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GROUP - The Best of the Mississippi River: A Voyage Into Southern Heritage

Program No. 24334RJ
Explore the Mississippi River aboard a paddlewheel riverboat, attending jazz performances, learning about Civil War history and enjoying three nights in New Orleans!
11 days
Not yet reviewed
Activity Level
Starts at

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At a Glance

On this classic Mississippi River voyage, board a magnificent paddlewheel riverboat and get a front-row seat to experience a working river. Immerse yourself in the music, food, natural beauty and architectural grandeur of Dixie, historic Natchez and Vicksburg and small river towns. Plus spend three days exploring incomparable New Orleans in depth.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Enjoy the music, food and architecture of New Orleans and enjoy a jazz show at Fritzel's Jazz Club.
  • Experience the antebellum South at sprawling plantations.
  • Tap your foot to Dixieland Jazz and themed shows on board the American Countess.

General Notes

GROUP - Friends of Paula Burke
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.
All The King's 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.
Steamboating on the Upper Mississippi
by William J. Petersen
William J. Peterson's 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.
A Streetcar Named Desire
by Tennessee Williams
This classic drama follows Blanche DuBois and the issues that arise when she moves to New Orleans to live with her sister and her husband.
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.
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.
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.
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 as well. I like this book very much because it gives you a great overview of this time in history.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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11 days
10 nights
27 meals
9 B 1BR 8 L 9 D
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
New Orleans, LA
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. 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. 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 ship. The vessel’s daily program will be delivered to cabins each evening with a schedule of the next day’s activities. Meals aboard the boat in the J. M. White Dining Room feature cuisine that blends local flavors and fine culinary traditions. There is a more casual atmosphere in The Front Porch. 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 plated dinner with coffee, tea, water included, other beverages available for purchase. During dinner, we will have for a private jazz performance just for our Road Scholar group.

Evening: At Leisure This is a Road Scholar Adventures Afloat program. In addition to lectures and field trips exclusively for our Road Scholar group, you are invited to take advantage of activities and events aboard ship that are separate from the Road Scholar program. The time available in each port is set by the cruise line. Whenever possible, the Road Scholar daily schedule indicates port arrival and departure times (subject to change by the cruise line). This may mean that free time in port is limited. Regardless of the time in port, Road Scholar delivers a robust educational program. All routes, field trips, and excursions are subject to change as weather and river conditions may affect the itinerary and could affect the progress of the ship, making it run late and sometimes miss ports because it is not safe to dock. Because of this, the cruise itinerary should always be regarded as provisional. The operators reserve the right to change the content of field trips and excursions without prior notice

City Overview Trip, Garden District, Cooking School
New Orleans, LA
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 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. We’ll also drive into the Ninth Ward where devastation from Hurricane Katrina (August 29, 2005) is still apparent. While the rest of the city has largely recovered, the Ninth Ward is a different story.

Lunch: At a local restaurant

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 the world-renowned New Orleans School of Cooking, an expert local chef will teach us how to cook Creole and Cajun and explain the difference. We’ll see the preparation of traditional dishes, then have them for dinner. For dessert, we’ll sample the best pralines in town and other surprises. Recipes are included.

Evening: At leisure. 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.

WWII Museum
New Orleans, LA
Hotel Monteleone

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Walking and standing at Mardi Gras World; 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 takes 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 the museum's American Sector Restaurant

Afternoon: After returning to the hotel, the rest of the afternoon/evening are on your own. 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 Countess in the morning.

Riverboat Captain, Mardi Gras World, American Queen
New Orleans, LA
American Queen Voyages' American Countess

Activity note: Walking approximately 4.5 blocks to/from restaurant. Getting on/off motorcoach, on/off riverboat.

Morning: We will have luggage ready for pick-up and transport to the American Countess before walking to brunch.

Brunch: At the celebrated Court of Two Sisters, we’ll settle in for a true New Orleans delight, the Jazz brunch. The elaborate buffet offers tasty hot and cold New Orleans favorites from eggs any style to Creole jambalaya, grits and grillades, gumbo, classic desserts, and much more; coffee, tea, water included, other beverages available for purchase. Tap your toes to the music of the restaurant’s resident Jazz trio. We’ll then walk back to the hotel, where we will receive another lecture related to the program's themes.

Afternoon: We’ll depart on a field trip to 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. From the Museum, we'll reboard the motorcoach, ride to the Port of New Orleans, and board the American Queen. 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: 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. We will have our own tables for Road Scholar, so we can get to know our fellow adventurers better.

Evening: Each evening, American Queen Voyages presents professional entertainment in the Grand Saloon. Later, enjoy music and dancing in the Engine Room Bar or a piano sing-a-long in the Main Deck Lounge.

Nottoway Plantation, Lecture
White Castle, LA
American Queen Voyages' American Countess

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: Early riser coffee available in the Front Porch Café. In the Dining Room, we can choose between a traditional plated breakfast and the extensive buffet.

