SEE the old South and wind up in the Windy City on a river and rail tour from New Orleans to Chicago.
The 11-day excursion begins with a two-night stay in New Orleans, then embarks on the 180-passenger Delta Queen steamboat for a six-night passage north on the Mississippi River
"Natchez is beautiful," said Christopher Kyte, of Train Journeys, "especially in springtime. And who could resist a historic steamboat?"
Ports of call include Helena, Ark.; Vicksburg and Natchez, Miss.; and Memphis, Tenn.
In New Orleans, the group tours the National World War II Museum and visits Cafe du Monde, famous for its beignets. The group will be in Natchez during the annual Spring Pilgrimage, when historic private mansions and gardens are open to the public.
Other stops on the itinerary include an overnight stay in Memphis and a visit to the home of William Faulkner in Oxford, Miss. The group will board the Steamboat Express, a 1940s-style Streamliner train in Memphis, to travel to Chicago.
Cost: $2,895 to $5,295 per person, double occupancy (singles start at $3,795), including round-trip air or train transportation from Los Angeles to New Orleans, returning from Chicago. Also included are hotel, ship and train accommodations, as well as meals, cocktails and entertainment.
Contact: Train Holidays, Oakland; (800) 543-2846, www.trainholidays.com.
Bridge game is in the cards
PUT your cards on the table on a weeklong spring cruise for bridge players to the Mexican Riviera.
The March 7 cruise embarks from San Diego aboard the 2,124-passenger Carnival Spirit.
The onboard tournament takes place in a private room where players can focus on their game, said Carol Berman of Canyon Travel. But the bridge is a less intense form of the game than duplicate bridge, she added. "It's party bridge."
In the case of single passengers, "we try to pair people up," she said.
Ports of call include Acapulco, Ixtapa and Manzanillo.
Cost: $500 to $690 per person, double occupancy, including ship accommodations and meals. Transportation to Long Beach or San Diego and taxes of $195 per person are not included.
Contact: Carol Berman, Canyon Travel, Anaheim Hills; (714) 974-0262 or (714) 865-6436.
Drink a toast to nature
SAMPLE the islands off the coast of Spain and Portugal on an 11-night cruise of the Canary Islands, the Azores and Morocco aboard the 520-passenger Deutschland.
The March 5 cruise embarks from Santa Cruz, Tenerife, visiting Santa Cruz on the smaller island of La Palma, and Ponte Delgado in the Portuguese Azores.
The ship stops in Casablanca, Morocco, before sailing to Arrecife, the principal town on Lanzarote, and to Las Palmas on Grand Canary Island.
Excursions include the volcanic crater of Caldera de Taburiente National Park on La Palma, the Antonio Borges botanical gardens and Crater Lakes near Feteiras in the Azores, a tour of Marrakech in Morocco and wine tasting in the village of Geria, Lanzarote.
Cost: $4,215 and up, per person, double occupancy (singles start at $4,759), including accommodations, meals and shore excursions. Air supplement from Los Angeles is $150.
Contact: Peter Deilmann Cruises, Alexandria, Va.; (800) 348-8287, www.deilmann-cruises.com.
A brush with the medieval
RAMBLE through the medieval village of Rocamadour and the walled city of Carcassonne on a springtime trip through southern France.
The nine-night tour, which begins April 20, travels the valley of the Dordogne, lingering in the villages of Sarlat and La Roque-Gageac.
The group explores the Padirac Chasm, an underground cave, on a boat ride on a subterranean river near the cliff-side medieval town of Rocamadour and tours the villages of Autoire, Loubressac and Carennac.
The itinerary includes visits to wineries in Carcassonne and the medieval city of Minerve.
Cost: $3,485 per person, double occupancy ($300 single surcharge), including round-trip airfare from Los Angeles, hotels, meals, transfers, gratuities and trip insurance.
Contact: Hawxhurst Travel Concepts, Goleta; (805) 683-1016.
Explore the theater world
CHECK out the theater scene in New York City during a weeklong spring tour. The tours, April 23 and 30 and May 7, include tickets to three musicals and three plays on- and off-Broadway.
Shows include "Mary Poppins the Musical," "Curtains" and "110 in the Shade." The group attends seminars with theater pros, visits Morgan Library and takes a guided tour of the city with a local historian.
Cost: $2,925 per person, double occupancy ($1,249 single surcharge), including hotel accommodations, show tickets, some meals, hotel transfers and trip insurance. Airfare from Los Angeles is not included.
Contact: New York Theatre Tour, Kensington, Calif.; (510) 559-9373, www.nytheatretour.com.
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