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.”

deltakingriverboat.jpg

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.

delta_king_hs-310x224.jpg

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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About Michael L. Grace

MICHAEL L. GRACE is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. SNOOPY continues to be one of the most produced shows (amateur & stock) in America/Worldwide and has had long running productions in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in London's West End. There are over 100 individual productions every year. He has written movies for TV, including the award-winning thriller LADY KILLER, various pilots and developed screenplays for Kevin Costner and John Travolta. Besides co-writing and co-producing SNOOPY, he wrote and produced the one-man play KENNEDY. He produced P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD by pulitzer prize winning author James Kirkwood. He wrote the stage thriller FINAL CUT which had productions in the UK, South Africa and Australia. His one-man play, KENNEDY - THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH, was developed for HBO and has starred Andrew Stevens, Gregory Harrison and Joseph Bottoms. He has recently been involved in European productions with CLT-UFA, Europe's leading commercial television and radio broadcaster. He wrote MOWs THE DOLL COLLECTION, THE BOTTOM LINE and LAST WITNESS for German television. While in college and graduate school he worked as a foreign correspondent for COMBAT, the famous leftwing Paris daily, and as a travel writer. He visited more than 50 countries. He struggled as an actor, then joined the enemy and entered the training program at William Morris. He became a publicist and worked for Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, at Paramount and MGM. He followed with a brief stint as a story executive, working in the frantic horror genre period of the early 80s and wrote THE UNSEEN. He went onto write for episodic television and develop series pilots. He was a continuing writer on such series such as LOVE BOAT, PAPER DOLLS, and KNOTS LANDING. He developed screenplays for such major award winning directors as Nicolas Meyers, Tony Richardson and J. Lee Thompson. He has written for all the major networks and studios. He has been hired numerous times as a script doctor, doing many uncredited rewrites on TV movies and features. He is currently writing A PERSON OF INTEREST, a thriller novel, and, IT'S THE LOVE BOAT... AND HOW IT CHANGED CRUISING BY SHIP a non-fiction book dealing with how the hit TV series as a major cultural phenomenon and altered the style of cruising by ship. He was raised in Los Angeles. He attended St. Paul's, USC and the Pasadena Playhouse. He received a B.A from San Francisco State University where he majored in theatre arts and minored in creative writing. He is listed as a SFSU leading alumni. He also apprenticed at ACT - The American Conservatory Theatre. For a brief period he had intentions of becoming an Episcopal(Anglican) priest and attended seminary at Kelham Theological College in the UK. When "the calling" wasn't there, he left seminary and did graduate work at the American University of Beirut. He has guest lectured at USC, UC San Diego, McGill, Univ. of London and the Univ. of Texas on the business aspects of making a living and surviving as a writer, focusing on development hell, in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Grace is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, the Dramatist Guild and former regional chairman of the Steamship Historical Society of America. He resides in Palm Springs.

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