American West Steamboat Company has begun construction of a second sternwheeler cruise ship, the Empress of the North, scheduled for completion in May 2003.
The Empress of the North is being built by Nichols Brothers Boat
Builders in Freeland, Wash., where her sister ship, the sternwheeler Queen of the West, was completed in 1995.
Designed in Seattle by naval architects, Guido Perla & Associates, the Empress of the North will be 360 ft. long and accommodate 236 passengers and 84 crew. The ship will feature 112 all-outside suites and staterooms, of which 105 will have private verandahs.
The Empress of the North will operate 11-night cruises between Seattle and Juneau, along the famed Inside Passage of Canada and Alaska beginning June to mid-September, 2003. Following the season in Alaska, the ship will reposition to Portland, Oregon, where it will operate 7- and 11-night cruises between October and May on the Columbia, Snake and Willamette Rivers.
Andrea Piacentini Design, Inc. in Seattle, Washington, designed lavish period Victorian interiors for this vessel. Attention to every detail was to be the hallmark of all interiors according to the clients’ wishes. Elaborate features of carved columns, vaulted ceilings and filigree screens transform the Dining Room into Imperial Russian era elegance. The Gold Rush / Gay Nineties themed Showroom Lounge, with detailed stage and lighting elements, recall a time of opulence and leisure lifestyles. The Paddlewheel Lounge’s custom walnut bar, clipper-ship beamed ceiling and comfortable furnishings provide timeless ambiance in a relaxed style. Staterooms are uniquely and gracefully embellished with full amenities. The vessel will highlight a floating gallery of original artwork spanning three centuries.
The construction of this ship has helped both operator and builder expand their companies. While the new ship will add a new cruise route and increases capacity on the Columbia river for the owner, the builder found the need to increase the size of its shipyard in order to handle a ship of this size. “We have effectively doubled the size of our shipyard”, said Matt Nichols, CEO of Nichols Brothers Boat Builders
. “The increase in size allows us to compete in new markets while maintaining our current customer base” Nichols added.
Just as engineering drawings are being completed and steel is rolling into the shipyard, the vessel has begun to take shape. With just over 11 months to finish the project Nichols said, “The vessel is currently ahead of our production schedule and we are looking for a on time delivery”.
Another vessel currently under construction at Nichols Brothers is a 105 ft. fireboat for the Los Angles Fire Department. The fireboat is being called the most powerful in the world with its ability to pump 31,000 gallon per minute delivered from a total of six pumps. In addition to its incredible pumping capacity, the vessel will be powered by two 1800 HP Detroit Diesel 12V4000
diesel engines coupled to Cyclodal drives. The vessel will be delivered in November of this year.