Few natural landmarks capture the pioneering spirit of America’s Heartland quite like the Mighty Mississippi River. Spanning 10 states—from Minnesota’s glacial Lake Itasca down to the Gulf of Mexico—this surging riverway runs like a seam through the fabric of North America. A central migration route for countless birds and marine life, a historic source of sustenance for Native American inhabitants and early settlers, and a transformational trade route between the many port cities of the Industrial Revolution and beyond, it’s no wonder that American author and humorist Mark Twain was so enamored by the river. “The Mississippi Valley," he wrote, "is as reposeful as a dreamland, nothing worldly about it… nothing to hang a fret or a worry upon.”
While the Mississippi River spans nearly the entire United States from north to south, arguably its loveliest stretch is the southernmost corridor that extends from the soulful shores of Memphis to the Louisiana bayou. And there’s no better way to behold the majesty of the mighty river—and all its southern charms—than from upon it. American Cruise Lines is pleased to offer this experience throughout 2018 on select 8-day/7-night cruises aboard authentic paddlewheel vessels offering all the comforts of home. With onboard experts to guide you in selecting customized excursions, a variety of performances to keep you entertained while on board, and oversized staterooms featuring private balconies and sweeping views, our award-winning cruise will be your home away from home. Explore the itinerary below to start planning your Mississippi River getaway today.
Day 1 | Memphis, Tennessee
No matter your musical inclinations, it’s likely that your favorite playlist owes a tip of the hat (or two) to this southwest Tennessee town, the birthplace of the blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll music as we know it. Head to historic Beale Street, which runs nearly two miles from the banks of the Mississippi to East Street, and see why this lively stretch of music venues, finger-licking BBQ joints and rousing nightlife helps this “Official Home of the Blues” keep its name alive year after year. The likes of Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and rockabilly legend Jerry Lee Lewis all made their mark on the recording industry here. Walk in their famous footsteps (and hum a note or two) in the studios of the venerable Sun Records, which you can still tour today. From there, hop over to Graceland—former home of "The King" himself, Elvis Presley, where you can tour the Colonial Revival-style estate and soak up the sights and sounds of the world’s ultimate rock ‘n’ roll destination.
Day 2 | Day of River Cruising
Take in sweeping views of the Mississippi River’s stunning scenery from your own private balcony and enjoy a relaxing day of river cruising. American Cruise Lines’ ships, Queen of the Mississippi and America, offer passengers an authentic paddlewheeler experience with all the comforts of first-class, modern amenities. American Song, American Cruise Lines’ newest ship, begins sailing Fall 2018 and represents the very first modern riverboat to cruise America’s great rivers. Featuring modern styling and design, such as floor-to-ceiling glass windows, a grand four-story atrium and the largest staterooms in the industry, this new riverboat will elevate the standard for U.S. river cruising.
Day 3 | Vicksburg, Mississippi
Just over 40 miles west of Jackson and perched on the bluffs of the Mississippi River, the small city of Vicksburg offers an experience with equal parts genteel southern charm and profound historical significance. With its enviable position overlooking a bend in the river, Vicksburg was a center of strategic importance as the Civil War erupted in 1861, quickly becoming a Confederate command center. In 1863, following a 47-day siege that is now considered one of the key battles of the entire war, General Grant ultimately took control of Vicksburg in what would be a crucial victory for the north. The city remained under Union control through the end of the war. Visit the Vicksburg National Military Park and explore the more than 1,400 monuments and other markers that denote the people who lived and fought here during this important time in the nation’s history.
Day 4 | Natchez, Mississippi
Among the oldest modern settlements on the lower Mississippi River, this petite town located about 90 miles north of Baton Rouge is steeped in southern charm. Natchez is credited with having the greatest number of well-preserved antebellum homes, untouched during the Civil War and carefully preserved to this day. Many can be toured, like the Longwood Plantation, which remains incomplete to this day due to the urgency of the Civil War during its construction. With over 1,000 structures on the National Register of Historic Places, and 13 National Historic Landmarks, there’s plenty of history to explore here. Outdoor enthusiasts will revel in the city’s wildlife preserves, natural parks and riverways that beckon from every corner of the small town. When looking for a place “where the river is wide and history runs deep,” as they say here, look no further than Natchez for a tranquil escape.
Day 5 | St. Francisville, Louisiana
Slow down and experience the charms of true southern plantation life in this small parish of fewer than 2,000 residents. It’s been called “one of the most beautiful small towns in America,” and it’s easy to see why: sprawling plantation homes, like the dazzling Rosedown Plantation, pepper a verdant landscape of lush gardens that lie beneath canopies of southern live oaks. There’s seldom a modern distraction to break the spell. Visitors also head to the Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge to behold the local flora and fauna, and tour the West Feliciana Historical Society Museum to learn ever more about the history of this quiet and well-preserved river town.
Day 6 | Baton Rouge, Louisiana
As southern cities go, it’s tough to beat Louisiana’s capital—home to a vibrant restaurant and bar scene, numerous theaters, museums, galleries and, of course, the Louisiana State University main campus and stadium complex where the proud Tigers of the SEC run more than 30,000 strong. As a melting pot of cultures, Baton Rouge boasts a strong Creole and Cajun heritage that permeates everything from its cocktails and cuisine to its artistic sensibilities. Behold the vibrant stained glass in Louisiana’s Old State Capitol building, witness the World War II-era USS Kid, explore the attractions of city center, view Civil War relics at Capitol Park Museum or grab a bite near the riverfront. Baton Rouge offers an abundance of diversions along the winding lower corridor of the Mighty Mississippi.
Day 7 | Oak Alley, Louisiana
Arguably the most photographed plantation in the state of Louisiana, if not in all of the south, Oak Alley invites you to step back in time. Known as “The Grande Dame of the Great River Road,” the plantation occupies 25 luxuriant acres along the west bank of the river in quiet St. James Parish. A double row of 300-year old oak trees form a canopied alley that stretches nearly a quarter of a mile toward the centerpiece, the main house—a Greek Revival beauty built in 1839 and meticulously restored to its original grandeur today. Tour the antebellum mansion, explore the lush and romantic grounds, then cool off on the porch with a proper mint julep for a true taste of southern plantation life.
Day 8 | New Orleans, Louisiana
From Bourbon Street to the Garden District, the “Big Easy” is among the country’s most truly unique destinations, juxtaposing French-Creole influences with antebellum architecture, and decorous southern charm with a sense of playfulness and revelry that is unmatched. Founded in 1718, the city sprang to life around the Vieux Carré, known today as the French Quarter—viewed by many as the heart and soul of New Orleans. Bar hop and window shop your way around, or head to Jackson Square to browse a variety of local artwork on display. A steady supply of beignets and hurricane cocktails can help fuel your sightseeing, or for a little more sustenance, you’ll find no shortage of southern and Cajun favorites around every corner, from Gumbo and Boudin to a good old fashioned crawfish boil. Laissez les bons temps rouler!