American Cruise Lines (ACL) new 150-passenger paddlewheeler Queen of the Mississippi left New Orleans in early August on its inaugural cruise.
The 260’×53’×8′ steel boat is the first new paddlewheeler built for the Mississippi River in 20 years. ACL’s cruises will cost passengers an average of about $4,000.
“That includes everything,” Charles A. Robertson, ACL’s president and CEO, said at a luncheon aboard the Queen before the boat left on its “pre-inaugural” cruise for Vicksburg, Miss. “We didn’t have any trouble selling it out,” Robertson said. “Most of the people aboard were on the waiting lists for our other cruises.”
Regular itineraries include Memphis, Tenn., to New Orleans with stops at Helena, Ark.; Vicksburg; Natchez, Miss.; St. Francisville, La.; Baton Rouge, La.; and Louisiana’s Oak Alley Plantation. Another itinerary begins and ends in New Orleans. Each cruise has a theme such as Southern cuisine, Mark Twain and the Civil War.
Construction of the Queen of the Mississippi was completed in June at ACL sister company Chesapeake Shipbuilding, in Salisbury, Md. Robertson said his new boat is the most elegant, fully functioning, authentic paddlewheeler in the industry. “This boat was built in two halves, and that made a big difference,” he said, “because we were in a controlled environment and the weather was not really a factor.”
Twin Caterpillar 32C diesel engines provide the vessel’s main propulsion to the paddlewheel and two Z-drives, which can be used individually or simultaneously. “I doubt we’ll build another boat for us that doesn’t have Z-drives,” said Robertson.
The new paddlewheeler will carry 50 employees, plus entertainers, whose numbers will vary according to the theme of the cruise.
The Queen of the Mississippi offers spacious 300-sq.-ft.-plus staterooms — the largest in the industry — private balconies with sliding glass doors, and a U.S. crew catering to passengers’ every need. “The staterooms are about twice the size of the older boats,” Robertson said.
The new boat’s main regular clientele will be people 50 and over with disposable income, many of whom will be international travelers. “We’ll have a lot of people who have done the ocean cruises and don’t want to do that anymore,” he said. “They’re looking for something else. The international passengers come from all over the world. The British, in particular, are fascinated by the Mississippi River.”
In April, the American Queen Steamboat Co. (formerly the Great American Steamboat Co.) launched the 436-passenger 419’×85′ steamboat paddlewheeler, American Queen, which is a refurb/rebuild.