I’m really excited about Viking River Cruises recent announcement of their itineraries on the “Mighty Mississippi”! I thought I would share the highlights of one of their offerings here in my travel blog. This is their “Heart of the Delta” vacation. This particular itinerary is scheduled to begin sailing late October of 2022, and is available to book now.
Discover Southern culture and charm
Immerse yourself in history and heritage on this journey from Memphis to New Orleans. Be inspired by the stories of famed musicians and civil rights heroes, and soak up the rich French and Acadian cultures that infuse the Lower Mississippi. Savor Memphis’s famous BBQ, as well as delicious Cajun and Creole cuisine. And stir your soul with the rhythms of gospel, Delta blues and Dixieland jazz.
Day One: Memphis, Tennessee
Arrive in Memphis, then transfer to your ship.* After boarding, the afternoon is yours to relax or explore the city on your own. If your arrival schedule permits, you may wish to explore the music, cuisine and character of Beale Street. A straight path stretching nearly two miles from East Street to the Mississippi, Beale Street is renowned as the intersection of American blues, country, gospel and rock ’n’ roll music.
*Ground transfers are included with Viking Air purchase.
Day Two: Scenic Cruising, The Lower Mississippi
Cruising the serpentine route of the Lower Mississippi, you will witness an astonishing array of picturesque landscapes. Sail past deep-green forests, lush vegetation and a patchwork of fertile farmlands—all hugging the shores and hosting a huge variety of birdlife perched in riverside trees, ready to pluck their next meal from the flowing waters. Around you, bluffs rise over the river’s edge. Silos pierce bucolic landscapes. Sandbars and low islands guide the waters as they have for millennia. Passing numerous tributaries and meandering channels, you may appreciate this massive waterway as an epic river system rather than as a singular river. Immerse yourself in the region’s history and culture by reading a book from the Library, participating in a cooking demonstration or attending a lecture. After dinner, enjoy live music in the Explorers’ Lounge and mingle with fellow guests.
Day Three: Vicksburg, Mississippi
Arriving in Vicksburg, you immediately feel the Southern tradition that flows through the city’s veins. It is rich in history—especially Civil War history. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln called it “the key to the South.” And it indeed proved to be the site of the conflict’s most pivotal battle, the Battle of Vicksburg, after which the Confederates surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant. Visit Vicksburg National Military Park, which preserves the battlefield and commemorates the greater Vicksburg Campaign that preceded the battle.
Included Shore Excursion:
REVISIT THE BATTLE THAT TURNED THE CIVIL WAR
Visit the Civil War site where the Battle of Vicksburg ended, turning the tide of the war in favor of the Union. Vicksburg had been the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi. When it finally surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant on July 4, 1863, after a 47-day siege, the Union gained control of the entire Mississippi—effectively splitting the South in half. With a national park ranger narrating your tour, you will see the historic trenches, markers and monuments; peruse the exhibits at the Visitor Center; and learn about the battle’s impact on the lives of civilians and troops on both sides, including many African Americans who served in the campaign. Also included is a visit to USS Cairo, an ironclad gunboat that prowled the Mississippi as part of the Union’s brown-water navy.
Day Four: Natchez, Mississippi
Natchez is the perfect location in which to enjoy small-town America. The town is distinguished by more than 500 historic buildings, including over 200 perfectly preserved homes that still grace its broad avenues. Throughout the day, you can explore shops in the historic district and other sites at your leisure. You may choose to visit one of many pre–Civil War mansions here, some of the most beautifully preserved in this area of the South. The city itself is home to more than 1,000 structures that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. After dinner, learn about the life of local artisans and enjoy classical music.
Included Shore Excursion, The Best of Natchez
SMALL-TOWN AMERICA AT ITS BEST
Learn about local history during a guided tour of downtown Natchez, then leisurely explore the city’s top sights, with visits to two historic homes. Your route features the Natchez Visitor Center, First Presbyterian Church (exhibiting the city in historic photographs), St. Mary Basilica and more. See several historic homes, with entrance to two of your choosing. Your options include the Greek Revival Rosalie Mansion, “Our Lady on the Bluff,” and Stanton Hall, occupying an entire city block and boasting an elaborate interior. Or consider the William Johnson House, which is fascinating for the remarkable life of its owner—a former enslaved African who rose to prominence as the proprietor of a barbershop and farms. His diaries offer vivid descriptions of the life and times of Natchez.
Day Five: St. Francisville, Louisiana
We continue south on the Mississippi to St. Francisville. Boasting more than 140 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, St. Francisville is set along one of the most historic bluffs of the Mississippi. The town is said to be “two miles long and two yards wide” because it was originally built on a narrow ridge overlooking the river. Founded in 1809 to serve the commercial and cultural needs of surrounding landowners, it is the oldest town in Louisiana’s Florida Parishes. Remarkably, many of St. Francisville’s structures are not its own. Rather, they were moved upriver from Bayou Sara in the 1920s after the small settlement was destroyed by years of flooding. Today, we explore this area and visit the historic Rosedown estate and ornamental gardens.
