by kevin Griffin writing for cybercruises.com
The year 2012 saw a revival of cruising on the Mississippi River and its tributaries when, what is now the American Queen Steamboat Company, managed to place the 436-berth 3,707-ton American Queen back into service for the first time in four years.
American Queen had been built by McDermott Shipyard in Morgan City, Louisiana, in 1995 and been laid up since 2008.
That same summer, American Cruise Lines introduced its own newbuilding, the 150-berth 2,700-ton American Eagle, completed that year in the line’s own shipyard, the Chesapeake Shipbuilding Company, in Salisbury, Maryland.
American Cruise Lines’ paddlewheeler, American Pride (Courtesy American Cruise Lines)
After four seasons of no Mississippi cruises whatsoever, the river was back to two ships and 586 berths. Then, in 2015, a third vessel was added when ACL built the 150-berth 2,700-ton Queen of the Mississippi. This brought the number of berths available to 736.
Now, come three more vessels with another 501 berths that will bring the Mississippi fleet up to half a dozen ships and 1,237 berths, more than doubling the capacity of the first two ships.
First of the new trio is ACL’s 185-berth America, an enlarged version of American Eagle and Queen of the Mississippi, also from Chesapeake Shipbuilding. She was delivered in May and is now working together with a second Queen of the Mississippi, the first having been sent to the Columbia River as American Pride.
American Cruise Lines’ paddlewheeler, America (Courtesy American Cruise Lines)
Like all the other ACL riverboats, America is propelled by diesel engines and propulsion is through a stern paddle.
Second of the newcomers is French America Line’s 150-berth 4,332-ton Louisiane. Completed in 2000 as the last river cruiser to be build by the old Delta Queen Steamboat Company, Louisiane was built by Leevac Shipyards of Jenning, Louisiana, and completed by Cascade General Shipyards in Portland, Oregon, for work on the Columbia River.
The 150-passenger Louisiane (Courtesy French America Line)
Unlike most other riverboats in the United States, Louisiane is screw-propelled, with propulsion obtained from four diesel engines.
This summer, French America Line brought Louisiane around from Portland to New Orleans as deck cargo on a heavy lift sem-submersible barge and she is now at the Bollinger Shipyards in New Orleans (See video), where she is being prepared for her inaugural voyage from New Orleans on October 22.
Louisiane will sail from her own dedicated cruise terminal at Gretna, Louisiana, directly across the river from New Orleans.
The 150-passenger Louisiane: the Veranda and the Panorama stateroom (Courtesy French America Line)
The third “new” Mississippi cruise vessel, announced last week, will be a 166-berth 3,560-ton conversion to be renamed American Duchess.
This vessel has been selected from among the American floating casino fleet to become the American Queen Steamboat Company’s third ship, joining American Queen and the 223-berth American Empress, which operates on the Columbia River.
The floating Isle of Capri casino at Bettendorf, Iowa, has just been replaced by a new shore-based one, making the vessel available for purchase.
Presently called Bettendorf Capri, the vessel has two 10’9″ tall decks, while a third lower height deck will be added atop the ship.
Bettendorf Capri to be renamed American Duchess after a conversion
A paddle wheel will also be added to give the impression that the vessel is powered by her own paddlewheel, although this will not actually be the case and she will be screw-propelled.
The latest American Queen vessel was built in 1995 by the Bender Shipbuilding & Repair Company of Mobile, Alabama.
Bender, which is no longer in existence, produced a fleet of eight casino ships between 1993 and 1995 and then never built any more.
To date, American Queen has not announced what shipyard will get the conversion contract nor its cost, but it has set a deadline for delivery by June 2017.
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