New Orleans-based Delta Queen Steamboat Company returned to the
Mississippi this spring, for the first time after the devastation
of Hurricane Katrina. The company has also undergone an ownership
Ambassadors International Inc. acquired the line from former
owners Delaware North Companies. Ambassadors, which also operates
the American West Steamboat Company, will merge American West and
Delta Queen into a new company, Majestic America Line, effective
this fall. The new company will have its headquarters in Seattle,
while its operations will be moving to St. Louis.
“We look forward to returning the incomparable American Queen to
service in 2007 and operating the three Delta Queen vessels,” said
David Giersdorf, president and COO of Ambassadors Cruise group.
The three boats of the Delta Queen Company, Delta Queen,
Mississippi Queen and American Queen will return to New Orleans in
November for a Thanksgiving Day Cruise and wait out the winter
getting ready for full operation in the spring of 2007. For the
remainder of the summer and fall, the Delta Queen and Mississippi
Queen will continue with their scheduled itineraries on the
Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, Cumberland and Tennessee rivers.
As I rediscovered on the Delta Queen this spring, cruising on a
steamboat is more than a cruise, it’s a journey into the history
and culture of the region.
The Delta Queen, built in 1926, is listed on the National Register
of Historic Places. Our cruise departed from Baton Rouge, La., to
much fanfare. It was good to hear the vessel’s legendary steam
calliope in full force, serenading passengers and everyone else
within a mile. Our cruise took us first to the famous Oak Alley
Plantation, where a walkway lined with magnificent 300-year-old
live oak trees lead to a spectacular plantation home. Next stop up
river was St. Francisville, La., where we toured the grand
plantation houses of Myrtles and Rosedown. Natchez, Miss.,
presented more historic homes along with tours that included gospel
music sung in the old plantation church and a mock slave
Vicksburg, Miss., is a mecca for Civil War buffs with tours of the
Vicksburg National Military Park where a vicious battle was fought.
An ironclad gunboat, USS Cairo, has been raised from its watery
grave in the Yazoo River and now, 102 years later is on view beside
an excellent museum of the period. The last stop on our journey was
Helena, Ark., where a tour took us into the countryside for some
gospel music, Delta blues and soul food.
When we weren’t busy sightseeing, our days on the river provided a
relaxing respite. Big rocking chairs beckoned on the deck, offering
a perfect vantage point for watching the lush green countryside
In general, life aboard the Delta Queen is relaxed, unstructured
and perfect for a quiet getaway. It allows cruisers to marvel at
the legendary giant waterway that is the Big Muddy, the mighty