Bollinger Shipyards Inc. is responsible for the heavy lifting needed to transform a former casino boat in Iowa into American Queen Steamboat Co.’s newest luxury paddlewheel riverboat American Duchess. The 314'x100'x14' passenger vessel had its maiden voyage in August, almost exactly a year after the company purchased the casino boat once known as the 280'6"x87'x14' Bettendorf Capri. The boat never left the dock when it was the casino boat. As the American Duchess it will be homeported in Memphis, Tenn.

“We are a company only challenged by capacity,” said John H. Waggoner, American Queen’s chairman and CEO. “This project has been just over a year in the making.”

The all-suites paddlewheel riverboat plays to the high-end market, passengers with plenty of disposable income and no fear of spending it, as long as they get their money’s worth. “We have the first loft suites on the river,” said Waggoner. “We have a targeted demographic. We’re looking for a little younger customer with this boat.”

Bollinger built the original casino boat in 1995 at its shipyard in Lockport, La. The conversion, which included the addition of a third deck, was done at Bollinger’s Amelia, La., shipyard. Seattle-based Guido Perla & Associates handled the original design and Lay, Pitman & Associates, Neptune Beach, Fla., designed the conversion. American Queen’s vice president of new construction David Kelly headed up the interior design team.

The new riverboat gets its main propulsion from two Caterpillar 3508 diesels, producing 640 hp at 1,800 rpm each. The Cats are connected to Schottel 330 Z-drives and the boat's paddlewheel, pushing the boat along at 10 mph. The Z-drives handle about 90% of the load and the paddlewheel accounts for 1 to 2 knots of power. For added maneuverability, the boat is fixed with two 350-hp bowthrusters.

There is plenty of ship’s service power because the boat, when it was a casino boat, in addition to its other electrical power needs, had to power huge exhaust fans to carry tobacco smoke outside. The job is handled by three Cat 3516 diesels, sparking 1,440 kW of electrical power each. There is also a 500-kW Cat 3412 emergency generator.

There are accommodations for 192 passengers and 92 crewmembers. Tankage includes 72,000 gals. of fuel and 42,000 gals. potable water.

The American Duchess features three 550 sq. ft. owner’s suites, four 550 sq. ft. loft suites, veranda suites with sliding glass doors to private balconies and interior suites.

There are a variety of cruise lengths, beginning with six-day cruises and fares starting at $2,999 per person that include pre- or post-voyage luxury hotel stay, all bottled water and soft drinks, wine and beer at dinner and complimentary shore adventures at all ports of call.

Waggoner is doing something about his company being challenged by capacity. American Queen bought the casino boat Kanesville Queen. No details are currently available.


Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.