American Queen Steamboat Company
OnboardAmerican Queen Steamboat Company's American Queen, relaunched in April 2012, is decked out in regal, Victorian elegance. Think ornate chandeliers, rich upholstery and polished wood. The 436-passenger sternwheeler is filled with modern amenities, too, like Wi-Fi in public spaces, but the aim is to evoke memories of the stately river steamers of the 19th century.
Antiques and fresh flowers provide the ambience of an antebellum mansion. A resident "riverlorian" tells the stories of the towns and hamlets visited along the upper and lower Mississippi, as well as Ohio and Tennessee rivers. Calliope music -- long associated with steamboats -- entertains passengers, who are also given an opportunity to play.
The Mark Twain Gallery, American Queen's library, has a vast collection from which to choose. Classic sing-alongs take place in the steamboat's lounge, and lavish shows enliven the two-deck Grand Saloon.
To add a little zest to the stately vibe, American Queen carries bikes, providing passengers a chance to peddle through the river towns they visit. There are fitness and wellness programs onboard, too. Nightly dancing is to lively swing and big band music in the Grand Saloon.
On the dining front, Culinary Director Chef Regina Charboneau's menu reflects regional cuisine. The Mississippi native is relying on decadent delights, such as sugary beignets, corn and shrimp fritters, and molasses glazed pork loin stuffed with Andouille sausage to satisfy passengers' appetites. (She will create a menu that represents Northwest American regional cuisine onboard the line's new American Empress, when it debuts in 2014.) Dining venues include alfresco options and no-fee specialty options. No formalwear is ever required, even for dinners, where complimentary wine and beer are poured.
Shore tours, included in the fares, provide immersion into the history, culture and cuisine of the heartland. The ship features a professionally trained, all-American staff.
About American Queen Steamboat CompanyAmerican Queen Steamboat Company is a Mississippi River-based cruise line aiming to resuscitate overnight Big Muddy cruising, a niche nearly dead since 2008. The line, which originally launched as Great American Steamboat Company (GASC), began operating American Queen in April 2012. The company is affiliated with HMS Global Maritime, founded by John Waggoner, which provided critical services at the inception of the line and continues to power its marine operations.
In 2013, American Queen announced that it had acquired an additional paddlewheeler. American Empress (which formerly sailed Pacific Northwest cruises as Empress of the North) will, after undergoing a major refurbishment, debut in that region in April 2014.
The company is led by president Ted Sykes, who worked in executive and leadership roles at Grand Circle Travel, Viking River Cruises, Vantage and Saga Shipping; he was appointed in early 2013.
American Queen Steamboat Company is headquartered in downtown Memphis, which is an important homeport for the company. American Queen regularly docks at the city's revitalized Beale Street Landing.
American Queen Steamboat Company FleetAmerican Queen is the largest steamboat in the world, with the capacity to carry 436 passengers. The boat was purchased in August 2011 from the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) for $15.5 million. Originally built in 1996 for the defunct Delta Queen Steamboat Company, American Queen had been laid up since 2008, when its most recent owner, Majestic America Line, went bust.
Before relaunching in April 2012, American Queen received a $6 million spruce-up to make the Victorian decor -- chandeliers, upholstery, polished wood throughout -- pop. Cabins got new bedding and flat-screen TVs, and a top-deck dining venue was added. In early 2013, the company made additional refurbishments to public areas, such as the J.M. White Dining Room and the Front Porch buffet venue.
In 2013, the company announced it purchased Empress of the North from MARAD and renamed it American Empress. The ship will feature Pacific Northwest voyages (between Oregon and Idaho via Washington). The ship is currently undergoing refurbishment and will debut in April 2014.
Fellow PassengersExpect well-traveled passengers, ages 50 and older, who enjoy Victorian charm, antiques and dancing to swing or big band music. American Queen Steamboat Company draws history buffs and culture connoisseurs, as cruises provide an in-depth look at the history and cuisine of the Mississippi River region.
The line expects slightly younger crowds during holiday and summer itineraries.
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