Heading to Grand Isle for a spring outing?

Beach camping returns to island’s State Park beginning Monday, April 1. Beach camping has been closed due to damage caused by Hurricane Isaac in September 2012, but clean-up and erosion control efforts have been successful, allowing beach camping to resume, according to a news release.

The beach has 10 camping permits for overnight stays in the area between the west bathhouse and the western park boundary. Only tent camping is available as vehicles are not permitted on the beach. The campsites can be reserved for $12 per night, by calling (877) 226-7652 or visiting http://www.ReserveAmerica.com.

Grand Isle State Park is located on the east end of Grand Isle, off La. 1 on Admiral Craik Drive. The only state-owned and operated beach on the Louisiana Gulf Coast, the park offers fishing, crabbing and camping opportunities.



Chicot cabin work

Fifteen deluxe cabins at Chicot State Park will close for construction to correct structural issues. The cabins will be unavailable beginning Sept. 6, and the project will require at least seven months to complete. The park’s five standard cabins will remain available during the project.

“Chicot State Park’s cabins are very popular and we apologize for any inconvenience to visitors during construction,” Stuart Johnson, head of the Office of State Parks, said. “The cabins will be unavailable after Labor Day weekend, but should be completed and available for summer 2014.”

All other facilities at the park will remain open to the public. The park, located six miles north of Ville Platte on La. 3042, includes more than 6,000 acres of rolling hills and a 2,000-acre reservoir. The park is open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. For more information, call (888) 677-2442.



Riverboats arrive in BR

Four overnight cruise lines will dock in Baton Rouge tis year. The first sailing of the 2013 season was by the American Queen steamboat, which recently brought 366 visitors to the Baton Rouge area for a day of excursions including stops at the Old State Capitol, Old Governor’s Mansion, LSU Rural Life Museum, USS Kidd, LSU Museum of Art and more.

This season, guests can enjoy pre-scheduled tours or can explore Baton Rouge at their leisure.

The other three companies docking in 2013 include American Cruise Lines sailing the Queen of the Mississippi, Blount Small Ship Adventures, and Travel Dynamics International sailing the Yorktown Cruise Ship.

In total, there are 51 dockings in downtown Baton Rouge. All boats have various schedules of times when they will be in port.

“Last year, for their first season back on the Mississippi, the four boat companies had a cumulative total of 26 dockings in Baton Rouge,” said Katie Guasco, director of communications for Visit Baton Rouge. “Riverboat cruising on the lower Mississippi was dormant for four years prior, so we were thrilled with that many stops in 2012.”

For more information on cruises to Baton Rouge or to book a Mississippi riverboat cruise vacation, visit the company websites:







http://www.americanqueen-Carnival extends N.O. stay

Carnival Cruise Lines recently signed a three-year extension of its berthing agreement with the Port of New Orleans, which will keep two Carnival cruise ships sailing year round from New Orleans through at least Feb. 12, 2016.

“This agreement continues to demonstrate Carnival’s commitment to the New Orleans market as a top homeport for its customers,” said Gary LaGrange, port president and CEO. “Carnival is a valued partner for the port and for the city and we look forward to continuing to build upon our past success.”

The agreement officially commenced on Feb. 13, and runs through Feb. 12, 2016, with two, one-year options to extend the agreement.

Carnival Cruise Lines carries 340,000 passengers annually from the Port of New Orleans, said Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO. Carnival has two ships home-ported in New Orleans year round sailing from the port’s Erato Street Cruise Terminal. The 2,974-passenger Carnival Conquest sails seven-day eastern and western Caribbean itineraries, while the 2,052-passenger Carnival Elation sails four- and five-day cruises to Cozumel and Progreso, Mexico. Beginning in November, New Orleans will become the homeport for Carnival Sunshine, which will have undergone an extensive $155 million refurbishment that will add a wide variety of dining, bar and entertainment innovations and top-deck amenities.

