American Cruise Lines, Guilford, Conn., launched its new 260'x53'x8' passenger stern paddlewheeler America today, the third Mississippi River overnight passenger vessel built for the small ship cruise line at its affiliate Chesapeake Shipbuilding, Salisbury, Md.

The launch came three weeks ahead of schedule and just days after ACL said it would send 2012 sistership Queen of the Mississippi to the Pacific Northwest in 2016, with plans to rename the vessel and have it join the company’s Queen of the West on the Columbia and Snake rivers. The move will more than double the company’s passenger capacity on Northwest itineraries, in response to increased demand in the region.

As the new Mississippi River boat, America will have accommodation for up to 185 passengers in oversized staterooms with private balconies on three of five main passenger decks, stacked in the classic 19th-century wedding-cake style.

After the launch, tugs moved the America to Chesapeake’s East Outfitting Basin where the upper decks and outfitting will be completed. Under the traditional lines of ACL vessels, with their main paddlewheel propulsion, there is plenty of modern technology: twin Caterpillar C32 engines, bowthrusters, Z-drives for maneuvering and 14-knot service cruising speed, and WiFi throughout the boats.

David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.