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Southern Grandeur: A Private Voyage on the Mississippi

Come aboard a luxurious paddlewheeler for a classic voyage along the Mississippi, sailing to small river towns, Civil War battlefields and cultural hubs from New Orleans to Memphis.
Rating (4.75)
Program No. 23087RJ
11 days
Starts at

Southern Grandeur: A Private Voyage on the Mississippi

Come aboard a luxurious paddlewheeler for a classic voyage along the Mississippi, sailing to small river towns, Civil War battlefields and cultural hubs from New Orleans to Memphis.
11 days
Starts at
Program No. 23087 RJ
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At a Glance

There’s no better way to delve deep into the story of the American South than on a journey along the Mighty Miss. On a private voyage that begins in New Orleans and ends in Memphis, join us as we sail along the Mississippi River on board the modern American Duchess, the first all-suite paddle wheeler in the U.S. We’ve reserved the entire ship for this learning adventure, and along the way, you’ll learn about the origins of blues and jazz, trace the stories of the Civil War and learn about the people who inhabited the many plantations and towns along the Mississippi, as well as those who have made working on the river their way of life.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Spend three nights in New Orleans, experiencing the city’s diverse cuisine, music and French traditions.
  • Set out on expert-led explorations to study the architecture and complex history of several southern plantations.
  • Trace the history of the Civil War during field trips to Vicksburg National Military Park and at several plantations and historic homes.

General Notes

Maximum of 146 participants, divided into smaller groups for activities.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Rising Tide
by John Barry
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.
Life On The Mississippi
by Mark Twain
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.
The Mississippi Steamboat Era in Historic Photographs
by Joan W. and Thomas H. Gandy
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.
Steamboating on the Upper Mississippi
by William J. Petersen
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.
Beyond the Bridges - Rediscovering America´s Waterways
by Jerry M. Hay
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.
Creole New Orleans Race and Americanization
by Arthur Hirsch and John Logsdon
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.
A Streetcar Named Desire
by Tennessee Williams
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.
All the Kings Men
by Robert Penn Warren
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.
Why New Orleans Matters
by Tom Piazza
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.
Confederacy of Dunces
by John Kennedy Toole
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.
Tales of the Mississippi
by Ray Samuel, Leonard V. Huber, Warren C. Ogden
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.
Upper Mississippi River History: Fact - Fiction -Legend
by Captain Ron A. Larson
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.
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11 days
10 nights
26 meals
10 B 8 L 8 D
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
New Orleans, Louisiana
Hotel Monteleone

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 4:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration & Orientation: 4:30 p.m. After you have your room assignment, check the message board for the location to register with the Road Scholar program staff, which is also where the Orientation session will take place. You will receive a welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, and other important information. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Ground travel and transfers will be via private motorcoach unless noted otherwise. In addition to Road Scholar exclusive lectures and field trips, you are welcome to enjoy activities and events separate from the Road Scholar program during free time aboard the American Duchess. The vessel’s daily program will be delivered to cabins each evening with a schedule of the next day’s activities. Breakfast, lunch and dinner aboard the boat in the Grand Dining Room feature cuisine that blends local flavors and fine culinary traditions. There is a more casual atmosphere in The River Club & Terrace for breakfast and lunch. Dinners aboard include complimentary house wines, house-select beers, coffees, teas, soft drinks. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. As a special bonus, you will have vouchers to use at a popular jazz club and the Louisiana State Museum.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have a lovely plated and served dinner with coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase. During dinner, we will have for a private performance of Dixieland jazz just for our Road Scholar group.

Evening: Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

City Highlights Field Trip, Garden District
New Orleans, Louisiana
Hotel Monteleone

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 26 miles, approximately 4 hours total. Walking approximately 8 blocks and standing during field trip; city street and uneven sidewalks.

Breakfast: At the hotel, choose what you like from the extensive breakfast buffet.

