American Queen moving ahead on vessel refurb

The slot machines were gone but over 1,000 slot bases as well as 1,200 steel chairs and a closed circuit TV system remained.

All of that and much more had to be hauled off the casino boat Bettendorf Capri during its refurbishment into the luxury cruise vessel American Duchess. The multimillion-dollar transformation of the American Queen Steamboat Co. vessel was expected to be finished just after Thanksgiving.

When it opened in April 1995, the former Lady Luck Bettendorf had approximately 30,000-sq. ft. of casino space, an entertainment area for parties and special events, and approximately 860 slot machines, 38 other table games and six poker tables, according to a 1997 10-K filing.

So far, the project has filled more than 220 40-yard trash containers, said David William Kelly, American Queen’s vice president, new construction. What’s basically left is a two-deck, 280’6″x87’x14′ steel superstructure with a good power system to which 605 short tons of U.S.-made steel will be added at Bollinger Shipyards, Amelia, La.

The Duchess is expected to set sail June 4, entering an increasingly popular river cruise market served by both newbuilds and renovated vessels.

The Memphis, Tenn.-based inland overnight cruise line has built its fleet with existing vessels. It bought the 436-passenger American Queen in 2011 and the 223-passenger American Empress in 2013 from the U.S. Maritime Administration. Both boats constructed with Title XI loan guarantees were turned over to Marad after the 2008 collapse of Majestic America Line.

In late August, American Queen bought the Iowa-based gaming boat for an undisclosed sum saying it was starved for more capacity.

Now, they’re on to the conversion of the Bettendorf Capri.

Before and after the interior of the casino boat Bettendorf Capri was gutted as part of its transformation to the American Duchess. American Queen Steamboat Co. photo.

Before and after the interior of the casino boat Bettendorf Capri was gutted as part of its transformation to the American Duchess. American Queen Steamboat Co. photo.

“The hull’s been blasted, painted and inspected by the Coast Guard,” Kelly said. The Subchapter H boat was built in 1995 at Leevac Shipyards and had never been drydocked. Power comes from three Caterpillar 3508 engines that each produces 790 hp at 1,800 rpm and for service power there are three Cat 1,440-kW 3516s. The wiring and plumbing systems will be replaced. They’ll keep the three 200-ton Carrier chillers, providing more cooling than they will need so there’s lots of redundancy.

“One of the primary advantages was the amount of generator power onboard,” he said. “We basically have a vessel that has the same amount of power as the American Queen, and we’re going to have half the guests.”

Another selling point was the lack of structural poles in the interior, giving designers more flexibility.

They’re adding superstructure for a third enclosed deck where the casino boat just had a pilothouse and high roller room, 83 cabins for passengers, 35-40 cabins for the 84 crewmembers, an auditorium and a galley to serve two restaurants.

Kelly will supervise most of the finishing out, since he managed that job for the company’s other two vessels.

And they’ll add a paddlewheel, but they haven’t decided whether to build one or buy a used one, possibly from another retired gaming boat.

About the author

Dale K. DuPont

Dale DuPont has been a correspondent for WorkBoat since 1998. She has worked at daily and weekly newspapers in Texas, Maryland, and most recently as a business writer and editor at The Miami Herald, covering the cruise, marine and other industries. She and her husband once owned a weekly newspaper in Cooperstown, N.Y., across the alley from the Baseball Hall of Fame. A South Florida resident, she enjoys sailing on Biscayne Bay, except in hurricane season.

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