The Kanesville Queen was sliced in half, bulked up and put back together on its way to becoming American Queen Steamboat Co.’s fourth vessel, the American Countess, the company said.

The transformation at Gulf Island Shipyards, Houma, La., added a 60' midbody to the 24-year-old casino boat that originally measured 257’x78’x14’. The 245-passenger overnight paddlewheeler is expected to start cruising the Mississippi River on April 5, 2020, and later the Ohio and Tennessee rivers.

“The American Countess will raise the bar on U.S. river cruising,” CEO John Waggoner said in a prepared statement. The line’s website lists a cruise on the vessel with him in late May 2020 from St. Louis to Louisville, Ky., with “shore excursions in quaint towns such as Paducah, Ky. and Madison, Ind.”

The future American Countess is matched up to its new midsection at gulf Island Shipyards. American Queen Steamboat photo

The future American Countess is matched up to its new midsection at Gulf Island Shipyards. American Queen Steamboat Co. photo

Ships’ service power and propulsion will come from four Caterpillar 3516 diesel-electric generators putting out a combined 5,760 kW, driving three 650-hp electric drive motors that turn three Schottel SRP 330 rudder propellers. A pair of Schottel 300-kW tunnel thrusters will provide bow thrust. Estimated speed will be 12 knots.

Headquartered in New Albany, Ind., American Queen is one of several companies contributing to the renaissance of domestic river cruising. It built its fleet buying and refurbishing used vessels beginning in 2011 with the purchase of the 236-passenger American Queen from the Maritime Administration. Two years later it bought the 223-passenger American Empress from Marad. Both boats, constructed with Title XI federal loan guarantees, were turned over to the agency after the 2008 collapse of Majestic America Line.

In 2016 American Queen bought the 280’6”x87’x14’ Iowa casino boat Bettendorf Capri and turned it into the 192-passenger, 314’x100’x14’ riverboat American Duchess launched in 2017. A paddlewheel increased the length.

The company also recently bought the Bahamas-flagged Victory I and Victory II, 202-passenger vessels that were the original Cape Cod Light and Cape May Light — to expand its reach to the Great Lakes and possibly beyond. Victory Cruise Lines will be a sister brand to American Queen.

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.