Senators support a return for Delta Queen

Published 11:01 am Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Delta Queen steamboat docked in Chattanooga, Tenn.


A longtime feature of the Mississippi River and popular attraction to Vicksburg’s City Front could be coming back.

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A bill that would allow the Delta Queen — a refitted passenger steamboat — to leave its dock in Chattanooga and return to touring the Mississippi River has not received action in the U.S. Senate. Last fall, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill 280-89 that would reinstate the exemption.

“The Delta Queen is the most iconic of all the riverboats of the modern day,” said Bill Seratt, executive director of the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. “To have that flying the waters ago, it would be a godsend.”

Seratt said the Delta Queen is a lasting image many visitors have of life on the river.

“That’s what people relate to when they think of travel on the Mississippi River … There’s nothing I’d like to see more.”

Delta Grassroots Caucus Director Lee Powell said in a statement Mississippi senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, along with others from Louisiana, Arkansas and Ohio for supporting the bill in the Senate.

“It is time to act right now. The Delta Queen has an exemplary safety record, is a national historic treasure and brings tourist dollars and helps create jobs in the Mississippi Delta as well as the Ohio River valley, and we are delighted that Senators Wicker and Cochran and Mississippi and Senators (Mark) Pryor and (John) Boozman are joining forces with Senators (Mary) Landrieu and (David) Vitter in Louisiana, Senators Sherrod Brown and Sen. Rob Portman, both of Ohio, as co-sponsors of the Delta Queen bill along with many other Senate supporters from both parties.”

Built in 1924 for $1 million, the Delta Queen launched on the Sacramento River and cruised between San Francisco and Sacramento. During World War II, the paddleboat ferried naval reservists in the San Francisco Bay. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, the Queen, along with her identical twin, the Delta King, was used as an emergency troop hospital transport.

In 1947, she was auctioned to Cincinnati’s Greene Line Steamers, traversed the Panama Canal and arrived in New Orleans May 18, where it resumed passenger service on the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland rivers for nearly 20 years.

In 1966, the boat was nearly put out of service by the Safety of Life at Sea Law (SOLAS) because of her wooden frame. However, an exception to SOLAS, signed by President Richard Nixon, kept her business.

In 1989, the boat was named a National Historic Landmark while continuing its service.

Trouble for the Delta Queen began in the 21st century when parent company American Classical Voyages filed for bankruptcy. The boat went through several owners and, in 2008, congressional efforts to renew the exemption to SOLAS stalled.

At the end of 2008, Delta Queen ceased all service and parent company Majestic America Line announced it’s end to all operations.

On Feb. 11, 2009, the Delta Queen was docked in Chattanooga, Tenn. to become a floating boutique hotel.