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The Best of the Mississippi River: Voyage Into Southern Heritage

Program Number: 20994RJ
Start and End Dates:
3/9/2013 - 3/19/2013; 11/8/2015 - 11/18/2015; 11/12/2015 - 11/22/2015; 12/6/2015 - 12/16/2015; 12/10/2015 - 12/20/2015; 3/6/2016 - 3/17/2016; 3/11/2016 - 3/21/2016; 3/25/2016 - 4/4/2016; 4/3/2016 - 4/14/2016; 5/1/2016 - 5/12/2016; 5/13/2016 - 5/23/2016; 5/27/2016 - 6/6/2016; 11/4/2016 - 11/14/2016; 11/18/2016 - 11/28/2016; 12/2/2016 - 12/12/2016;
Duration: 10 nights
Location: Louisiana/Mississippi/Tennessee/Arkansas
Price starting at: $4,163.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Adventure Afloat Study Cruise; River Boats
Meals: 26; 8 Breakfasts, 1 Brunch, 8 Lunches, 9 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

Board a magnificent steam-powered paddlewheel riverboat for a classic Mississippi River voyage. Experience the music, food, natural beauty and architectural grandeur of Dixie in lively Memphis, historic Natchez and Vicksburg and small river towns. Plus spend three days exploring incomparable New Orleans in depth.

Activity Particulars

Please note that this program may require embarking and disembarking from the boat up and down steep embankments. Assistance is available if needed in each port. The ability to stand for up to an hour during field trips may be required.

The 12/6/2015 and 12/10/2015 dates of this program will be in celebration of the Road Scholar 40th anniversary.

The 11/27/2015 date of this program will spend 2 nights in New Orleans instead of 3.

Please note: In 2016, the March 6-17, April 3-14, and May 1-12 departures of this program operate in reverse order, from Memphis to New Orleans, and spend one extra night in Memphis.

Itinerary At-a-Glance

Memphis, Tenn, 1 night; aboard American Queen, 7 nights; New Orleans, La., 3 nights.

Day 1-2: Arrival Memphis, Tenn. / embark American Queen:

Arrive in Memphis, meet your fellow participants, followed by dinner at the hotel. Then begin the week with a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum and the Rock and Soul Museum. Board the Boat and begin a week of savoring gourmet Southern-style cooking and showboat-style entertainment.

Day 3: Greenville, Miss.:

Explore Greenvillle, the "Heart and Soul of the Mississippi Delta." Located right along the Mississippi River, Greenville is a historic city with a vibrant community and rich cultural heritage.

Day 4: Vicksburg, Miss.:

Discover a unique blend of old and new in this historic city. Learn about the Siege of Vicksburg at the Vicksburg National Military Park.

Day 5: Natchez:

Step into the antebellum South at plantations including Longwood, with its unique octagonal mansion, and grand Stanton Hall. Meet members of the Natchez Gospel Choir and hear them perform.

Day 6: St. Francisville, La.:

Walk the historic streets of St. Francisville and visit Rosedown Plantation

Day 7: Baton Rouge:

Learn the fascinating story of Gov. Huey Long, view the Louisiana State Capitol Building and visit the Rural Life Museum.

Day 8: Nottoway Plantation, White Castle, LA

Explore the enchanting Nottoway Plantation and Gardens. Lecture on Mardi Gras.

Days 9-12: New Orleans / disembark / departure:

Experience the music, food and architecture of New Orleans with a local expert. Enjoy live jazz performances, including one at Fritzel's Jazz Club, and learn about the history and architecture of the city. Lodging: Comfortable downtown hotel.

American Queen

The American Queen is the world’s largest river steamboat, a modern vessel with hardwood details, grand furnishings, comfortable amenities and luxurious staterooms. Public areas include the Mark Twain Gallery library, the Grand Saloon and a lounge. Wine and beer are complimentary with dinner.

