American Queen Steamboat Co. has built its fleet buying and refurbishing used vessels. Now it’s taking its next project to even greater lengths.

The Memphis, Tenn.-based inland overnight cruise line plans to add a 60' midbody to the former Kanesville Queen, a casino boat it bought in 2016.

Built in 1995, the 257’x78’x14’ boat is essentially “a nice platform to start from,” said company president Ted Sykes. The newly named American Countess will carry 248 passengers and is expected to start cruising primarily the Lower Mississippi River next year.

Shipyards are now being solicited for bids on retrofitting the vessel which has been moved from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to Marine Builders Inc., Jeffersonville, Ind.

American Queen is part of a renaissance of overnight cruising on U.S. coastal and inland waters. “Business is very good,” Sykes said. “A lot of our cruises are sold out.”

The company bought its 436-passenger American Queen in 2011 and the 223-passenger American Empress in 2013 from the Maritime Administration. Both boats were built with Title XI loan guarantees and were turned over to Marad after the 2008 collapse of Majestic America Line.

In August 2016 American Queen bought the 280’6″x87’x14′ Iowa casino boat Bettendorf Capri and turned it into the 314’x100’x14′ luxury riverboat American Duchess launched last year. (The paddlewheel increased the length.)

Vessel extensions enable operators to get more space for less time and money than building a new boat.

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.