Lower Mississippi Christmas Cruise (December 19-26)

What to do when your grown up babies and their babies will be with their in-laws this year? Why not cruise the lower Mississippi? It kinda sells itself: no need to leave the country, delicious food, interesting tours and activities, no long-distance flights, nightly entertainment, and a chance to explore a new corner of the world.

American Cruise Lines’ American Melody will be our home away from home this week and will take us from New Orleans to Memphis. It’s our first time with this cruise line and our first time to cruise solely in the United States. We’re excited to be sharing the adventure with Cleone and Walter, Army pals of 46 years.

Walter, Cleone, Dan and I timed our arrivals perfectly so that we could meet at the airport on the 18th and share a cab into town. We checked into the beautiful, new, WWII-themed Higgins Hilton, grabbed a quick lunch, and headed across the street to our main event for the day.

The Big Easy is famous for a lot of things, but we came a day early to make sure we had time to visit what congress has designated America’s Official World War II Museum. Since its 2020 opening on D-Day, June 6, it has supported the mission of telling the story of the American experience in the war: why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today. We started our visit with a fabulous, though sobering, 4D movie titled Beyond All Boundaries and then took in two of the galleries. The first one, dedicated to aircraft, had a B-24 suspended from the ceiling, the kind of plane Dan’s dad was in when he was shot down over Germany seven months before VE Day. The other gallery dealt with trench art—homemade souvenirs crafted out of discarded war refuse. Vases, candlesticks, and ashtrays made out of bullets and shell casings I can wrap my head around but the functioning violin made of scavenged wood took me totally by surprise.

Paying homage to the famous Stage Door Canteens that entertained and fed 11 million Allied servicemen and women during the war is The National WWII Museum’s own BB’s Stage Door Canteen. We snagged tickets before we left home for an evening performance by the Victory Belles. Fun meets three-part harmony meets whimsical, sophisticated, and talented. Their rendition of The Little Drummer Boy might be my all-time favorite.

The first official day of our cruise adventure was the 19th. We spent the morning seeing the remaining two galleries of the museum, both of which were wonderful. One focuses on Normandy and the other had a wing for the Eastern Front and one for the Western. The galleries are designed like experiences with the displays in makeshift bunkers, Quonset huts, battle ships, the jungle, and bombed out buildings. Short movies and displays made them come to life.

We timed our arrival at the American Melody just in time for a late lunch. (Being in time for food is one of our superpowers!) Like all arriving passengers we got a complimentary covid test and waited in our room until we got the all-clear and were free to eat, explore the boat, unpack, and relax until the 4:00 briefing on the excursions that will be offed this week. From there to cocktails and then dinner and then a foot stomping hour of vocals by Connie Garrett and her son. A great day one.

This morning we toured Oak Alley, a sugar cane plantation established 211 years ago that takes its name from an impressive row of 28 magnificent 300-year-old live oak trees stretching a quarter mile from the front of the mansion to the Mississippi River. Its sprawling lawns, pastures, ornamental gardens, and upper and lower wraparound porches make it easy to understand what an impression it would have made in its prime. The plantation was built by and relied on the labor of the enslaved. Two rows of reconstructed quarters tells part of their story. Having an abundance of house slaves, as many as 19, served as the ultimate demonstration of its most prominent owners’ wealth. With its impressive landholdings, beautiful grounds, astute business practices, private docking site, and imposing big house, it’s easy to see why it became know as The Grand Dame of the Great River Road. The property was designated a National Historic Landmark, one of only 2,500 in the United States, in 1978 and has been used in numerous films (The Long Hot Summer, Interview With a Vampire), commercials, magazine layouts, soap operas (The Young and the Restless, Days of Our Lives), and music videos (Beyoncé’s Deja Vu).  

After our excursion, lunch was served on board before our 1:30 departure from New Orleans. It was fun to watch our fellow river craft ply the water this afternoon. The ride so far has been smooth and quiet.

It was evident within 24 hours of getting on board that our main, if not only, dilemma will be working up an appetite for the next food offering. Champagne and strawberries were available the minute lunch was over. Cookies were passed around at 3:00, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres set up by 5:30, dinner anytime before 7:30, and believe it or not popcorn, ice cream sundaes, and floats were available during tonight’s entertainment.

Speaking of tonight’s entertainment, we thoroughly enjoyed Mario and Norm playing Boogie Blues. Mario, 35, was on vocals, trumpet, and piano and Norm, 85, played a mean steel guitar. Fun scoop on Norm: he toured and recorded exclusively with Merle Haggard for 49 years; has played the White House, Madison Square Garden, and Carnegie Hall; has had 30 hits so far; and is in the Western Swing as well as The Steel Guitar Halls of Fame.

We are heading to bed excited to see what tomorrow brings.

Fun facts about New Orleans…..

New Orleans became the first city to host opera in the United States (1796).

The Voodoo culture was introduced in New Orleans by the 1800’s voodoo queens.
Of the queens, Marie Laveau became the most prominent.

New Orleans was the largest city in the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.

The phrase Dixieland comes from the name Dix which was the currency of Louisiana
back when states were using their own currency.

Mobile, Alabama held the first Mardi Gras party in America (not New Orleans).

Louis Armstrong and Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President Kennedy, were born in New Orleans.

Lake Pontchartrain Causeway has been declared by the
Guinness World Records as the longest continuous bridge in the world.

The Superdome is the largest enclosed stadium in the world.

A New Orleans dentist, Levi Spear Parmly, invented the first form of dental floss. 

Most of the city was built on a cypress swamp, so the dead are interred in above-ground tombs.
A pyramid tomb in St. Louis Cemetery was built by actor Nicolas Cage. 

The city boasts the oldest continuously used Catholic cathedral in the country: the St. Louis Cathedral.


6 thoughts on “Lower Mississippi Christmas Cruise (December 19-26)

  1. What a great beginning! Thank you for sharing your great photos and fascinating facts. The trench art was amazing!


  2. What a fantastic trip, I’m really looking forward to your posts and photos! The great river road, one of my favorites.


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