Hornblower Group’s American Queen Steamboat Company reports its flagship paddle steamer American queen today welcomed its first commercial customers in 18 months, becoming the fourth vessel in the line to resume service.
The iconic vessel was returned to service nearly 10 years to the day after the Hornblower Group purchased it from MARAD, which had taken possession of the vessel following the default of the former owner, Majestic America Line.
“The purchase and restoration of American queen ushered in a new renaissance of river cruising in the United States ten years ago, ”said John Wagoner, Founder and President of the American Queen Steamboat Company. “Our cruising near home experience resonates more than ever, and I’m so proud to see how far our offerings have grown. Today the American Queen embarks from New Orleans, the American Empress, welcomes guests to Clarkston, Washington, our paddle-wheel shop, American Duchess, is moored under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and our newest riverboat, the American Countess, enlisted the Nottoway Resort in White Castle, La. ”
Originally delivered by McDermott Shipyard in 1995, American queen is the largest pedal boat in the world, with a length of 418 feet and a width of 89 feet. And, yes, it’s actually a steamboat, although it has two diesel Z engines, on either side of the rear wheel, to increase propulsion and give extra maneuverability,
American Queen Steamboat Company says bookings for 2021 and well before 2022 and 2023 continue to reflect pent-up demand for near-home cruises. Additionally, the cruise line is reporting more than 10 record individual booking days in 2021. It says the current sailing season is nearly sold out with limited availability on the remaining Thanksgiving and 2021 vacation themed trips.
Tourism is the Mississippi River’s second-largest economy according to the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative (MRCTI), a coalition of mayors from 101 municipalities. The return of the American Queen Steamboat Company fleet to the Mississippi and Ohio rivers is a welcome boost for the region’s hospitality industry.
“Aamerican queen customers will have an immediate economic impact on the port cities it calls in, from pre-cruise hotel stays to sightseeing attractions and frequenting small businesses along the river, ”said Shawn Bierdz, president of the American Queen Steamboat Company. “To meet the needs of having the entire fleet operational, our company again has over 500 team members and continues to grow with open positions on board and ashore.”