American West Steamboat Company is adding a third vessel, the Columbia Queen, to its fleet of luxury overnight small cruise ships that will operate on the Columbia, Willamette and Snake Rivers. In a recent auction held by the Maritime Administration (MARAD), American West Steamboat Company won the bid for the Columbia Queen, formerly owned by American Classic Voyages’ Delta Queen Steamboat
Company. MARAD took possession of the Columbia Queen after American Classic Voyages filed bankruptcy in 2002.
Pending the close of the sale, American West Steamboat Company will take possession of the Columbia Queen around mid-July at which time she will undergo some refurbishment before her first cruise on the Columbia River in the spring of 2003.
"The Columbia Queen is in excellent condition," states Joel Perry, vice president of marketing at American West Steamboat Company. "However, we plan on some aesthetic upgrades such as new artwork throughout the ship to include historical paintings and photographs of the region as well as a new exterior paint scheme to match the other vessels in our fleet."
The Columbia Queen will join American West Steamboat Company’s flagship, the sternwheeler Queen of the West. Since 1995, the company has operated the 163-passenger Queen of the West on the Columbia, Willamette and Snake Rivers along the Lewis & Clark discovery route, Oregon Trail and Columbia River Gorge. Like the Queen of the West, the Columbia Queen will provide passengers a cruise into history featuring the scenery, culture and geology of the area as well as included shore excursions, fine dining and live showboat-style entertainment.
The company is also in the process of building a second luxury sternwheeler, the 236-passenger Empress of the North, scheduled to begin service in Alaska on June 8, 2003. The Empress of the North will operate in Alaska between May and September then join the Columbia Queen and the Queen of the West on the Columbia River the remainder of each year.