The Steamboat Natchez River Cruise in New Orleans is a unique experience that offers travelers a chance to see the city and explore the Mississippi River from an entirely different perspective. From its historic Calliope music accompanying your boarding experience to the sights and sounds of the city as you cruise past, this two-hour tour offers an interesting and educational experience for visitors of all ages.
Overview of Steamboat Natchez River Cruise Experience
The Steamboat Natchez river cruise takes place on board a traditional steam-powered paddlewheel boat built in 1975. Experience the romance and history of 19th-century steamboat travel as you navigate along the river with the boat captain offering a tour commentary.
History of Calliope Music
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 a lyre representing music and song.
The calliope as a musical instrument originated in Europe, where it was used in traveling circuses, and festivals. It consists primarily of organ pipes arranged into a single unit that produces sound when air is pumped through them.
If you have never heard the sound of a calliope, take a minute to listen on the steamboats.org website. This site has recordings from several ships and interesting stories about the steamboat industry.
In America, the calliope was widely used on steam-powered boats, playing a crucial role in announcing the boat’s arrival at ports and warning other vessels of its presence on the river. The unique sound of the calliope has become deeply associated with steamboat travel. Today, modern boats like Steamboat Natchez still use calliope music as part of their guest entertainment.
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.
Similar to the European experience, in America’s late 1800s, 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 the upper deck
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.
The Steamboat Natchez Cruise Experience
Boarding the Steamboat Natchez is 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.
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 information about the sights of interest along the route.
Tour the Engine Room
In the engine room on the lower deck of the Natchez Steamboat, you can see the unique steam-powered paddlewheel up close.
One of the main attractions in the engine room is the paddlewheel mechanism. The steam-powered engine drives the large paddlewheel, which propels the steamboat through the water. The massive gears, rods, and shafts transfer power from the engine to the paddlewheel. Step closer to the paddlewheel to watch as it churns through the water. You’ll be so close that the spray from the paddlewheel will cool you off if it’s a hot summer’s day.
Back in the engine room, observe the many large boilers, pistons, valves, and connecting rods. These components work together to convert steam power into energy to drive the paddlewheel. Various gauges, dials, and controls allow the engineers to monitor and control the steam engine. These instruments help measure parameters such as pressure, temperature, and speed, ensuring the smooth operation of the engine.
While visiting the engine room, there are self-guided tour signs near key pieces of equipment. However, you may have the opportunity to interact with the skilled engineering crew responsible for operating and maintaining the steamboat’s engine. They can provide insights into the steamboat’s history, technology, and inner workings.
This tour is available at no extra cost to passengers.
Stroll the Decks
The Steamboat Natchez River Cruise offers viewers not only beautiful scenery but other entertainment opportunities too. Take a stroll on every level for an up-close view of the riverbank and its surrounding nature. There are ample seats on each deck for relaxing. Feel free to move around for different vantage points or to shift between sunny spots and more shaded areas.
Lunch or Dinner Buffet Aboard the Steamboat Natchez
Enjoy a delicious buffet meal and beverages from the restaurant onboard while listening or dancing to live music performances from local musicians playing jazz, blues, Dixieland, and bluegrass. There are typically two seatings for these meals and entertainment. Although the seating is inside the buffet area, you’ll still enjoy stunning views of the water, historical landmarks, and riverside scenery.
If You Go to New Orleans
The Steamboat Natchez River Cruise offers travelers an unforgettable experience that combines breathtaking views of the Mississippi River and the city of New Orleans from a unique perspective with live music performances and delicious food options.
The boat is equipped with modern amenities such as air conditioning, a gift shop, and restrooms.
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.
Places To Stay Near the Steamboat Natchez Cruise in New Orleans