Meals and Lodgings
   American Queen
  Memphis, Tennessee
Helena, Arkansas
St. Francisville
Baton Rouge
Houmas House
7 nights
   Holiday Inn
  New Orleans, Louisiana 3 nights
 American Queen
Type: Riverboat
  Description: The American Queen Featuring six decks and measuring 418 feet in length, the American Queen is the world’s largest river steamboat. Modern amenities meet classic river ambiance aboard the American Queen. The 222 staterooms and suites are filled with modern appointments and carefully selected furnishings. Finely crafted hardwood fixtures, grand furnishings and gleaming brass detail the ship’s interior. The gazebo-style pilothouse and towering “feathered” stacks are both designed to be lowered to allow passage under bridges. Each stateroom has private facilities and ample storage. Cabins differ in size, amenity and cost. Limited singles are available.
  Ship Information: See above description
  Contact info: Docked at River in Memphis
Memphis, TN 38103 USA
phone: 888-749-5280
  Room amenities: Varies with category purchased
  Facility amenities: Laundry on board.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Check in time: 3:00 PM

 Holiday Inn
Type: Hotel
  Contact info: 330 Loyola Road
New Orleans, LA 70112 USA
phone: 504-581-1600
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
After arriving at Memphis airport, take provided shuttle (with voucher mailed to you) to the American Queen. Boat departs at 7:30 pm. Meet your leader in the theater onboard between 3pm and 5:30pm You will be staying at American Queen that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends in New Orleans on March 19 after breakfast at 8:30 am You will be staying at Holiday Inn the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. Boarding information and documents will be mailed to participants.
  Parking availability:
Parking available at Holiday Inn for $8 per night.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Memphis, Tennessee
  From End of Program
  Location:  Departure
Travel Details

Memphis Airport (MEM)


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
phone: 901-522-0001


Per Person/One Way:


voucher provided (sent by mail) for shuttle to American Queen
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


20 minutes to American Queen dock 




8 Miles

Elevation Note: Totally flat terrain

Equipment Requirements: No equipment required
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Embark on American Queen in Memphis
(Saturday, March 9)

Note: Meet in Boat Theater at 4pm

 Afternoon: Meet in boat theater at 4pm to greet fellow passengers and group leader and instructor.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard the American Queen. Special tables reserved for Road Scholars so that you may mingle with different people each evening.
 Evening: Every evening is a special performance in showboat style after dinner. Varied venues for music.
Accommodations: American Queen
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Stopping in Helena, Arkansas today
(Sunday, March 10)

Note: Visit Biscuit Row and Helena Museum

 Breakfast: American Queen offers several opportunities for breakfast from full sit down served meal to beignets on the Front Porch.
 Morning: "The Mississippi River and the Making of a Nation" Enjoy the ralaxing beauty of the River as you roll along.
 Lunch: Lunch onboard AQ
 Afternoon: Included in your excursion to Helena are Biscuit Row, Helena Museum, Freedom Park (site of Underground Railroad) and much more.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard AQ--you may choose main dining room or go to Grill area for dinner.
 Evening: Every evening includes a special performance after dinner along with piano music in various locations on boat.
Accommodations: American Queen
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Vicksburg Battlefield
(Monday, March 11)

Note: Short stroll in Vicksburg if you wish.

 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard the American Queen.
 Morning: Discover a unique blend of old and new in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Take in the diversity from Vicksburg National Military Park to the Waterways Experiment Station. Billed as the “Red Carpet City of the South,” Southern hospitality is alive and well and awaiting your arrival. "Flowing unvexed to the Sea" lecture preceding the visit to the Vicksburg National Military Park.
 Lunch: Lunch onboard the American Queen
 Afternoon: Preparing for our visit to Natchez--"Four 20th Century views of the Plantation Regime"
 Dinner: Dinner on board the American Queen
 Evening: Entertainment followed by buffet
Accommodations: American Queen
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Tour city, visit plantations, gospel choir
(Tuesday, March 12)

Note: Little walking--some standing in plantations

 Breakfast: Breakfast onbard the American Queen
 Morning: "Plantation Architecture-- Rural and Urban Expression". Visit Longwood Plantation- a unique unfinished plantation as well as Stanton Hall and much more.
 Morning: Natchez Step into the plantation lifestyle of the antebellum south in Natchez, site of numerous restored mansions.
 Lunch: Lunch onboard the American Queen
 Afternoon: Enjoy time with a Natchez Gospel Choir and learn more about the African American community in Natchez.
 Dinner: Dinner on board the American Queen
 Evening: As always, more entertainment in New Orleans style and, of course, more food.
Accommodations: American Queen
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Visit John James Audubon 's home--Oakley. Enjoy quaint small town of St. Francisville.
(Wednesday, March 13)

Note: Easy walking on flat land.

