(7:30 p.m. EDT) -- Debt-saddled Ambassadors International, parent company of Windstar Cruises and the now-defunct Majestic America Line, has sold the 142-passenger paddle wheeler Queen of the West. The buyer is Blue Spruce LLC, a subsidiary of Connecticut-based small-ship operator American Cruise Lines.

Timothy Beebe, vice president of marketing for American Cruise Lines, said it was too early to speculate on what role Queen of the West would play in the ACL fleet (if any). The company said it will be making an official announcement about the future of the paddle wheeler in a couple of weeks. American Cruise Lines offers historically focused itineraries along the Eastern Seaboard, from Maine to Florida, on a fleet of four U.S.-flagged ships.

Queen of the West last sailed for Majestic America Line in 2008, operating seven-night Columbia and Snake River cruises roundtrip from Portland. Majestic America Line, which cruised along America's historic rivers and waterways on a fleet of stern and paddle wheelers, went bust at the end of that year. Two ships, American Queen and Empress of the North, have since been returned to the U.S. government's Maritime Administration (MARAD), due to unpaid debts. Ambassadors still owns four of the ships, including the historic Delta Queen, which is temporarily operating as a boutique floating hotel that's moored in Chattanooga, Tennessee. All four ships are up for sale and have been since April 2008.

The sale is also good news for Windstar, which continues to operate normally while Ambassadors strengthens its financial situation and furthers its plan to focus solely on the luxury line.

--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor

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