Morning: We’ll take a field trip via motorcoach with expert on-board commentary for an overview of the city. We’ll make stops at highlights such as Lake Pontchartrain, Bayou St. John, City Park with its magnificent oak trees and Sculpture Garden, and one of the famed and mysterious above-ground cemeteries where the departed — from pirates to voodoo queens — are interred.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we will order from a select menu with beverage choices of coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We’ll continue our field trip with our local expert and ride down famous St. Charles Avenue, under beautiful old oak trees. We’ll then go on a walking field trip in the aptly named Garden District, one of the loveliest neighborhoods in the country. It was laid out in 1832 for incoming, well-to-do Americans who were not interested in mingling with native New Orleanians. The feeling was mutual! Grand houses were built on large lots.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we will order from a select menu with beverage choices of coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase

Evening: At leisure. If you haven’t done so already, use your voucher for Fritzel’s, or take a walk through the Quarter and watch the people parade, where tourists can be more exotic than natives.

WW2 Museum
New Orleans, Louisiana
Hotel Monteleone

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Walking and standing at WW2 Museum; walking according to personal preference during free time.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll ride to the National World War II Museum. Formerly known as the D-Day Museum, the National World War II Museum was founded by eminent historian Dr. Stephen Ambrose, author “Band of Brothers” and other best-sellers. A self-directed exploration will take us through three buildings that house exhibits highlighting the role of participants from world leaders to the everyday men and women whose contributions helped to win the war, as well as those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Many items in the vast collection — such as uniforms, weaponry, vehicles, medals, diaries, letters, artwork, photographs, and other mementos — are on display while thousands of records and archives are available to scholars for ongoing research. We’ll also see the film “Beyond All Boundaries” narrated by Tom Hanks. Through first person accounts and amazing special effects, we’ll take a self-directed journey through the war that changed the world.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Free Time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. You can use vouchers we’ve provided to explore the Cabildo and Presbytère — key components of the Louisiana State Museum — flanking St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square. All were constructed during the Spanish period (1795-1799). The Cabildo displays artifacts of American history as well as rarities such as Napoleon’s death mask. The Presbytère’s interactive exhibit on Mardi Gras traces our annual celebration from its origins to the present day with an exquisite collection of artifacts and memorabilia. Another exhibit expresses Louisiana’s saga of resilience in the face of disasters. You might also like to stroll along Royal Street with its antique shops, visit the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, sit back and have café au lait and beignets at the 24-hour Café du Monde, or any of the many other opportunities to experience our people, cultures, and celebrations.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. From fresh seafood to Po’ Boys, our city is justly famous for its eats.

Evening: At leisure. Returning to the hotel, prepare for check-out and transfer tomorrow. Have luggage ready for pick-up and transport to the American Duchess in the morning.

Music Performance and Mardi Gras World
New Orleans, Louisiana
American Steamboat Company's American Duchess

Activity note: Walking approximately 1.5 blocks to motorcoach. Standing in Mardi Gras World Getting on/off motorcoach, on/off riverboat.

Breakfast: Leave any large luggage inside your room for pickup by hotel staff this morning. It will be transferred directly to the boat and placed in your cabin. One of New Orleans' top musicians and experts on original New Orleans jazz will give us a presentation and, along with his famous band, demonstrate as he speaks — leaving us snapping our fingers and tapping our toes. We will walk to the motor-coach with our carry-on luggage and head out on a field trip with expert on-board commentary.

Morning: We will have luggage ready for pick-up and transport to the American Duchess before The class

Afternoon: We will get our carry-on luggage, check out and walk 1 block to the motorcoach and ride to the Mardi Gras World, beginning with a film that documents the making of floats. A local expert will introduce some of the amazing floats that have appeared in Mardi Gras parades and some the artists are working on for the next year. We’ll also time to explore independently and take photographs. We will depart Mardi Gras world, ride to the Port of New Orleans, and board the American Duchess. After completing boarding procedures and getting your cabin, take some time to freshen up and relax. We will participate in the mandatory safety briefing with everyone on board when announced.

Dinner: Our first dinner aboard the American Duchess will be in the Grand Dining Room. Meals aboard ship feature cuisine that blends local flavors and fine culinary traditions. Shipboard dinners include complimentary house wines, house-select beers, coffees, teas, and soft drinks.

Evening: The American Duchess offers nightly entertainment with live performers in the majestic Show Lounge-Auditorium.

Lecture, Nottoway Plantation,
White Castle, LA
American Steamboat Company's American Duchess

Activity note: Golf carts available from boat across levee; walking to plantation through gardens and standing during field trip; 3-story house with elevator.