 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard American Queen
 Morning: This quaint town of St. Francilville located on the bluffs of the Mississippi River is your window to the past. With over 140 buildings on the National Register, beautiful plantation homes nestled in the rolling countryside, and bustling Main Street shops, you'll find plenty to keep you on the go in St. Francisville. "John James Audubon--the man and his Milieu". Visit Oakley where Audubon lived and worked.
 Lunch: Lunch onboard the American Queen.
 Afternoon: Preparing for our visit to Baton Rouge learn about "Huey Long: Messiah to the Rednecks"--your instructor is an expert on the subject.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard the American Queen
 Evening: Evening show followed by buffet--late music each night in the lounge.
Accommodations: American Queen
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Rural Life Museum, State Capitol
(Thursday, March 14)

Note: Easy walking on flat land

 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard the American Queen.
 Morning: The capital of Louisiana, Baton Rouge is the center of all the great things the state has to offer—visitors delight in the seamless blend of past and present experiencing authentic Louisiana at every turn. With its semi-tropical climate, the outdoors is tempting and the attractions abound. No wonder this is one of the south's fastest growing cities. Visit the Louisiana State Capital where Huey Long was shot. Also visit the Louisiana State Museum.
 Lunch: Lunch onbard the American Queen
 Afternoon: Visit the Rural Life Museum and see the Louisiana State University campus.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard the American Queen.
 Evening: Entertainment in Grand Saloon
Accommodations: American Queen
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Houmas House Plantation, Swamp Tour
(Friday, March 15)

Note: Leisure walk at plantation and sitting on bus and boat.

 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard the AQ.
 Morning: Houmas House Plantation and Gardens is so much more than just a tour of a grand antebellum estate. Experience the southern splendor of "The Sugar Palace" when you step into 16 rooms filled with period antiques and Louisiana artwork.
 Lunch: Lunch onboard American Queen
 Afternoon: Enjoy a swamp tour--alligators included!
 Dinner: Dinner onbard the American Queen
 Evening: Entertainment tonight
Accommodations: American Queen
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Orientation, dinner, lecture
(Saturday, March 16)

Note: Easy walking on flat land.

 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard AQ
 Morning: Depart boat at 9am. Overview of City with instructor. View Lake Pontchartrain, walk in above ground cemetaries with instruction, see and learn about Bayou St. John and some of Katrina Devastation areas.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Check into hotel at 3pm
 Dinner: Dinner at Hotel this evening.
 Evening: Introduction to New Orleans -- "It's a New Orleans Thing"
Accommodations: Holiday Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Museum of Art, Mardi Gras Indians
(Sunday, March 17)

Note: easy walking on flat land

 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Visit the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden
 Lunch: Lunch at the Golden Feather Restaurant and museum of Mardi Gras Indians.
 Afternoon: Expert led lecture on Black Culture in New Orleans and the Mardi Gras Indians
 Afternoon: Vouchers for Mardi Gras Museum, Cabildo Museum and Historic New Orleans Collection.
 Dinner: Dinner is at a special local restaurant this evening.
 Evening: Jazz trio plays just for our group
Accommodations: Holiday Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Overview of city. Museums and Jazz
(Monday, March 18)

Note: Enjoy real New Orleans Jazz at Preservation Hall.

 Morning: Ride down the famous St. Charles Avenue and walk in the Garden District to learn about many architectural styles.
 Brunch: Brunch at the famous Court of Two Sisters with a Jazz trio
 Lunch: On your own for a snack
 Afternoon: Ride the famous streetcars.
 Dinner: Dinner is on your own this evening so that you might enjoy a restaurant of your own choosing
 Evening: Jazz performance at Preservation Hall
Accommodations: Holiday Inn
Meals Included: Brunch

Day 11: Depart New Orleans
(Tuesday, March 19)
 Depart From: After breakfast at hotel, depart for Louis Armstrong airport at 9:00 am. Arrive at airport by 9:45 am-- transportation provided.
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

A Streetcar Named Desire

Author: Tennessee Williams

Description: Widely considered a landmark play, A Streetcar Named Desire deals with a culture clash between two characters, Blanche DuBois, a relic of the Old South, and Stanley Kowalski, a rising member of the industrial, urban working class. American playwright Tennessee Williams received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1948.

