rollin’ on the river

When most of us think of river cruises, we look to Europe for storybook waterways like the Danube, Rhine and Seine. But the Mississippi River, right here in our backyard, is getting a lot of attention from people who want to experience a river cruise without having to fly to another continent.

America Cruise Lines and the American Queen Steamboat Company each offer river cruises in Ohio, the Pacific Northwest, the Southeast, on the Mississippi, and in New England – including the Hudson River in the fall. Recently, I had the pleasure of cruising the Lower Mississippi, from New Orleans to Memphis, on the nostalgic and beautiful American Queen. An authentic steam-powered paddlewheel boat, she accommodates 436 passengers.

As American Queen passengers, we were transported back in time to an era of glory and grandeur. The women can find some quiet time in the Ladies’ Tea Parlor while the men can play board games in the Gentleman’s Card Room. The Mark Twain Gallery features comfortable chairs and Tiffany lamps by which to read your favorite book or socialize with fellow passengers. The J.M. White Dining Room with its elaborate globe chandeliers and gold décor is the elegant venue for your daily gourmet meals.

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We were entertained with fabulous Broadway-style shows, performed by a talented ensemble and orchestra in the Grand Saloon, which is modeled after Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C. Our onboard lifelong learning experience was superbly provided by a riverlorian and a Mark Twain portrayal actor who chronicled the history and lore of the river.

The Lower Mississippi cruise itinerary included a pre-night hotel stay in New Orleans, which allowed us to experience the nightlife, cuisine, and casinos in the Bourbon Street vicinity. A notable port of call on the river includes a tour of the Nottoway Plantation – a glorious antebellum mansion with 64 bedrooms! For Civil War history buffs, the port of Vicksburg, Mississippi features the famous battlefields, monuments and the ironclad USS Cairo ship.

Jazz music is an integral part of the lifestyle and culture of the deep south. We visited the B.B. King Museum and Grammy Museum Mississippi featuring various musical artists from the state. Staying with the music theme, our last port on the cruise was Memphis, Tennessee, where Elvis Presley called home at his beautiful Graceland estate. Its impressive museum featured his collection of cars, rock and roll memorabilia, and his private jets.

Our Mississippi river cruise on the American Queen was an unforgettable journey. If you’re looking to stay state-side for your next learning adventure, this may be just the trip to get you going!

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