Live like Mark Twain for a few hours during a river cruise with the Steamboat Natchez in New Orleans, Louisiana. Early March brought a chilly breeze, but I enjoyed an educational river cruise learning about the 300 years of port city history.
The “Muddy Mississippi” has been integral to the development of New Orleans because of the city’s strategic location at the river’s southernmost currents.
History of Calliope Music
While walking in the French Quarter, I heard the lively musical dance of the steam calliope. Historically, Greek mythology explains that Calliope (Kalliope) was the oldest daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne. As the eldest of the Muses, she was a goddess of music, song, and dance. In art, Calliope usually holds a tablet or a scroll representing poetry or a lyre representing music and song.
If you have never heard the sound of a calliope, take a minute to listen on the steamboats.org website. (Scroll down the page to the audio recordings). This site has recorded calliope sounds for several ships, including the Natchez, and interesting stories about the steamboat industry.
Steamboat Natchez Calliope Music
The sound of the calliope is always loud and generally either loved or hated by the listeners. Calliope music on the Steamboat Natchez plays from an upper deck pipe organ powered by steam. The music plays pre-boarding, which is audible throughout New Orleans’ French Quarter and surrounding neighborhoods, so it is easy to follow the sounds toward the river bank to locate the boat’s departure point.
In the late 1800s, showboats and circuses typically announced arrivals into a new town with a lilting tune. A circus would typically mount the calliope in an enclosed wagon. Showboats would more commonly use upper deck mounts, like the one you will find on the Steamboat Natchez.
There are a few modern-day businesses with skilled craftsmen available to build and restore calliopes, keeping this tradition alive in America.
Steamboat Natchez: The Adventure
Boarding the Steamboat Natchez in New Orleans is truly like entering a time capsule. The calliope playfully tosses a melody into the air, welcoming guests to enter this revered transport. The music is fascinating, almost as intriguing as watching the steam shoot upward from the individual whistles.
A large red wooden paddlewheel churns through the muddy waters of the Mississippi River as the cruise gets underway. My breathing slowed, and troubles drifted away as the rhythm of the river lulled me into a comfortable stillness.
The Steamboat Natchez cruising tour is an easy way to see the city from a different perspective. During the route, a public address system is used to communicate about the sights and sites along the route, with a trained guide directing guests to look at various points of interest.
If You Go
The Steamboat Natchez Lighthouse Ticket Office is easy to find in the French Quarter near Jax Brewery and is just steps away from the departure point. However, I recommend booking reservations online through the Viator.com link below for the comfort of skipping the lines with the assurance that you have a ticket for the most convenient time.
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