, the centerpiece of the room is a vintage-style record player that guests can use, with vintage vinyl by Little Richard, Louis Armstrong and Dolly Parton on display.

A nearby grand piano and drum kit looked ready for live jazz. Woodwork in the walls and ceilings alludes to guitar strings. And whereas the sprawling book collection on Octantis was curated to themes of exploration and discovery, the books on Viking Mississippi are all about music (I browsed titles on Prince, Dylan and again, Dolly).

Dining spaces range from the Restaurant, a more formal room with light fixtures resembling indigenous canoes, to the full-service buffet of the River Cafe, which will focus on American cuisine, including special menus for the various ports of call.

Another Viking standard is the Norwegian dessert nook Mamsen's, named for Viking CEO Torstein Hagen's mother.

In the indoor and outdoor dining spaces, I noticed another big difference from Octantis: a preponderance of four-person tables instead of two-tops. This speaks to the river cruise's emphasis on onboard socializing vs. offboard adventuring. Viking well knows that traditional cruise passengers are likely willing to meet and mingle. (In keeping with the rest of Viking's fleet, though, there is no casino on this riverboat.)

The tour did not include any of the 193 staterooms, which were being changed over. But I noticed that the ship resembled a modern low-rise condo building from shore — thanks mostly to the three-and-a-half decks of sliding glass doors opening onto private outdoor verandas.

There are no portholes here, and as with Octantis, the 75-foot-wide Mississippi offers no windowless staterooms.

I was disappointed that the full-service Nordic spa from Octantis does not carry over to Mississippi, but there's one killer feature worth packing a swimsuit for: an infinity plunge pool that stretches the full width of the stern on the fifth-deck Sun Terrace.

Viking's 15-day grand tour of "America's Great River" from St. Paul to New Orleans (or vice versa) starts at $12,999 and is largely sold out through 2024. A better value might be the 8-day "America's Heartland" tour between St. Paul and St. Louis (arguably the more scenic part of the river), available next year from $4,449.

For many people, it may be more about the journey than the destination. As new passengers (including a couple from Australia) boarded the ship Saturday, journalists overheard one man in the elevator who insisted the cruise would be ending in St. Louis. The gentleman might be surprised on Oct. 1 when his ship pulls into the Big Easy.