The American Queen Steamboat Company, owner and operator of the U.S-flagged American Queen, announced today that it had closed on financing and full ownership of its second vessel, the 223-passenger American Empress. The company entered into a purchase agreement for the riverboat with the Maritime Administration in May 2013 and has been preparing the vessel for her April 2014 launch on the Columbia and Snake rivers. 

“Over 30 skilled craftsmen and engineers have been hard at work preparing the American Empress for service over the last eight months focusing on the exterior, engine room and now the hotel portion of the vessel,” said John Waggoner, chairman and CEO of Memphis, Tenn.-based American Queen Steamboat. “It is exciting to officially sign on the dotted line taking full ownership of the vessel and begin writing a new chapter in U.S. river cruising history.”

The 360' five-deck vessel, the former Empress of the North, was built in 2003 and operated by Majestic America Line on Alaska Inside Passage and Pacific Northwest itineraries from 2003 to 2008. The American Empress follows in the pedigree of the line’s namesake American Queen, and will be the largest overnight riverboat west of the Mississippi River, according to American Queen Steamboat.

“We are pleased with the robust level of sales already taken for the inaugural season of the American Empress,” said American Queen Steamboat President and COO Ted Sykes. “We look forward to a very successful year.”

American Empress will begin service April 5 after a christening ceremony in Portland, Ore. Her maiden voyage will be a nine-day cruise on the Columbia and Snake rivers featuring stops in ports including Astoria, Ore.; Stevenson, Wash.; The Dalles, Ore.; Sacajawea State Park, Wash. and Clarkston, Wash.