Breakfast: Aboard the American Duchess. Your choice of a traditional plated and served breakfast in the Grand Dining Room or a buffet in the River Club & Terrace.

Morning: We’ll gather for a Road Scholar exclusive lecture. The remainder of the morning is free to enjoy the boat

Lunch: Aboard the American Duchess. Your choice of a traditional plated and served luncheon in the Grand Dining Room or a buffet in the River Club & Terrace.

Afternoon: We will have an expert led exploration of Nottoway — a literal “white castle” — with opportunities for taking pictures. Completed in 1859, it is the largest surviving antebellum mansion in the South and one of the most elegant. Its 64 rooms cover 53,000 square feet. Sugar planter John Hampden Randolph intended his home to be the finest anywhere and no expense was spared. Randolph filled Nottoway with extravagant features including running water, modern bathrooms, and gas lighting. The mansion sits about 200 feet from the Mississippi River levee surrounded by oaks, magnolias, and pecan trees. At a time when Greek Revival was considered the ultimate architectural style, Nottoway is distinguished by Italianate features, with square columns that reach all three levels yet look delicate from a distance. The east front of the house with its grand balconies faces the river, while the adjacent north front with its semi-circular portico overlooks gardens. The ballroom, accented by Corinthian columns and marble mantels, is all white including the floor.

Dinner: Aboard the American Duchess in the Grand Dining Room

Evening: Enjoy great performances every evening.

Rosedown Plantation,
St. Francisville
American Steamboat Company's American Duchess

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Golf carts available from the ship to the motorcoach up on the levee if needed. Rosedown plantation house is a 2-story building; climbing interior stairs. Grounds with gravel pathways and grass. Golf carts are available at the plantation. The plantation does not have an elevator. You will have to be able to walk up 5 steps to the plantation entrance.

Breakfast: Aboard the American Duchess.

Morning: Our local expert will show us the quaint town of St. Francisville, Louisiana, located on the bluffs of the Mississippi River. It is a window to the past with more than 140 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, beautiful plantation homes nestled in the rolling countryside, and bustling Main Street shops. We'll visit Rosedown Plantation, built in 1835 by Daniel and Martha Turnbull, for an expert-led exploration. This was one of the richest cotton plantations in the country, comprising nearly 3,500 acres at its height. Its wealth resulted from the labor of as many as 450 slaves. Mrs. Turnbull patterned the formal gardens on those she saw during their honeymoon in Europe. Rosedown remained in the Turnbull family until the 1950s, when it was purchased by Catherine Underwood, an enthusiastic amateur horticulturist who began an historic restoration of the house and gardens. Now a National Historic Landmark, preserved by the state of Louisiana to illustrate plantation life in the 1800s, Rosedown has 13 historic buildings and gardens on its remaining 371 acres.

Lunch: Aboard the American Duchess.

Afternoon: Our Road Scholar exclusive lecture this afternoon will focus on the city of Natchez. Then take advantage of the on-board amenities, spend time with fellow Road Scholars, or simply relax and observe the passing scene.

Dinner: Aboard the American Duchess

Evening: Nightly Entertainment

Longwood, Stanton Hall, Battle of Vicksburg Lecture
Natchez, Mississippi
American Steamboat Company's American Duchess

Activity note: From the landing at Natchez-Under-the-Hill, there is a ramp up to the street; golf carts are available if needed. Short walks from motorcoach to mansions; standing inside, stairs and no elevators.

Breakfast: Aboard the American Duchess.

Morning: The numerous antebellum mansions of Natchez recall a bygone era. With a local expert, we'll take a field trip to Longwood and try to imagine the lifestyles of that earlier time. Longwood was an exotic departure from typical homes of the period, octagonal and in Oriental Revival style. Begun in 1860 but interrupted by the Civil War, only nine of its 32 rooms were finished. Those who wish to return to the ship after Longwood may do so. We'll then ride to Stanton Hall where docents will lead our exploration. Built in 1858 by Irish immigrant and cotton merchant Frederick Station, it is now a National Historic Landmark that provides a look into the domestic life of a wealthy Natchez family. The mansion, covering a city block, is the quintessence of elegant Greek Revival splendor with Carrera marble, mahogany doors, massive Corinthian columns, and delicate cast iron railings adorning the façade. The Pilgrimage Garden Club of Natchez purchased Stanton Hall in 1938, restoring it to its former antebellum splendor.