Travel to Philippines

The National WWII Museum has added A Triumphant Return to the Philippines to its 2013 travel roster.

This new tour explores the tropical island nation of the Philippines — a pinnacle part of the story of the American experience in World War II. The scene of the U.S. military’s greatest defeat, it became the site of redemption two years later with the triumphant return of MacArthur and his men.

Activities planned include an evening at Battery Grubbs for the illumination of The Eternal Flame then return after dark for a flashlight tour of Malinta Tunnel, where the American forces surrendered to the Japanese Imperial Army on May 6, 1942.

Visitors will follow the actual route of the Bataan Death March with a special stop at the Angels of Bataan Marker at Limay. For the anniversary of the Fall of Bataan, the tour will visit Mt. Samat, where travelers will take part in a commemorative ceremony at the Altar of Valor.

For the full itinerary on the April 3-13 trip, visit the website.



Paragon goes country

Paragon Casino Resort in Marksville will host the all day, indoor March Country Madness Music Festival.

A line-up of country music artists are set to take the stage on Saturday, March 23, with shows at 2 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Mari Showroom tickets are $35 and Ballroom and Pelican Stage tickets are $15. A limited amount of all-access tickets are available for $50. Tickets are on sale now.

Country music fans can enjoy hits by some of their favorite country stars. At 2 p.m. in the Mari Showroom, Ty Herndon along with Billy Dean and Jamie O’Neal, will perform their hits such as “What Mattered Most,” “Somewhere in my Broken Heart” and “There is No Arizona,” respectively. Herndon has charted a total of 17 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs Charts, including seven number one hits and two gold albums. Dean is a prolific singer-songwriter who was honored by the AMC as the New Male Vocalist of the Year.

He has produced 12 albums and 11 top 10 singles. O’Neal is a soulful country newcomer who was recently named ACM’s Top New Female Vocalist and has had multiple number one hits and four Grammy nominations.

The evening will continue with a second show at 7 p.m. in the Mari Showroom with performances by country music legends, TG Sheppard, Moe Bandy and Restless Heart. Sheppard will perform hits like “Last Cheater’s Waltz” and “Party Time.”

Moe Bandy has had a successful career with ten number one hits such as “Bandy the Rodeo Clown,” “It’s a Cheatin’ Situation” and “Till I’m Too Old to Die Young.” He’s also earned an ACM Song of the Year Award and five gold albums.

Restless Heart is celebrating 30 years of performing with 26 Billboard hits, six number one hits and a Grammy from the CMA and an award for the ACM Group of the Year. Hits include “The Bluest Eyes in Texas” and “I’ll Still be Loving You.”

Later, at 9 p.m. in the Paragon Ballrooms, guests can enjoy Louisiana native Charley Rivers, as he serenades fans with hits such as “Watching Time Go By” and “Bar Room in a Bottle.”

Also, at 9 p.m. on the Pelican Stage, see a performance by country/hip-hop sensations, The Moonshine Bandits. A new genre of music called Cali-country is on the horizon. Since the release of their genre crossing album Whiskey & Women on Suburban Noize Records, California based Moonshine Bandits have taken the world of outlaw music by storm.

Kisatchie closes trail

The Little Creek Trail, located on the Catahoula Ranger District in Kisatchie National Forest in Pineville, will remain closed until Friday, April 12.

The trail is closed for maintenance and is closed to all public uses (OHV, equestrian, bicycles and foot travel). Hickman Trail, also located on the Catahoula, will remain open.

For additional information contact the Catahoula Ranger District Office at (318) 765-3554 or the Forest Supervisor’s Office in Pineville at (318) 473-7160.

The Office of State Parks, Visit Baton Rouge, the Port of New Orleans and Kisatchie National Forest provided items for this column. Louisiana Travels is a biweekly column about travel destinations and events in Louisiana. Email items for Louisiana Travels to travel@theadvocate.com or jbergeron@theadvocate.com or mail to Judy Bergeron, News Features assistant editor, The Advocate, 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810.