Iconic sternwheeler returns to service

Written by Nick Blenkey
American Queen is world's largest sternh

American Queen is the world’s largest paddleboat, with a length of 418 feet and beam of 89 feet

Hornblower Group’s American Queen Steamboat Company reports that its flagship sternwheeler American Queen today welcomed its first revenue guests in 18 months, becoming the line’s fourth vessel to return to service.

The iconic vessel returned to service almost 10 years to the day after Hornblower Group purchased it from MARAD, which had taken possession of the vessel following the failure of previous owner, Majestic America Line.

“The purchase and restoration of the American Queen ushered in a new renaissance of U.S. river cruising ten years ago,” said John Waggoner, founder and chairman of American Queen Steamboat Company. “Our close-to-home cruise experience resonates more than ever, and I feel such pride seeing how far our offerings have expanded. Today the American Queen embarks from New Orleans, the American Empress, welcomes guests in Clarkston, Wash., our boutique paddlewheeler, the American Duchess, is docked under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and our newest riverboat, the American Countess, is calling on Nottoway Resort in White Castle, La.”

Originally delivered by McDermott Shipyard in 1995, American Queen is the world’s largest paddleboat, with a length of 418 feet and beam of 89 feet. And, yes, it actually is a steamboat, although it has two diesel powered Z drives, on on either side of the sternwheel, to boost propulsion and give added maneuverability,

American Queen Steamboat Company says that bookings for 2021 and well ahead into 2022 and 2023 continue to reflect pent-up demand for cruising close-to-home. In addition, the cruise line reports 10-plus record-breaking individual booking days in 2021. It says the current sailing season is almost sold out with limited availability on remaining 2021 Thanksgiving- and holiday-themed voyages.

Tourism represents the second-largest economy on the Mississippi River according to the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative (MRCTI), a coalition of the mayors of 101 municipalities. The return of the American Queen Steamboat Company fleet to the Mississippi and Ohio rivers is a welcome boost to the region’s hospitality industry.

“American Queen guests will have an immediate economic impact on the port cities she calls on from pre-cruise hotel stays to visiting attractions and patronizing small businesses along the river,” says Shawn Bierdz, president of American Queen Steamboat Company. “To meet the needs of having the entire fleet operational, our company is up to over 500 team members once again and continuing to grow with open shipboard and shoreside positions.”

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