You don’t have to travel far to indulge in a luxury cruise. These companies are ready to whisk you way for an afternoon or evening of fun. Order a drink and take in the scenery from one of these beautiful riverboats, catamarans, or yachts.

Lady Liberty cruises include three-course meals and entertainment, with a maximum of 41 guests to ensure an intimate experience.
Photo courtesy of Big Cedar Lodge

Missouri is blessed with two of the nation’s greatest rivers and thousands of miles of lake coastline—plenty of places to enjoy the allure of open water under a brilliant blue sky. We’ve gathered a short list of river and lake excursions that will float your boat. Get ready to feel the gentle sway of a vessel amidst the soothing sound of waves. Just bring sunscreen. 

The Spirit of America, Table Rock Lake 

The word “catamaran” sounds breezy and playful, and that’s exactly how Capt. Matt Lee hopes you’ll feel aboard the Spirit of America catamaran, anchored at the State Park Marina at Table Rock Lake. 

“To my knowledge, we are the only boat on the lake taking customers out on the lake to swim and play on our inflatable toys,” says Capt. Matt, now in his ninth season of sailing the Spirit

In Branson, the Spirit of America catamaran takes visiors on sunset cruises or to swim and play at an inflatable station during daytime. Photo courtesy of Spirit of America

At 48 feet in length, the Spirit has both shaded and open-air seating. The catamaran also has netting that can suspend you over the water, Capt. Matt notes. The Spirit can hold up to 49 passengers and has been operating on Table Rock Lake since 1995. 

On the two-hour Sail & Swim Cruise, the vessel glides across the lake to a safe cove. Guests don provided life jackets for the opportunity to swim in the lake, use the 16-foot inflatable slide, jump on the 20-foot trampoline, or try out the paddleboards. After about 70 minutes, guests are taken back to the marina. 

On the 90-minute Sunset Cruise, “We often cruise toward Table Rock Dam and the US Army Corps of Engineer’s Dewey Short Visitor Center,” says Capt. Matt. “At sunset, we turn into the wind and toast the sun as it disappears below the Ozark hills.” 

Bottled water is provided on all tours, but no food or drink is sold. Visitors are welcome to bring their own provisions, including beer and wine for guests 21 and older. The Spirit sets sail each summer, starting the Saturday before Memorial Day and operating through Labor Day. Private charters are available through September depending on the captain’s availability. 

Spirit of America Catamaran
380 State Park Marina Road, Branson StatePark
StateParkMarina.com/services/catamaran-cruise

888-993-2628 

Lady Liberty, Table Rock Lake

The 2024 season marks the tenth year Lady Liberty has plied the waters of Table Rock Lake, but the yacht has a much longer history. Originally designed and commissioned for the Manhattan Steamboat Company after the September 11, 2001, attacks, the family-owned vessel offered cruises around the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. 

Lady Liberty cruises include three-course meals and entertainment.
Photo courtesy of Big Cedar Lodge

In 2012, Bass Pro Shops and Big Cedar Lodge founder Johnny Morris purchased the boat, moved her to the Ozarks, and had her refurbished, removing the carpet and installing teak wood flooring. Renaming her Lady Liberty in honor of her previous service, the 62-foot luxury yacht has a main cabin, a unique fantail veranda, and a spacious open-air upper deck.

Departing from Bass Pro Shops’ Long Creek Marina, the Lady Liberty season typically begins in April and runs through the fall, says Madison Horner from Big Cedar Lodge. Guests can select from day cruises or brunch, dinner, and fall foliage cruises, plus firework cruises for summer holiday weekends. Private charters are also available, and you do not have to be a guest of the lodge to reserve a cruise. 

“There are two cruise routes, and each route is typically an hour and a half,” says Madison. “The captain entertains guests with interesting facts, points of interest, and opportunities to spot local wildlife, including Table Rock’s famous mountain goat named Crisco.” Each cruise includes a three-course meal and live entertainment, says Madison. 

“A maximum of 41 guests ensures an intimate and relaxing atmosphere. “We are proud to celebrate 10 years of luxury yachting on Table Rock, and we hope guests from all over can set sail on this unforgettable experience.” 

Lady Liberty
1368 Long Creek Road, Ridgedale
BigCedar.com/dining/lady-liberty-dinner-cruise
800-225-6343 

Celebration Cruises, Lake of the Ozarks

Celebration Cruises features the largest cruise ships on the Lake of the Ozarks and offers a wide variety of excursions, according to cruise director Michelle Newton. 

