Channel your inner Huckleberry Finn as you cruise along the Mississippi River aboard a modern-day paddle wheeler that caters to your comfort with some of the largest accommodations on the river. Visit places immortalized in American history and song from the Big Easy in New Orleans to the Blue City of Memphis as you explore the sights with local experts and savor multi-cultural culinary traditions along the way.
Cast off for a storied adventure as iconic as America itself as you explore daily life along the great Mississippi River! This 11-day adventure includes 7 nights aboard American Duchess; overnight stays at premier hotels in Memphis and New Orleans bookend a 7-night river cruise aboard the boutique-styled paddle wheeler American Duchess, evoking the graceful traditions of the era of steamboat travel with a modern-day flair. Discover the inspiration behind the Blues in Memphis, the Delta blues in Helena, Civil War struggles at Vicksburg National Battlefield and history in Natchez. Immerse in the multi-layered cultural traditions of the Louisiana bayou, the politics of Huey Long in Baton Rouge, the mansions of Nottoway and all that jazz in New Orleans, enjoying behind the scenes privileges for Tauck guests only.
Arrive New Orleans
Tour begins: 5:30 PM, Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans. A transfer is included from Louis Armstrong International Airport to The Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans, ideally located in the heart of the city overlooking the Mississippi River. This evening, join us for a welcome reception and dinner at famed New Orleans restaurant serving up Creole cuisine and Dixieland jazz.
Tour the French Quarter, New Orleans cooking demo & private jazz
A discovery-filled day in this amazing city starts with a locally guided tour of the French Quarter, resplendent in lacey wrought iron balconies, pastel hued homes and French, Spanish and American architectural influences. Continue to the New Orleans School of Cooking for a private cooking demonstration and lunch, followed by a private jazz performance at the famed Preservation Hall. The remainder of the day is free.
A day of gardens and history treasures in New Orleans
This morning you'll embark on a walking tour of the Garden District with a local guide, seeing ancient live oaks, stately mansions centuries old and manicured parks. Have lunch as you please, then join us for an informative visit to the acclaimed National World War II Museum that includes viewing the "4D" film, Beyond All Boundaries, narrated by Tom Hanks. Embark the American Duchess this afternoon for your 7-night cruise on the Mississippi River; your bags will already be aboard.
Life in the Bayou & Sugarcane
Go ashore for a boat ride into the bayous of eerily beautiful Manchac Swamp with a wetlands expert to learn about life in the Louisiana Wetlands, and the inhabitants of the swamp, including the American Alligator. Hear stories about the unique history of the Cajun town of Frenier, a ghost town with haunted tales to tell. After lunch onboard, continue to Nottoway Plantation for a tour of the mansion – a former sugarcane plantation, it is one of the South's largest historic homes, layered with grand balconies, white columns and a three-story rotunda that overlooks sweeping, oak-draped lawns.
Stroll back in time in St. Francisville
Dock in St. Francisville, a hidden gem of Louisiana towns with pre-Civil War mansions and historic homes with diverse architectural styles. Explore with a local guide who shares anecdotes about the people who lived here, including the artist John James Audubon. Audubon worked as a tutor at the Oakley Plantation and spent his free time combing the woods for bird specimens. The abundance of bird life inspired one of Audubon's most successful artistic periods with many of his watercolor illustrations appearing in his book, The Birds of America. Enjoy time at leisure to stroll its charming streets before returning to the riverboat for lunch.
A day in historic Natchez
Enjoy a full day of exploration in Natchez, home to over 500 pre-Civil War buildings reflecting the huge fortunes built by the cotton and slave trades. Learn about the backbreaking slave experience that led to the town's immense wealth from a local expert who shares historical insights on their daily lives. Pre-war Natchez had more millionaires per capita than any city in the U.S., and many mansions survive today; visit select mansions as you drive through the city.
Vicksburg, remembering the Civil War
Disembark for a locally guided tour of the port city of Vicksburg. In talking about its significance in the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln said: "Vicksburg is the key. The war can never be brought to a close until the key is in our pocket." At Vicksburg National Military Park, step back 150 years to the 47-day siege that ended on July 4, 1863, giving the Union control of the Mississippi. Explore the park with a National Park Service guide; see the U.S.S. Cairo, raised from the bottom of the Yazoo River. This afternoon, explore 19th-century Vicksburg on a guided tour of the city's oldest neighborhood. Learn how the city's pre-Civil War history shaped its architecture, with invitations to go inside Christ Episcopal Church, built in 1846, and the Duff Green Mansion, owned by seven generations of the same family.
Discover the Delta Blues
Cultural roots run deep in the Mississippi Delta, as you'll learn his afternoon when we dock in Greenville, Mississippi. Nearby Indianola is the birthplace of blues legend B.B. King. Learn about the history of development of the musical style at the museum that bears his name. Experience this rich musical tradition before returning to your riverboat and chart a course towards Tennessee.
Spend the entire day enjoying a trip back in time to the genteel era of steamboat travel. Relax onboard as your riverboat navigates the mighty Mississippi past picturesque towns and scenic vistas once frequented by author Mark Twain who wrote about river in many of his works. Twain worked as a steamboat pilot himself for a few years, receiving his license in 1859 after meticulously studying the ever-changing river and its ports for two and a half years. Meet with a member of the American Duchess crew today for a behind the scenes look into what makes a steam driven paddle wheeler work. Later, join us for a Steamboatin' party to toast your 7-night Mississippi River cruise.
Disembark in Memphis
Disembark ship in Memphis this morning. Learn about its musical legacy on a city tour with a local musician. See famed sites like Sun Studio, Beale Street, Stax Studio, Cotton Row, Overton Park, Historic Central Gardens, and St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. Pass by the homes where music legends like Elvis, B. B. King, and Johnny Cash lived and visit the Rock 'n Soul Museum. After a Memphis-style barbecue lunch, head to the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated while a guest at the motel, now part of the National Civil Rights Museum; a tour reveals compelling exhibits that chronicle the struggle for African American freedom and equality from the earliest days of slavery in America. Your accommodation this evening is at The Guest House at Memphis – in the heart of one of the city's iconic landmarks, Graceland, once owned by Elvis Presley. Join us for a tour of Graceland, followed by a welcome reception and dinner at the hotel.
Tour ends: 9:00 AM at The Guest House at Graceland. Fly home anytime. A transfer is included from The Guest House at Graceland to Memphis International Airport. You should allow two hours for check-in.