Cruise Ship History – Historic Steamboat DELTA QUEEN may find new home in Natchez!

Cruise Ship History – Historic Steamboat DELTA QUEEN may find new home in Natchez, Mississippi!

Published Monday, August 25, 2008

Natchez — When the Delta Queen’s congressional exemption ends on Oct. 31, its history will live on if the city of Alexandria has its way.

The city is looking to form a partnership with Majestic America Cruise Lines, or whoever purchases the line, to permanently anchor the historic steamer on Alexandria’s Red River, economic development head Bill Hess said.

deltaq2.jpg“If it does stop sailing because of the non-certification placed on it we would be interested in doing a public-private deal where they would continue to own and operate it as a stationary type of boutique hotel and dinner theater,” Hess said. “That type of thing is similar to what was done out in California with the sister ship, The Delta King. Basically we would operate it as what it was, except it wouldn’t sail.”

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Riverboat Delta King (sister ship to Delta Queen) in Sacramento. Originally built for San Francisco to Sacramento service, the Delta King is now a hotel and restaurant at it’s permanent dock in Sacramento.

The Delta King has been very successful as a hotel and mirrors the plan of Hess has for Alexandria.

The ship has traditionally been given an exemption from a congressional act that prevents a vessel with that much wood from sailing with overnight guests. This year the Delta Queen was denied this traditional exemption.

However, Hess and other are still fighting to keep the boat on the water.

“We want it to stay on the rivers,” Hess said. “We want it to keep coming back to Natchez and to keep coming back to Alexandria as a sailing vessel. Our biggest fear is we don’t want to see the Delta Queen in a marina somewhere rotting.”

Majestic America Lines is also fighting to keep the ship sailing, Public Relations Director Vanessa Bloy said.

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Prior to World War 2 – The Delta King and Delta Queen ran overnight between San Francisco and Sacramento.  

“The company is evaluating its strategic alternatives, but the primary goal is to extend the congressional exemption and find a way where the Delta Queen’s rich heritage can be celebrated for generations to come.”

In the event that their efforts fail, the company is looking for alternatives for the Delta Queen.

“Several credible parties have expressed an interest in acquiring some, parts or all of American Majestic Cruise Lines,” Bloy said.

Natchez residents also hope that something can be done to save the Delta Queen.

“I would love it if it would continue to sail, both because it’s good for our town economically and it’s a part of history,” Natchez Pilgrimage Tours Director Marsha Colson said. “It would still be wonderful for us locally to have it as close as Alexandria.”

Beyond the historical significance of the ship, it has had a large economic impact on city.

“Any time you bring a vessel through that may have hundreds of people on it, even if they don’t stay overnight, those people come in town, they come into the shops, sometimes during the Pilgrimage they would stay over night and spend money there,” Colson said. “I’d say it’s a significant impact.”

While Natchez residents have joined the effort to save the ship, no one has made an attempt to bring it to the city permanently, Colson said.

Tony Byrne, former mayor of Natchez, said he wished the boat could be docked here.

“It’s a shame it can’t be here in Natchez,” Byrne said. “I’m not knocking Alexandria, but it’s no Mississippi River.”

Bee Byrne, a Natchez Pilgrimage Tours guide, has shown many Delta Queen guests around the city and would love to see it preserved.

“I think it would be a excellent idea,” said Bee. “It’s a remnant of our history that certainly should be preserved.”

Whatever happens to the Delta Queen, it will stop in Natchez on its tribute tour Nov. 3.

For more information on the Delta Queen…

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