From its dock near Bagnell Dam, the company offers cruises for sightseeing and sunset viewing, lunch or dinner, and even a lake bar-hopper excursion on weekends. 

The sunset cruise with Celebration Cruises is one of the most popular at Lake of the Ozarks.
Photo courtesy of Drone’s Eye Aerial Services

On the daily sightseeing excursion, guests enjoy an hour and-a-half jaunt on the lake with a narration of the lake’s history. Lunch is optional. 

Of the regularly scheduled offerings, the evening sunset cruise is one of the most popular. “The sun setting over Lake of the Ozarks is absolutely stunning,” says Michelle. On the sunset cruise, guests can order a plated dinner served in the main salon. Celebration Cruises also offers a full-service bar. 

Popular specialty tours include the fireworks cruise, Christmas on the Lake cruise, and New Year’s Eve cruise complete with fireworks.

“On the Christmas on the Lake cruise, guests travel on our decorated boat for views of the beautifully decorated homes and docks,” says Michelle. “It’s a fundraiser for local charities that raises many thousands of dollars.”

Bartenders Jane Krueze and Nancy Cornett greet passengers on the Celebration.
Photo courtesy of Celebration Cruises

The two-story Celebration can carry 149 passengers. The vessel offers outside seating and inside seating in climate-controlled cabins. “That’s how we are able to run so long in the year, because we are climate controlled,” says Michelle, noting the Celebration’s season runs from April through December 31. 

Michelle says the company also owns Tropic Island Cruises, which features a motor yacht sundown cruise from Margaritaville Resort in Osage Beach. All vessels are also available for private charters. 

No matter which location or excursion is chosen, Michelle says guests will be wowed by the service. “We are told all the time that people are made to feel like they are the only ones onboard,” she says. “Being out on the water is the ultimate lake experience.” 

Celebration Cruises
1009 Bagnell Dam Boulevard, Lake Ozark
CruiseLakeOfTheOzarks.com
573-480-3212 

Mark Twain Riverboat, Hannibal

Aboard the Mark Twain riverboat moored in Hannibal, you’ll see some of the same Mississippi River sights that inspired Samuel L. Clemens to become a steamboat pilot and then a writer who produced literature still recognized as some of our country’s best. 

a river boat floats on the Mississippi River
Two-hour dinner cruises on the Mississippi River include live entertainment and dancing on a three-level riverboat.
Photo courtesy of Mark Twain Riverboat Co

“We offer sightseeing and dinner cruises on the river made famous by Mark Twain,” says owner and Capt. Steve Terry. He narrates the daily, one-hour sightseeing cruise, providing commentary on the history, legends, and sights of the Mighty Mississippi. “Guests never seem to tire of the narration, which follows the same format each trip, but as it’s ‘live,’ it includes comment on towboats and other things on that particular cruise,” says Capt. Steve. 

Two-hour dinner cruises include live entertainment, dancing, dinner served buffet style, and “most of the time, a beautiful sunset,” says Capt. Steve. Sightseeing cruises are usually limited to 200 passengers, who can view the river from the deck or from the air-conditioned or heated interior cabin. The Mark Twain generally sails from April to the end of October, with its peak season beginning on Memorial Day. 

With over 45 years of experience, Capt. Steve has a lifelong appreciation for the Mississippi River and a deep appreciation for its history and culture. He and his wife, Sandy, purchased the operation in 1997, although he says there have been riverboat excursions in Hannibal for decades. “River cruising gives you the time and space to fully immerse yourself in Mark Twain’s story and the Mississippi River, getting to know the inspiration behind his books,” says Capt. Steve. You’ll feel as if you have stepped back in time onboard the three-level riverboat. 

Mark Twain Riverboat
300 Riverfront Drive, Hannibal
MarkTwainRiverboat.com
573-221-3222 

Miss Augusta, Augusta

Most of us do not ordinarily get to cruise on luxury yachts, but an excursion aboard Miss Augusta allows us to do just that. The 105-foot SkipperLiner yacht docks at the Klondike Park Board Ramp in the wine country of Augusta, and the three-level vessel transports passengers up and down the Missouri River on daily public cruises and monthly specialty cruises. 

The luxury yacht Miss Augusta offers public cruises and private events on the Missouri River.
Photo courtesy of Miss Augusta LLC

Part of the Hoffmann Family of Companies, Miss Augusta first set sail in the area in late 2021. “We are the only luxury yacht that offers river cruises in Missouri,” says Molly Dempsey, events manager for Miss Augusta. The ship features large windows, nautical decor, and rich leather chairs throughout. 

