By David Cogswell
NEW YORK -- For travelers who prefer the support and price
advantages of an escorted group tour, Trafalgar Tours' Southern
Belle motorcoach itinerary is a good way to experience the Gulf
Coast region of southern Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Viewing the area with a professional guide brings out aspects of
the region that would be lost to a person traveling independently,
according to Thomas See, vice president of marketing for Trafalgar
"As you go to the different places, your tour director hands the
tour over to the local experts," he said. "You want to be with
cultural experts, just like in Europe, because there is so much
culture in the South. And the swamplands is not an area you are
going to go to on your own."
The culture of the swamplands is something most people don't
appreciate until they have experienced it, according to Liz
Cosenza, vice president of operations for Destination America, the
ground operator for Trafalgar's U.S. and Canada programs.
"What we love about the swamp tour is the boat captain," Cosenza
said. "He's 100% Cajun. He grew up in the swamp, and he's never
been out of it. He's such a personality, so entertaining.
"The people who live in the swamp are delightful," she added.
"It's fascinating the way they live off the land -- and they are
very good cooks.
"You can't get a bad meal anywhere in Louisiana; it's not
The Southern Belle tour is popular with overseas visitors,
according to See, and an extra layer of cultural experience is
provided by the presence on the tour of customers from other
English-speaking markets, including Australia, New Zealand and
The nine-night itinerary begins and ends in New Orleans, where
the base hotel is the Marriott, located just outside the French
"It's close enough to walk right into the quarter, but it's not
in the middle of it, so you still can get a decent night's sleep,"
Guests spend a total of three nights in New Orleans; two nights
each in Biloxi, Miss., and Lafayette, La.; and one night each in
Jackson and Natchez, Miss.
The program also makes stops in Vicksburg, Miss.; Mobile and
Bellingrath Gardens, Ala, and Baton Rouge, La.
A sightseeing tour of New Orleans features the French Quarter, the
Garden District, Lake Pontchartrain, the Louisiana Superdome and
one of the "Cities of the Dead," the above-ground tombs in the
cemeteries of New Orleans.
In addition, guests have a night and a day in New Orleans to
spend at their leisure.
Other highlights of the motorcoach itinerary include the pine
forests of Mississippi; the Old State Capitol and Governor's
Mansion in Jackson; a tour of an antebellum home in Natchez; a stop
in Biloxi for a visit to Beauvoir, the last home of Confederate
president Jefferson Davis, where the grounds also contain a
Confederate museum and cemetery; the battleship Alabama at Mobile,
Ala.; a shrimp boat tour; the Nottoway Plantation on the
Mississippi River in Whitecastle, La.; Vicksburg National Military
Park in Mississippi, and Vermilionville, an Acadian village in
"People don't realize how much history and culture there is in
the South," said Cosenza. "They come away from the tour with this
wonderful experience of having seen so much culture in their own
Land-only rates for the Southern Belle program start from $1,260
per person, double.
For more information, visit www.trafalgartours.com. For reservations, call (800)