Lunch: Aboard the American Duchess.

Afternoon: We’ll have another Road Scholar exclusive lecture on the 1863 Battle of Vicksburg. As President Abraham Lincoln surmised, “Vicksburg is the key, the war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket.” We’ll then ride to Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, where their gospel choir will perform just for our Road Scholar group. As they sing some of their favorite songs for us, get ready to join them in their love of music.

Dinner: Aboard the American Duchess.

Evening: Nightly entertainment.

Vicksburg-MS, Vicksburg Nat. Military Park, Civil War Causes
American Steamboat Company's American Duchess

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach at several stops.

Breakfast: Aboard the American Duchess.

Morning: We'll board the motorcoach and take a field trip to Vicksburg National Military Park. The Vicksburg campaign was waged from March 29 to July 4, 1863. The Union victory was one of the decisive moments in the Civil War. Congress commemorated the battlefield as a national military park in 1899. There are 1,325 historic monuments and markers, 20 miles of reconstructed trenches and earthworks, 144 emplaced cannons, the restored Union gunboat USS Cairo and its museum, and the Vicksburg National Cemetery. Led by a local expert, we'll make three stops: at the Visitor Center, where Park Rangers are ready to answer questions; one of the larger monuments; and the Cairo, sunk in 1862, raised from the depths of the Mississippi in 1964, and later reconstructed. Its museum displays artifacts including weapons, munitions, naval stores, and personal gear of the sailors who served on board.

Lunch: Aboard the American Duchess.

Afternoon: Our lecture this afternoon will be on causes of the Civil War. The remainder of the afternoon is free to engage in the activities of your choice.

Dinner: Aboard the American Duchess.

Evening: Nightly entertainment.

Cruising on the Duchess
Cruising on the Mississippi River
American Steamboat Company's American Duchess

Activity note: .Walking on the boat.

Breakfast: Aboard the American Duchess.

Morning: We’ll gather for a Road Scholar exclusive lecture this morning. Then engage in the activities of your choice or enjoy the river vistas.

Lunch: Aboard the American Duchess.

Afternoon: This afternoon we’ll gather for a Road Scholar exclusive lecture.

Dinner: Aboard the American Duchess.

Evening: Nightly entertainment.

Tunica MS
Tunica, MS
American Steamboat Company's American Duchess

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Walking and standing according to personal preference.

Breakfast: Aboard the American Duchess

Morning: This morning’s Road Scholar exclusive lecture will provide details about the Assignation of Dr. King. This is the last lecture of our program on the mighty Mississippi as we head to Memphis.

Lunch: Aboard the American Duchess.

Afternoon: Board the AQ Hop on Hop off motorcoaches and begin your excursion in Tunica, MS. The trip starts with a stop at the Tunica Riverpark. It is located on the banks of the river and is a magnificent combination of modern architecture and nature’s splendor. The grounds are rich with native wildlife and flora. The 3.1mile EcoTrail consists of board walks and a wilderness trail. Experience the unspoiled timber, native creatures and Mississippi plant life, as you walk along the trail. Next you may want to visit the Tunica Museum and delve into America’s diverse history. The museum has authentic artifacts and exhibits where you can follow the trail ranging from Native American prehistory through European exploration, to military and commercial advancements from the 19th and 20th centuries and the Great Flood of 1927. Four fresh water aquariums allow you to see what is beneath the river’s surface.

Dinner: Aboard the American Duchess. Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: One more evening of great entertainment. Then prepare for disembarkation after our arrival in Memphis, Tennessee, and final transfer in the morning.

Arrive Memphis-TN, Disembarkation, Program Concludes

Activity note: Check Out and disembarkation by 9:00 a.m., followed by motorcoach transfer to the Memphis Airport.

Breakfast: Aboard the American Duchess

Morning: After disembarking, we’ll board a motorcoach and transfer to Memphis International Airport with arrival expected by approximately 10:30 a.m. This concludes our program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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