Daytime cruises typically run an hour and a half and include views of the rolling hills and the waterfront along the Missouri River. Both sightseeing and lunch cruises are offered. Molly says the sunset dinner cruise is the most popular offering. “Our in-house chef prepares all the food onboard daily,” she says. “We offer two full service bars featuring wines from the Hoffmann Family Family of Companies’ wineries and a variety of spirits, beer, and soda.” The captain also proves a brief narration of the sights.

On the Miss Augusta, fresh cuisine is prepared onboard daily by an in-house chef.
Photo courtesy of Miss Augusta LLC

Miss Augusta has two climate-controlled, enclosed levels in addition to its open-air sun deck. Specialty cruises have included kid-themed ones, eagle-watching, barbecue and brews, holiday themes, and more. Guests may also rent one level of the boat or charter the entire yacht for an event. 

Miss Augusta
5667 High Street, Augusta
MissAugustaBoat.com
636-466-9754 

Riverboats at the Gateway Arch, St. Louis

The views of an architectural wonder—the Gateway Arch—and St. Louis’s working riverfront are unparalleled from the deck of a replica paddle wheeler cruising the Mississippi River. 

Riverboats at the Gateway Arch offers cruises aboard replica paddle wheelers.
Photo courtesy of Riverboats at the Gateway Arch

“Thanks to a partnership with NPS, our youngest passengers are invited to earn a Junior Ranger badge by completing an activity book where they can learn about river travel, historic St. Louis, invasive species, and more,” says Mary Lamie, Executive Vice President of Multi-Modal Enterprises for Bi-State Development. 

The first Wednesday of the month, the narration highlights freight transportation, and passengers learn about the key assets and opportunities that position the St. Louis region as the Ag Coast of America. Then, on select Thursdays, the MO History Riverfront Takeover Cruise, led by the Missouri History Museum, reveals the fascinating history of the bustling riverfront and the engineering marvel of the Eads bridge. Visitors can save with Tram and Cruise Combo tickets for a ride to the top of the Gateway Arch and the cruise.

An exuberant crew welcomes visitors onboard the Tom Sawyer to cruise the Mississippi River.
Photo courtesy of Riverboats at the Gateway Arch

The two-hour Skyline Dinner Cruise features music, a chef-inspired menu, and nighttime views of the city. Other cruise options are the seasonal Fireworks Cruise, Santa Claus Cruise, New Year’s Eve Cruise, or private charters. Onboard the three-story Tom Sawyer, seating is offered both indoors and outdoors. 

“Return visitors often comment on the unique experience of viewing the St. Louis skyline from the vantage point of the Mississippi River,” says Mary. The riverboat helps keep St. Louis’s rich river heritage alive. 

Riverboats at the Gateway Arch
50 S. Leonor K Sullivan Boulevard, St. Louis
GatewayArch.com/experience/riverboat-cruises/
877-982-1410

More Ways to Get on the Water

Here are six more ways to explore Missouri’s lakes and rivers in craft ranging from canoes to showboats. 

  • Ambiance on the Water, Kansas CityGlide along the Country Club Plaza River Walk in a Venetian-style gondola for an unforgettably romantic view of the Plaza and its majestic fountains.
    AmbianceOnTheWater.com 
  • Big Muddy Adventures, St. Louis
    Experience the middle Mississippi River or the lower Missouri River via a multi person Voyager Canoe. Professional, skilled guides do most of the paddling.
    2Muddy.com 
  • Big Muddy Boat Rides, Columbia
    Learn about the Missouri River on this two-hour interactive experience with the nonprofit Missouri River Relief. 
    RiverRelief.org/specialevents/big-muddy boat-rides 
  • Bonne Terre Mine, Bonne Terre
    The history of mining in Missouri unfolds from a pontoon boat gliding on the world’s largest subterranean lake 200 feet below earth’s surface. 
    BonneTerreMine.com 
  • Jolly Charters, Rocky Mount
    Take the family to enjoy a treasure hunt on a pirate ship on the Lake of the Ozarks. Or, “party like a pirate” with a band. There are several other special cruises throughout the year too.
    JollyCharters.com 
  • Showboat Branson Belle, Branson
    Live music, dancing, comedy, a magic show, and a three-course meal entertain the entire family on the two-hour cruise on Table Rock Lake.
    SilverDollarCity.com/showboat-branson

Feature image courtesy of Spirit of America

Article originally published in the June 2024 issue of Missouri Life