Operators highlight best of Louisiana for groups

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NEW ORLEANS -- There are a number of possibilities for touring Louisiana as part of an escorted group, and several operators offer packages that include a variety of itineraries, prices and travel styles.

And all of the tours include something that often is at a premium on group programs -- free time to explore the state and its surrounding areas at any pace.

The following is a sampling of operator offerings to Louisiana. All rates are per person, double, land only. The base commission for each program is 10%.

• Mayflower Tours of Downer's Grove, Ill., offers a five-night program, called New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, that includes a tour of New Orleans; a Louisiana swamp tour; and visits to Jefferson Davis' home and the Bellingrath Gardens. The plan is priced at $823. For details, call (800) 323-7604 or visit www.mayflowertours.com.

• Tauck World Discovery's seven-night Antebellum South program includes a Cajun cooking lesson at the New Orleans School of Cooking; a shrimp boat cruise on the Mississippi Sound; excursions to antebellum homes in Natchez, Miss.; and a visit to a Louisiana swamp. The package costs $1,780. For more information, call (800) 468-2825 or visit www.tauck.com.

• Collette Vacations' seven-night New Orleans and the Deep South tour includes three nights in New Orleans, along with two nights each in Natchez, Miss., and Lafayette, La. It also features visits to the Rosedown Plantation in St. Francisville, La., and Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi, site of the Civil War Battle of Vicksburg. The program is priced from $1,549.

City artists regularly put their creations on display in Jackson Square, transforming it into an open-air art gallery. Collette also offers a four-night New Orleans Getaway that stations clients in the French Quarter for the entire trip. The plan includes a walking tour of the French Quarter, a Mississippi River jazz cruise on a paddlewheeler and free time for relaxation or exploration.

Rates range from $559 to $899, depending on departure date. For details, call (800) 717-9191 or visit www.collettevacations.com.

• Trafalgar Tours' nine-night Southern Belle package includes Biloxi and Natchez Miss.; Bellingrath Gardens; a swamp cruise on the bayou and a full day of leisure to explore New Orleans. The trip costs $1,260. For more information, call (800) 854-0103 or visit www.trafalgartours.com.

• Globus' Charms of the South is an eight-night itinerary focusing on New Orleans and the surrounding area, including Biloxi and Natchez. It includes a lunch cruise on the Mississippi River. The plan is priced from $1,349. For details, call (800) 221-0090 or visit www.globusjourneys.com.

• Cosmos' Dixieland & Rhythms is a nine-night trip that traces lines of music history from Chicago to New Orleans, with stops in St. Louis, Nashville and Memphis. The program is priced from $999. For more information, call (800) 221-0090 or visit www.cosmosvacations.com.

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