New Orleans Louisiana by Paddlewheel Steamboat TourLive like Mark Twain for a few hours during a river cruise with the Steamboat Natchez

New Orleans, Louisiana in early March was breezy and somewhat chilly. However, 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 and many other cities along its shores.

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 is typically holding a tablet or a scroll representing poetry or lyre representing music and song.

If you have never heard the sound of a calliope, take a minute to listen on the website. This site has recorded calliope sounds for several ships and interesting stories about the steamboat industry.

Steamboat Natchez Calliope Music

The sound 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 the French Quarter and surrounding neighborhoods. In the late 1800’s, showboats and circuses typically announced arrivals into a new town with a lilting tune. A circus would usually mount the calliope in an enclosed wagon, while showboats would use upper deck mounts. Morecraft Manufacturing company is one of 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 is truly like entering a time capsule. The calliope playfully tosses a melody into the air welcoming guests to enter this revered transport. The musical sounds are 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. Your breathing slows and troubles drift away as the rhythm of the river lulls you into a comfortable stillness.

Live Music on Steamboat Natchez

Live Music on Steamboat Natchez

The Steamboat Natchez Cruise 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 of interest along the route.

If You Go

The Steamboat Natchez Lighthouse Ticket Office is located in the New Orleans French Quarter near Jax Brewery.  Check the website for tour dates and times.  Local newspapers and tourist publications often include discount coupons for select departures.  We received a military discount (retired and spouse), with ID verification at the ticket office. There are specialty Jazz cruises and dinner cruises available in addition to the general educational cruise. There is a gift/souvenir shop on board, along with passenger photos available for purchase after the tour.

Tip: For reading about the Mississippi River and Steamboat history, I recommend Mark Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi,” a memoir of Twain’s experiences as a steamboat pilot.

Learn More About New Orleans, Louisiana

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A Weekend in New Orleans

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