October 30, 2008
American river cruise operator Majestic America is closing up shop. Operations will cease after the completion of its remaining 2008 cruises.
The line's owner, Ambassadors International (which also owns Windstar Cruises), put the fleet of seven ships up for sale in April. But at this point, given the current economic situation, the company simply hasn't seen any potential buyers.
The historic Delta Queen, which is being forced into retirement this year because the U.S. government has thus far declined to continue its special exemption from safety requirements, is currently in the midst of its farewell voyage.
Also, Majestic America handed Empress of the North over to the government (U.S. Maritime Administration) in August due to unpaid debts. American Queen may see the same fate if a buyer isn't found soon for that ship. The five other ships -- Delta Queen, Mississippi Queen, Columbia Queen, Queen of the West and Contessa -- are all fully owned by Ambassadors.
The line's final offering will be a "Northwest Rivers" cruise on Queen of the West, roundtrip from Portland. That cruise departs on November 9. At that point, Majestic America's remaining boats are to be put into storage.
Majestic America was founded in 2006 through the combination of American West Steamboat Company and the vessels of Delta Queen Steamboat Company (which specialized in small ship cruises on American rivers), but the project never quite got off the ground. It was plagued by early problems, including an accident involving Empress of the North in spring 2007 that put the ship out of commission for months; substantial losses in 2007; an engine fire; cruises canceled as a result of a Norovirus outbreak; and other repair issues.
In an earning's call from yesterday, Ambassadors CEO Joe Ueberroth called the company's river cruise operation "a very bad investment."
"We flat-out got it wrong."
--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor