I have already written about the joys of exploring Europe by barge. Because of its gentle pace and overall ease — there's no packing and unpacking at each new destination, and you're usually docked near the center of town — barge tours have proliferated throughout Europe.
Happily, the word has spread, and enticing destinations around the world can now be explored by vessel. Here are four wanderlust-whetting adventures on three of the planet's most majestic rivers.
Paddle-Wheeling the Mississippi
River and history buffs alike are excitedly anticipating the 2012 launchof American Cruise Lines' Queen of the Mississippi, a brand new sternwheeler designed to combine the grandeur of traditional riverboats with state-of-the-art safety, environmental and construction technologies.
See Also: Budgeting for a Cruise
The 140-passenger, five-deck boat will offer an eight-day, seven-night voyage from New Orleans to Memphis. The Queen will reprise this route on three voyages in November, departing from Memphis Nov. 10 and 24 and from New Orleans Nov. 17. (In other weeks it willoffer a variety of seven-night voyages along the Mississippi, Ohio and Cumberland rivers, with stops including St. Louis, St. Paul, Nashville, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.)
Shoreside highlights of the New Orleans-to-Memphis cruise include a visit to Louisiana's Oak Alley Plantation ,a 19th-century Greek-revival antebellum home approached along an avenue shaded by a quarter-mile canopy of giant live oak trees believed to be nearly 300 years old; gracious Natchez, Miss., with more than 1,000 structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places; and culturally vibrant Vicksburg, Miss.
For many passengers, equally notable highlights may be found aboard the stern-wheeler, including a grand dining salon with crystal chandeliers; the Paddlewheel Lounge, a comfortable room designed in rich woods that will offer panoramic views of the passing scenery; and expansive staterooms, larger than those of any former Mississippi riverboat, most with private balconies. All of these make the Queen of the Mississippi sound as historic as the sitesit visits. Prices range from $3,995 to $6,685.