A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House (The Hill Collection: Holdings of the Lsu Libraries)

Author: Danny Heitman

Description: As the summer of 1821 began, John James Audubon's ambition to create a comprehensive pictorial record of American birds was still largely a dream. Then, out of economic necessity, Audubon came to Oakley Plantation, a sprawling estate in Louisiana's West Feliciana Parish. Teeming with an abundance of birds, the woods of Oakley galvanized Audubon's sense of possibility for one of the most audacious undertakings in the annals of art. In A Summer of Birds, journalist and essayist Danny Heitman sorts through the facts and romance of Audubon's summer at Oakley, a season that clearly shaped the destiny of the world's most famous bird artist. Heitman draws from a rich variety of sources--including Audubon's own extensive journals, more recent Audubon scholarship, and Robert Penn Warren's poetry--to create a stimulating excursion across time, linking the historical man Audubon to the present-day civic and cultural icon. He considers the financial straits that led to Audubon's employment at Oakley as a private tutor to fifteen-year-old Eliza Pirrie, Audubon's family history, his flamboyance as a master of self-invention, his naturalist and artistic techniques, and the possible reasons for his dismissal. Illustrations include photographs of Oakley House--now a state historic site--Audubon's paintings from his Oakley period, and portraits of the Pirrie family members.

All the Kings Men

Author: Robert Penn Warren

Description: All the King's Men traces the rise and fall of demagogue Willie Stark, a fictional character loosely based on Governor Huey ""Kingfish"" Long of Louisiana. Stark begins his political career as an idealistic man of the people but soon becomes corrupted by success and caught between dreams of service and an insatiable lust for power.

Beyond the Bridges - Rediscovering America´s Waterways

Author: Jerry M. Hay

Description: Are you planning to go on your first river cruise on a steamboat? This is the book you have to read! You´re an experienced river cruiser? Read it! Author Jerry M. Hay has spent more than 40 years on the rivers. He travelled the whole Mississippi river in a canoe. He explored the Wabash and White rivers for publishing river guide books. Jerry tried out nearly every kind of watercraft. And he spent a couple of years as a river historian abord the paddlewheel steamboats Delta Queen, Mississippi Queen and American Queen. In this book Jerry does not only share his funny river stories we have listened to on the steamboats over and over always longing for more. Learn more about Gilligan Goose who became famous in a children´s book. Did you ever see a Boeing 727 in a river? What kind of important delivery did the John Deere tractor make during high water? The book also provides loads of valuable information about the history of travelling on the rivers from flatboats to modern towboats, about reading the rivers, about river navigation, about the anatomy of a river or about the language of the rivers. Jerry M. Hay´s favorite quote is, "I don´t make the same mistake twice. I´m too busy making new ones." This book is definitely not one of his mistakes but a wonderful resource of information combined with some of the most funniest river stories.

Confederacy of Dunces

Author: John Kennedy Toole

Description: A Confederacy of Dunces is a picaresque novel written by American novelist John Kennedy Toole, published by Louisiana State University Press in 1980, eleven years after the author's suicide. The book, published through the efforts of writer Walker Percy (who also contributed a revealing foreword) and Toole's mother Thelma Toole, quickly became a cult classic, and later a mainstream success. Toole posthumously won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981. It is now considered a canonical work of modern Southern literature, in the USA. The title derives from the epigraph by Jonathan Swift: "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." The story is set in New Orleans in the early 1960s. The central character is Ignatius J. Reilly, an educated but slothful 30-year-old man still living with his mother in the city's Uptown neighborhood, who, due to an incident early in the book, must set out to get a job. In his quest for employment he has various adventures with colorful French Quarter characters.

Creole New Orleans Race and Americanization

Author: Arthur Hirsch and John Logsdon

Description: This collection of six original essays explores the peculiar ethnic composition and history of New Orleans, which the authors persuasively argue is unique among American cities. The focus of Creole New Orleans is on the development of a colonial Franco-African culture in the city, the ways that culture was influenced by the arrival of later immigrants, and the processes that led to the eventual dominance of the Anglo-American community.

John James Audubon: The Making of an American

Author: Richard Rhodes

Description: John James Audubon came to America as a dapper eighteen-year-old eager to make his fortune. He had a talent for drawing and an interest in birds, and he would spend the next thirty-five years traveling to the remotest regions of his new country–often alone and on foot–to render his avian subjects on paper. The works of art he created gave the world its idea of America. They gave America its idea of itself. Here Richard Rhodes vividly depicts Audubon’s life and career: his epic wanderings; his quest to portray birds in a lifelike way; his long, anguished separations from his adored wife; his ambivalent witness to the vanishing of the wilderness. John James Audubon: The Making of an American is a magnificent achievement.

