The much-beloved river ship Delta Queen is coming out of her early retirement to take on a new job -- that of a boutique hotel.
The 82-year-old ship was forced to stop sailing when parent company Ambassadors International ceased operations of the entire Majestic America fleet while looking to sell the river cruise line. Now, the vessel has been chartered by entrepreneur Harry Phillips. Phillips will bring the ship to Chattanooga's Coolidge Park Landing, where it will moor and operate as a historic hotel.
Delta Queen will depart New Orleans in February and cruise to Chattanooga. The ship will be preserved as is -- Phillips is experienced in preserving historic properties, including the StoneFort Inn, whose current owner, Syndey Slome, will become Delta Queen's hotel manager. The ship will be accessible to both overnight guests and daytime visitors. Although the ship will be moored, its river boat atmosphere will remain intact with Dixieland jazz and cabaret shows in its entertainment venues, and group tours with an educational focus on steamboat technology.
According to Slome, the hotel is scheduled to open on April 1 (subject to change). Nightly rates will range from $79 per couple for the smallest, bunk-style cabins to $125 for regular cabins and $175 for suites. Midweek rates (Sunday through Thursday) will be lower. Prices include a full hot breakfast. Times for the daily tours and reservation information are not yet available, but updates will be posted on the hotel's Web site (which will launch shortly).
Parent company Ambassadors International is still looking for a permanent buyer for Delta Queen, preferably one who can continue offering overnight river cruises until more stringent SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) restrictions prevent the ship from operating in 2010. The company is also asking Congress to exempt the beloved river ship from the rules, allowing it to continue sailing once the SOLAS restrictions take effect.
--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor
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Delta Queen Chartered Temporarily as Boutique Hotel
January 28, 2009