The New Orleans Steamboat Co. plans to transform an idled casino boat into a dinner and sightseeing vessel to satisfy the public’s growing appetite for sailing inland U.S. waters.
The Casino Rock Island, a 185’x56’ diesel-electric powered sternwheeler that stopped operating in 2010, will join the company’s Natchez on the Mississippi River in New Orleans late next year after renovations and a name change. Price was not disclosed for the purchase, which is pending.
Built in 1991 by Leevac Shipyards, the vessel needs some engine and minor mechanical work as well as interior refurbishment, according to Matt Dow, New Orleans Steamboat's assistant marine operations manager. Dow said that the paddlewheel is fully functional and “the hull is in great shape.” The company plans to do the work itself.
Licensed for 800 passengers, she was operated by Jumer’s Casino in Rock Island, Ill., until six years ago, then moved to Chillicothe, Ill., and now is in drydock in Wood River, Ill.
New Orleans Steamboat originally considered a newbuild, but cost and time to build it “was prohibitive, so we decided to just look for a vessel that was already built,” Dow said.
The market was a determining factor. CEO Gordon Stevens earlier told WorkBoat that with tourism and travel up substantially, business has surpassed pre-Katrina numbers. What’s more, “the market in New Orleans has very much moved to more upscale dining options,” Dow said. The boat will offer daytime cruises and evening dinner sailings and be available for private charters.
The vessel will be one more option on the river which, along with other inland waters, has seen a surge in overnight cruising.
“It’s nice to see people taking an interest in the river again,” Dow said. As for any plans they might have for that niche, “we’re not looking into anything serious for overnight right now.”