Theme Cruises Explore Life on the Mississippi

From Civil War to baseball, music to Mark Twain, guests can pursue special interests By: Marilyn Green
Themed cruises on the Mississippi gain popularity. // © 2013 American Queen Steamboat Company
Themed cruises on the Mississippi gain popularity. // © 2013 American Queen Steamboat Company

The Details

American Cruise Lines

American Queen Steamboat Company

Theme cruises give agents an opportunity to sell to their clients’ personal interests or to put together a group with partners who can access people who care deeply about history, food and wine, music, sports, nostalgia, gardens, etc.

The themed cruises offered this year on the Mississippi River capitalize on regional history from the Civil War to icons from Mark Twain to Elvis Presley. They feature baseball greats, local cuisine, big bands and Dixieland, the Civil War Sesquicentennial and more.

American Queen Steamboat Company
American Queen Steamboat Company offers an eight-night Civil War Sesquicentennial Cruise with the addition of two pre-cruise hotel nights in Jackson, Miss., and Memphis, Tenn. It features historians James I. Robertston, Jr. and Brian Steel Wills, musician Bobby Horton and living history impersonators portraying General Robert E. Lee, General Ulysses S. Grant and President Abraham Lincoln, honoring the 150th anniversary of the battles of Vicksburg and Chickamauga/Chattanooga. During the cruise, American Queen will have a mock press conference with Generals Lee and Grant to compare the simultaneous battles of Vicksburg (Grant) and Gettysburg (Lee) fought in July 1863 and a Victorian tea hosted by Mrs. Lee.

Visits include the Vicksburg National Military Park and the C.S.S. Cairo, Fort Pillow and Parker’s Crossroads (both battles feature Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest, whose biography was written by Wills). There is also a day in Savannah, Ga., to visit Shiloh and Corinth and one in Paducah, Ky., to visit the site of Columbus-Belmont State Park, which was key in gaining and keeping control of the Mississippi. A post-cruise visit to Chickamauga and Chattanooga battlefields will be enhanced with Living History re-enactors and demonstrations.

The itinerary takes place Sept. 13-21. Pricing starts at $3,245.

Sports fans will enjoy the company’s Baseball Legends cruises, with a July 20-27 sailing from St. Louis to Cincinnati hosted by Dan Schlossberg, author of 34 baseball books and thousands of articles, and featuring Ron Bloomberg, Al Clark and Bobby Cox. A five-night Cincinnati to Pittsburgh sailing departs July 27 with Al Clark, Ken Griffey, Sr. and Ken Griffey, Jr. Both  cruises start at $1,820.

One of American Queen’s most attractive themes takes advantage of the traditional life along the rivers, bringing back the Good Old Summertime, an important part of small town America, with picnics, barbeques, baseball and apple pie; ice cream and lemonade socials; kite-flying contests; and barbershop quartets. Ranging from five to nine nights, the cruises are priced from $1,820.

American Cruise Lines
Themes offered onboard American Cruise Lines’ Queen of the Mississippi include jazz and blues cruises in the New Orleans region, with performances from top musicians on every cruise. The line pays tribute to jazz giants, including Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton and Clarence Williams, and tours will delve into the musical history at each of the cities and towns that created jazz. A seven-night Jazz Cruise sails from New Orleans to Memphis on May 4, exploring ports including Natchez, Vicksburg and the Oak Alley Plantation.

The seven-night Savories of the South cruise — departing March 2 and sailing roundtrip from New Orleans — features a Cajun- and Creole-inspired menu. Passengers will visit the Louisiana Culinary Institute, have onboard cooking demonstrations and benefit from the expertise of special onboard wine and food pairing expert Regina Daigneault.

The line’s seven-night Mark Twain cruise from St. Louis to St. Paul, departing on Aug. 3, focuses on the life and times of Samuel Clemens and the Mississippi River that served as inspiration to him, complete with a Mark Twain impersonator and a special behind-the-scenes tour in Hannibal, Mo., his hometown.

On May 25 and June 15, Queen of the Mississippi offers seven-night Civil War-themed cruises from Memphis to New Orleans with Civil War scholar Dr. Michael Deeb, a university professor and accomplished Civil War author, most known for his novels that focus on individuals who lived during the war; these include “Duty and Honor” and “The Lincoln Assassination.”

Guests also will join Civil War expert John Darnell on a guided tour of the Helena Museum, which has exhibits highlighting Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, the Civil War and more. Passengers will also visit the National Military Park in Vicksburg, Miss., and the Rosedown State Plantation in St. Francisville, La., with most of the original furniture on display in the mansion. The Louisiana State Museum in Baton Rouge has a Confederate submarine among its Civil War exhibits.

Pricing for all the above American Cruise Lines cruises starts at $4,195.