Morning: We’ll gather for a Road Scholar exclusive lecture. The remainder of the afternoon is free to enjoy the relaxing beauty of the river as we roll along.

Lunch: Aboard the American Countess, choose between a traditional plated luncheon or the buffet in the dining room or dine alfresco at the Front Porch Café.

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. We’ll gather for a movie about the Mississippi River. The remainder of the afternoon is free to enjoy the relaxing beauty of the river as we roll along.

Dinner: Aboard the American Countess

Evening: Enjoy great performances every evening.

Louisiana State Prison Field Trip, lecture
St. Francisville, LA
American Queen Voyages' American Countess

Activity note: Golf carts available from boat to the steamboat company’s motorcoach, driving approximately 1/2 hour, getting on/off motorcoach several times.

Breakfast: Aboard the American Countess.

Morning: We will visit the Louisiana State Penitentiary, the state’s maximum-security prison on 18,000 acres in Angola, widely known as The Farm. We’ll be joined by a local expert who will tell us about this penitentiary that was once a plantation, its troubled history, and how it operates today. Aboard our motorcoach, we will ride through farmland where inmates harvest more than 4 million pounds of produce annually in addition to enterprises including a license tag plant, printing services, a mattress/broom/mop shop (including suicide prevention mattresses), and a herd of 1,600 cattle. Led by a warden, we will explore the prison museum, the Red Hat cellblock, and the largest chapel where we will have an opportunity to hear the enlightening stories from current inmates. The museum was the brainchild of a warden whose stated goal was to document the history of Louisiana’s prisons and not repeat the horrors of the past. After more than a century of terrible conditions, abuses, corruption, and real attempts at reform, Angola achieved accreditation in 1994 from the American Correctional Association. ACA accreditation acknowledges “policies and procedures necessary for the operation of correctional programs that safeguard life, health and safety of the personnel who work in juvenile and adult facilities and programs; as well as the offenders who are a part of the correctional system.” Angola has partnerships with the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Ashland University, and the Louisiana Department of Education that offer opportunities for inmates to participate in educational programs. Since 1965, the prison has held a professional rodeo to entertain its inmates, employees, and the public. A portion of the proceeds support the Louisiana Penitentiary Inmate Welfare Fund. Angola also has its own magazine and radio station.

Lunch: Aboard the American Countess.

Afternoon: We’ll have another Road Scholar exclusive lecture. 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 Countess

Evening: As always, more entertainment.

Natchez-MS, Longwood, Stanton Hall, Natchez City Cemetery
Natchez, MS
American Queen Voyages' American Countess

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.

Breakfast: Aboard the American Countess.

Morning: The numerous antebellum mansions of Natchez recall a bygone era. With a local expert, we’ll take a field trip to Longwood Plantation 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 Stanton, 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 Countess.

Afternoon: We will have an exclusive Road Scholar 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 continue our exploration of Natchez at the Natchez City Cemetery, where we will take a deeper dive into the lives of the city's historical figures.

Dinner: Aboard the American Countess.

Evening: Nightly entertainment.

Vicksburg-MS, Vicksburg Nat. Military Park, Civil War Causes
Vicksburg, MS
American Queen Voyages' American Countess

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

Breakfast: Aboard the American Countess.

Morning: We’ll 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 cannon, 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 Countess.

Afternoon: Our lecture this afternoon will discuss plantation life along the river. The remainder of the afternoon is free to engage in the activities of your choice.

Dinner: Aboard the American Countess.

Evening: Nightly entertainment.

Greenville, MS
American Queen Voyages' American Countess

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach.

Breakfast: Aboard the American Countess.

Morning: This morning’s Road Scholar exclusive lecture will provide details about the Mississippi Delta, the birthplace of the blues. Then enjoy the river vistas.

Lunch: Aboard the America Countess.

Afternoon: In Greenville, we’ll have an opportunity to take advantage of the steamboat company’s hop-on/hop-off bus to see the town. Significant sites include the Greenville History Museum; the Hebrew Union Temple, built in 1906, with its original stained glass windows and organ; and the Flood of 1927 Museum that presents the history of one of the country’s greatest natural disasters when the Mississippi flooded the Delta for four months.

Dinner: Aboard the American Countess.

Evening: Nightly entertainment.

Cruising on the Queen
Cruising the Mississippi River
American Queen Voyages' American Countess

Breakfast: Aboard the American Countess.

Morning: We’ll gather for another Road Scholar exclusive lecture. Then engage in the activities of your choice.

Lunch: Aboard the American Countess.

Afternoon: Our final lecture of the program will be wrap up discussions and questions. This is the last afternoon of our program on the mighty Mississippi as we head to Memphis.

Dinner: Aboard the American Countess. 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 Countess

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!

Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.