Included Shore Excursion: Rosedown Estate
CLASSIC ARCHITECTURE IN AN UNPARALLELED GARDEN SETTING
Explore one of the South’s best-documented and most intact manor homes, along with its sophisticated gardens. The Rosedown estate encompasses 374 acres that once sustained cotton, fodder crops, pastureland, stables, livestock pens, orchards and more. Everything you will see here is the result of the economic contributions and handiwork of the 450 enslaved Africans who lived on the land. The main house was built in the Greek Revival style with exquisite furnishings from Europe and the North. It is approached by a 660-foot-long allée of towering oak trees that lead to exemplary ornamental gardens—18 acres of paths winding through bowers of cryptomerias, azaleas, camellias, crape myrtles, roses, and many other indigenous and exotic species. The gardens are designed in both the baroque geometric and less formal English styles, and are accented with beautiful sculptures and latticed gazebos.
Day Six: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Arrive in Baton Rouge, set on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River, and take a panoramic city tour of the area. Hear tales of the hardworking, fun-loving Cajun people and their contributions to Louisiana’s history and culture. Your Viking Guest Services staff can help you plan the rest of your day with several optional excursions: a Cajun heritage tour; an exploration of the Atchafalaya Basin by boat or canoe; or a visit to the USS Kidd, the most historically accurate restoration of a World War II vessel in the United States. Tonight, enjoy music in the Explorers’ Lounge.
Included Shore Excursion: Baton Rouge Panorama
SEE THE BEST OF “THE CAPITAL CITY”
See Baton Rouge’s most important sights, including the Old Governor’s Mansion and Capitol Park Museum. Admire the strikingly different New and Old State Capitols. Crowned with a soaring skyscraper, the 450-foot-tall New State Capitol bears witness to the modern architectural designs of the 1930s. While in contrast, the Old State Capitol—now known as the Museum of Political History—boasts a neo-Gothic facade reminiscent of a medieval castle, complete with crenellated towers. Visit the Old Governor’s Mansion, inscribed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. According to legend, the mansion’s uncanny likeness to the White House was no coincidence; its first resident, Governor Huey P. Long, commissioned the same design, convinced he would eventually sit as president. Stop by the Capitol Park Museum as well and peruse informative exhibits providing insight into the history, industry and culture of Louisiana. You will also see the “new” Governor’s Mansion and Louisiana State University.
Day Seven: Darrow, Louisiana
After breakfast, the day is yours to experience the Lower Mississippi—a region dotted with historic mansions, several of which are designated National Historic Landmarks for their architecture, their landscaping, and the contributions of the people who maintained the houses and the lands. Today, you may choose to explore one or several of the historic estates in the area. You may also journey to the famous Manchac Swamp, a wetlands area adorned with hundreds of acres of cypress trees and freshwater marshes. Complete your afternoon with a music presentation.
Included Shore Excursion: Houmas House & Gardens
DISCOVER THE CROWN JEWEL OF LOUISIANA’S RIVER ROAD
Explore this stunning historic mansion, acclaimed as one of the finest in the South, and its spectacular gardens. The former Burnside estate was established in the late 18th-century and became known as the “Sugar Palace” at its peak, when it produced 20 million pounds of sugar each year. Completed in 1840, the Greek Revival–style main house is filled with elegant period furnishings. Among its striking architectural elements are the 14 Doric columns lining three sides, the spiraling main staircase and two rare octagonal bachelor’s quarters called garçonnières. The gardens sprawl over 38 acres and teem with both indigenous and exotic plants, bridges, sculptures, courtyards and water features. They are renewed seasonally so there is always a burst of color and fragrance to enchant you.
Day Eight: New Orleans, Louisiana
After breakfast, disembark and proceed to the airport for your return flight, or extend your journey with additional nights in New Orleans.*
* Ground transfers are included with Viking Air purchase.
Again, these itineraries are currently scheduled to begin sailing at the end of October, 2022. This itinerary, The Heart of the Delta, will begin in Memphis and end in New Orleans, OR begin in New Orleans and end in Memphis. There are several different “Pre” & “Post” Cruise Extensions that you can add on before and/or after your cruise. You’l get to see more of what is in New Orleans, Memphis or Nashville. Message me for more information and options!
Also, we can get special Inaugural Season pricing with savings up to $1,000.00 per couple if booked before May 31, 2020.
Some of the Highlights of the various Mississippi River cruises offered by Viking River Cruises
A Mississippi River cruise offers the rare opportunity to sail through America’s heartland. Explore picturesque towns and boom cities; take in views of pastoral farms and towering bluffs; and immerse yourself in region’s rich history and culture. Here are a few highlights Viking reveals to you:
- New Orleans’s festive French Quarter and Creole cuisine
- Cajun heritage in Baton Rouge
- Vicksburg National Military Park
- BBQ and Delta blues in Memphis
- Mark Twain’s boyhood home
- Working family farm visit in Iowa
- Birdwatching along the “Mississippi Flyway”
- St. Louis’s Gateway Arch and pioneering spririt
- Norwegian cultural experience at Vesterheim
- Intricate locks and dams of the Upper Mississippi