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In late May, the American Queen Steamboat Company made a double-barreled announcement: The purchase of the Empress of the North from the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) and a partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The American Empress is scheduled to resume sailings on the rivers of the Pacific Northwest in April 2014, homeported in Portland, Ore. The 223-passenger vessel will claim the title of the largest overnight riverboat west of the Mississippi River.
“The American Queen has ushered in a rebirth of U.S. river cruising, welcoming thousands to discover the heartland of the U.S. and its iconic port cities,” said Ted Sykes, president and COO of American Queen Steamboat Company. “Now, the American Empress will continue that tradition as an ambassador to the Pacific Northwest, a region equally rich in American and natural history.”
A U.S.-flagged riverboat, the American Empress measures 360 feet; she has five decks and seven stateroom categories. Seven-day cruises on the Columbia and Snake rivers will sail between Portland, Ore. and Clarkston, Wash. Ports of call include Astoria, Wash.; Stevenson, Wash.; The Dalles, Ore.; Umatilla, Ore.; and Richland, Wash.
The ship was built in 2002 and operated by Majestic America Line from 2002 to 2008, sailing Alaska’s Inside Passage and the Pacific Northwest. American Queen executives said that the vessel had been so well kept by MARAD that she is ready to sail; nevertheless, the company will add features that bring her to the opulent standards of the American Queen.
Both ships’ enrichment programs will be enhanced by the line’s new partnership the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which includes a corporate donation of $5 to the National Trust for every booking. Passengers, who receive a complimentary, one-year membership in the Trust, including its excellent magazine, are given the opportunity to match the donation.
Beginning June 30, American Queen travelers will have the opportunity to learn more about the National Treasure sites located along the Mississippi River and in the Pacific Northwest. National Treasures are irreplaceable, critically threatened places where the National Trust for Historic Preservation is taking protective action to promote their history and significance and engaging local preservationists to help advance the cause of preservation nationally.
Onboard and onshore enrichment will pay special attention to preservation concepts and techniques as well as the work of architects, historians and other professionals in the field of historic preservation.
American Queen will become a contributing sponsor for four of the National Trust’s National Treasures: the Mississippi Delta Heritage Area, Manhattan Project Historic Sites in Washington state, the Willamette Falls Navigation Canal and Locks in Oregon and a future site to be named at a later date.
‘We are proud to partner with the American Queen Steamboat Company and help bring America’s National Treasures to life,’ said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust. ‘These places along our great waterways present the diversity of our nation’s built history and remind all of us of the importance of preserving the irreplaceable places that tell America’s stories.’