Marad approves sale of American Queen

The American Queen is under contract for $15.5 million to a company led by John Waggoner, CEO of HMS Global Maritime based in New Albany, Ind.

“We’re still working on putting all our financing together and hope to launch next year some time,” said Waggoner, who also heads American Queen Steamboat Co., the HMS Global subsidiary that’s buying the vessel from the Maritime Administration. The American Queen has been idled since the 2008 shutdown of Majestic America Line.

Waggoner expects the vessel to again sail the inland rivers, which have seen little overnight cruising since Majestic America ceased operations. 

“The American Queen is the largest, most luxurious steamboat ever built,” Waggoner said. “I love the American Queen as a piece of hardware. What we’re missing on our rivers is the Mark Twain experience.”

Delivered in 1995, the 418’, 436-passenger vessel is now in Beaumont, Texas.

“It just needs mostly cosmetic upgrades,” Waggoner said. “It’s actually in good shape.”

Marad spokesman Cheron Wicker said the agency approved the sale to Waggoner’s company, “but we’re still working on closing.” Waggoner said he hoped to close by the end of May.

Majestic’s parent company, Ambassadors International Inc., returned the American Queen and the 360’, 223-passenger Empress of the North back to Marad. Both were built with Title XI loan guarantees. The Empress is still for sale.

Ambassadors recently filed for bankruptcy protection and is selling its remaining assets — including the passenger vessels Delta Queen and Columbia Queen — to a private investment company. Both vessels also are for sale.

The Delta Queen is leased under a bareboat charter as a hotel in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Columbia Queen, which is in Portland, Ore., was pledged as collateral with a credit card processor, regulatory filings show.

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