Cruise ship passengers cut trip to St. Paul short due to low water levels

Near record low water levels on the Mississippi in recent weeks that have backed up river traffic and grounded barges have now stranded a cruise ship on its way to St. Paul, Minnesota.

The Viking Mississippi was scheduled to travel from New Orleans, Louisiana to St. Paul, Minnesota but after several days of delays, the ship only made it as far as Mississippi due to low water levels.

Thomas Berner and his wife were on board, describing long delays as river traffic backed up ahead of the cruise ship. At one point, he said they waited twelve hours after they were told a barge was grounded upriver from them.

"As we were chugging away on the way to Memphis, word came down that the trip had been cancelled," recalled Berner.

Berner said passengers were given the option to ride the ship back to Louisiana or get off at a small port in Mississippi.

"We were ordered by the US Coast Guard to go to the nearest place we could dock which was a non-descript boat ramp in a place called Terrene Landing in Mississippi," he said. "There was nothing around - a little park, a couple of fishing cabins - that was it."

All passengers were promised full refunds, as well as 25 percent off their next Viking Cruise.

In a statement, Viking Cruise Lines said: "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 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working to deepen the shipping canal in some sections, but the closures have caused delays that will prevent the Viking Mississippi from completing the sailing underway and from reaching St. Paul for her next scheduled departure on October 15."