Group looking to get Queen rolling again

Published 12:02 pm Thursday, November 18, 2010

A startup investment group in Cincinnati is working to buy the docked Delta Queen sternwheel steamboat and put it back on the river.

Save the Delta Queen 2010 announced Wednesday plans to buy the 84-year-old vessel from its current owners, Seattle-based Ambassadors International, which put the vessel up for sale in 2008 after its river trips ceased. The boat has been operating as a floating boutique hotel in Chattanooga, Tenn., since 2009.

“Now is the time,” said Vicki Webster, spokesman for Save the Delta Queen 2010. “She (the Delta Queen) is the last remaining living connection to the past.”

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Ambassadors International spokesman Vanessa Bloy said the company has been reviewing offers from potential buyers, but declined to say how many. The boat is listed at $4.75 million, she said.

The Delta Queen and its sister vessel, the Mississippi Queen, were taken out of service from 2007 to 2008. The Delta lost its exemption under the 1966 Safety of Life at Seas Act to sail with a wooden superstructure. The Mississippi was sold for scrap earlier this year to an undisclosed buyer by its owner, Windstar Cruises, part of Ambassadors International. A third steamer, the American Queen, has sat idle in Beaumont, Texas, since 2007.

The Delta’s route brought it through Vicksburg often.

“We benefited greatly from the boat stops,” said Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Bill Seratt. “They visited our museums, our restaurants and our shops. Literally, we lost hundreds, if not thousands, of visitors when it stopped operating. The Delta Queen is an American icon.”

The Delta was built in 1926, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989.

Other companies have announced plans for river cruises.

In September, Guilford, Conn.-based American Cruise Lines said it would start offering by 2012 overnight excursions with stops in Vicksburg. Also, in June, Seattle-based Cruise West said it will restart trips on the Mississippi and its tributaries in March 2011 aboard its Spirit of America.