Burger Boat Co. has launched a new 98'x32' passenger vessel for Chicago’s First Lady Cruises. The cruise line, which operates the #1 ranked tour in Chicago according to TripAdvisor user reviews, has been inspiring guests with the most authentic showcase of Chicago’s rich architectural history for 27 years.

This is not the first time Burger and Chicago’s First Lady Cruises have collaborated; this is the third passenger vessel Burger has built for the company. Chicago’s Emerald Lady follows in the line of Chicago’s Classic Lady and Chicago’s Leading Lady.

The U.S.-built steel vessel can serve up to 250-299 passengers and is designed by Mark Pudlo, principal, Seacraft Design in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. Main propulsion comes from twin energy-efficient Caterpillar C9.3 diesel engines, producing 375 hp at 1,800 rpm each, providing a sustainable option that lowers emissions. The Cats are connected to Michigan Wheel 38"x28", 4-bladed nibral wheels through ZF 360 marine gears with 2.48:1 reduction ratios. The propulsion package gives the new boat a running speed of 11 knots.

Ship’s service power is the responsibility of two Caterpillar C4.4 gensets, sparking 75 kW of electrical power each.

“We have built a great relationship with Burger over the years, and they have once again delivered a quality vessel that will provide an enjoyable and comfortable experience for our guests and a reliable addition to our fleet,” Holly Agra, president of Chicago’s First Lady Cruises, said in a statement announcing the launch. “The new vessel offers comfortable open-air top deck seating with plenty of space for social distancing, providing official Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise guests with 360° views of our city’s storied skyline. Burger’s commitment to building a high-quality vessel goes hand in hand with our commitment to continually improving the cruise experience for our guests.”

Chicago’s Emerald Lady is USCG certified, Subchapter K and carries tankage that includes 4,000 gals. of fuel, 1,050 gals. water and a 1,750 gal. holding tank.

“Burger is focused on developing long-lasting, collaborative partnerships that lead to truly extraordinary experiences on the water,” said Jim Ruffolo, president and CEO, Burger Boat Co. “We love building for Chicago’s First Lady Cruises, as they share our mission of building a memorable, unique experience for their guests.”


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.