John James Audubon: Writings and Drawings (Library of America)

Author: John James Audubon

Description: A landmark volume collects the writings and drawings of America's greatest artist-naturalist The breathtaking art of John James Audubon's Birds of America has been celebrated throughout the world since it first appeared over 150 years ago. Less well known is Audubon's literary legacy -- the magnificent volumes of natural history he published during his lifetime, as well as the remarkable journals, memoirs, and letters left behind at his death. Now, with The Library of America's unprecedented John James Audubon: Writings and Drawings, Audubon the great nature writer takes his rightful place alongside Audubon the artist.

Life On The Mississippi

Author: Mark Twain

Description: An invaluable companion to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Life on the Mississippi is Mark Twain's inimitable portrait of 'the great Father of Waters'. Part memoir, part travelogue, it expresses the full range of Twain's literary personality, and remains the most vivid, boisterous and provocative account of the cultural and societal history of the Mississippi Valley, from 'the golden age' of steamboating to the violence wrought by the Civil War.

Rising Tide

Author: John Barry

Description: An American epic of science, politics, race, honor, high society, and the Mississippi River, Rising Tide tells the riveting and nearly forgotten story of the greatest natural disaster this country has ever known -- the Mississippi flood of 1927. The river inundated the homes of nearly one million people, helped elect Huey Long governor and made Herbert Hoover president, drove hundreds of thousands of blacks north, and transformed American society and politics forever.

Steamboating on the Upper Mississippi

Author: William J. Petersen

Description: William J. Petersons book is almost as comprehensive as the one above, but concentrating on the upper Mississippi. It is a doctoral dissertation about steamboats. The authors father was associated with the Diamond Jo Line Steamers in Dubuque, Iowa, so Peterson is familiar with steamboats business from boyhood days. Book was first published in 1937.

Tales of the Mississippi

Author: Ray Samuel, Leonard V. Huber, Warren C. Ogden

Description: This book contains a collection of tales of the Mississippi in 19 chapters and more than 300 illustrations and photographs. The authors tried to write something new about the Great River instead of a conventional history book. So you will find deeper information about the discoverer Hernando DeSoto and the legendary Mike Fink, what made the Rob´t E. Lee and the Natchez race, the river gambler George Devol known as the hardest head on the Mississippi or the answer to the question what made the Mississippi River once flew upstream and a lot more.

The Mississippi Steamboat Era in Historic Photographs

Author: Joan W. and Thomas H. Gandy

Description: Great if you are looking for old pictures - not only of steamboats but also from the steamboat era at all. I like this book very much because it gives you a great overview over this time history.

Upper Mississippi River History: Fact - Fiction -Legend

Author: Captain Ron A. Larson

Description: Captain Ron A.Larson´s book starts with the early French explorers. He covers the history of paddlewheel steamboats from the first one until the last remaining steamboats of today on the Mississippi River. The book provides a lot of information about the upper Mississippi River such as paddlewheel steamboats, railroad bridges, log rafts, wing dams, locks and dams of today, river navigation aids and river towns. Added are river pilot stories about names or landmarks along the upper Mississippi River. You will find more than 200 pictures and illustrations. Captain Ron A. Larson, U.S.M.M. Ret., was working on the upper Mississippi River on towboats between St. Louis and St. Paul with an occasional trip on most of the other navigable rivers. Now during retirement he still does part-time piloting on river excursion boats as the Mississippi Queen, the Delta Queen, the Valley Queen, the Mississippi Bell, the Jubilee and the Mark Twain.

Why New Orleans Matters

Author: Tom Piazza

Description: In the aftermath of Katrina and the disaster that followed, promises were made, forgotten, and renewed. Now what will become of New Orleans in the years ahead? What do this proud, battered city and its people mean to America and the world? Award-winning author and longtime New Orleans resident Tom Piazza illuminates the storied culture and uncertain future of this great and neglected American metropolis by evoking the sensuous rapture of the city that gave us jazz music and Creole cooking; examining its deep undercurrents of corruption, racism, and injustice; and explaining how its people endure and transcend those conditions. And, perhaps most important, he asks us all to consider the spirit of this place and all the things it has shared with the world: its grace and beauty, resilience and soul.

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