The new president of the Delta Queen Steamboat Co. is
considering bringing the Columbia Queen and two coastal cruisers
back into the fleet.
“Anything is possible,” Rick Abramson said. “We would have to go
through a lot of steps, but do I think it could happen?
But Abramson, who was named president of the historic
paddlewheel company in mid-January, says the top goal is the
successful relaunch of the American Queen, Delta Queen and the
The company originally ceased operations when its former parent,
American Classic Voyages Co., declared bankruptcy Oct. 19,
The popular New Orleans-based line was rescued in May 2002 when
the Delaware North Companies, a $1.6 billion hospitality management
company based in Buffalo, N.Y., purchased the three paddlewheelers
and other assets of Delta Queen at a bankruptcy auction.
However, Delaware North was edged out in its bid for the
Columbia Queen, a new vessel that Delta Queen previously operated
on rivers out of Portland, Ore.
The winning bidder was American West Steamboat Co., which
already operated the Queen of the West out of Portland.
But American West never took possession of the Columbia Queen,
and it looks like the ship will be put up for auction again.
Joel Perry, vice president of marketing for American West, said
“red tape” delayed the purchase time and again and “that caused us
to reevaluate everything. Plus, the boat was idle for 17 months and
has deteriorated over time.”
Abramson said he is “very much interested” in the Columbia
Queen, but that he wants to make sure the company would have enough
lead time to properly market the vessel.
“We’d like to have six to nine months in advance,” he said. “At
this time, it would be for next summer (of 2004) so I’m not rushing
Meanwhile, Abramson also has been eyeing the two vessels of the
former Delta Queen Coastal Voyages brand. The Cape May Light and
the Cape Cod Light are virtually new ships that were not purchased
at the bankruptcy auction. Several cruise companies have expressed
interest in them over the months, but no purchase was made.
“The coastals had some great itineraries, and I think it was a
great product,” Abramson said. “But I think there are some real
challenges ahead for anyone who gets into the coastal
Abramson, a 37-year veteran of Delaware North, said Delta Queen
just released its first brochure in two years.
“Things are going good, but the economy is tough for everybody,”
he said. “People are booking closer in, and with the economy,
they’re not spending as much money.”
Occupancy rates are averaging in the low 80s, Abramson said,
although he’d like to increase that to 95 percent next year.
“We’re giving some great deals out there and we’re filling some
boats, but we have to manage the yields a little bit,” Abramson