Viking River Cruises will begin sailing the Mississippi River in 2015, according to tourism officials for the town of Red Wing, Minn., which they said will be one of the stops on the cruises.

Viking Chairman Tor Hagen has said publicly that the company will eventually sail the Mississippi River, but a spokesman said Tuesday he could not confirm a 2015 launch date.

A news round-up issued this week by the Red Wing Visitors and Convention Bureau said Viking will build a 340-passenger ship to cruise the Mississippi beginning in the fall of 2015 and will start taking reservations in the spring of 2014. The Port of Red Wing, one of the stops, is about 50 miles downriver from Minneapolis.

The five-deck ship announced by Red Wing would be larger than the 190-passenger longships that Viking is building for European rivers. The cruise line has been growing explosively on European rivers, with plans for 10 new longships this year and 14 next year. The company will also launch an ocean cruise line in 2014.

After several years with no regular overnight cruises, the Mississippi River is now sailed by two boats: the new 150-passenger Queen of the Mississippi, launched last fall by American Cruise Lines, and the 436-passenger American Queen, built in 1995 and refurbished by the American Queen Steamboat Co. before it returned to the river in the spring of 2012. Both boats sail the Mississippi from New Orleans to Minneapolis/St. Paul and cruise sections of the Ohio, Cumberland or Tennessee rivers as well.

(c)2013 The Miami Herald. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

Photo Credit: Viking Helvetia River cruise ship crosses the Rhine River. mbell1975 / Flickr