It's a timeless piece of history that is the newest deal going on in the cruise ship industry - the deal between the Delta Queen Steamboat Co.
and Atlantic Marine, which calls for the building of two U.S. Coastal flag ships inspired by the former Fall River Line Vessels which ran from 1847 to 1937.
It was the age in which water transportation was the only mode of distance travel. Henry Ford and the Wright Brothers had not yet become household names and the horse and carriage reigned as the only means of getting to and fro. Aristocracy held court on ships that sailed the high seas - namely the Fall River Line, which ran from New York to New England. Inspired yet? Executives at Delta Queen were - so much that they decided to model their current project after the famed line.
The paddles began rolling about a year ago at Delta Queen, when visions of the idea were first discussed between Philip Calian, president and CEO, American Classic Voyages (Delta Queen's parent company); and Scott Young
, Delta Queen's president and COO.
"Phil (Calian) and I talked about ways in which we could expand the company," said Young. "When we realized that the cost to design a historic vessel would remain the same, we decided to go that way."
"We thought about how we could further our marketing and product expertise," Calian said. "The Delta Queen project both meets the needs of the market in a cost-effective manner and plays off American history and culture."
Young and his team at Delta Queen spent the next few months working with the Marine Museum in Fall River, Mass., examining photos and drawings of the steamers on which the new Delta Queen is based.
"We looked at the various river steamers so that we could come as close as we could in designing a historic vessel with modern amenities," Young added.
With a design and itinerary ideas in place, Delta Queen began its quest for history in the making on May 7, 1999 - with the naming of Jacksonville, Fl.-based Atlantic Marine
as the builder of the first two 300-ft. (91.4 m), 226 passenger vessels at a base price of $30 million each, with launchings scheduled in the spring and summer of 2001.
With the bidding process commencing when 16 invitations were sent out by Delta Queen, Atlantic was hand-picked from a pool of nine finalists, and according to the company's president, Edward P. Doherty, is very excited to have been selected for a project that is "a step in the right direction in the developing market for smaller cruise ships."
"The demand for smaller cruise ships is on the increase," Doherty said. "With this project we saw the opportunity to progress into this market."
Doherty added that steel for the first vessel is expected to be cut this August, once the vessels' detailed construction drawings are complete.
Operating as inland and coastal passenger vessels in both domestic and foreign waters, developed itineraries include round-trip routes on the Eastern Seaboard to Halifax, Nova Scotia and New York City; Juneau, Alaska; Seattle and Portland, Ore. on the Pacific Northwest; and San Francisco on the West Coast.
Where the 19th Century Meets the New Millennium
Delta Queen Coastal Cruises, (a wholly-owned operating subsidiary of Delta Queen Steamboat Co.) houses the three remaining original steam paddlewheelers with overnight staterooms - namely the Delta Queen, the New Orleans-based company's own historic landmark. The additional vessels, Mississippi Queen and American Queen (the world's largest steamboat) still offer three- to 14-day itineraries on various inland waterways throughout the Old South.
Established in 1890, the company is aiming to redesign the new vessels with a combination that is few and far between - the joining of old world society inside, boasting modern mechanical and engineering aspects. To fully replicate this motif, Delta Queen has hired the naval architectural firm of Seattle-based Guido Perla & Associates. Headed by project manager, Dave Pasciuti, the design team's goal (according to Pasciuti), was to "blend old-world style with new technology for passenger safety and comfort."
"It is a vessel that will give passengers a turn-of-the-century feel and at the same time will include all the modern amenities and safety features of today's cruise vessels," Pasciuti added.
Combining stately New England Federal and nautical decor, interior design firm Andrea Piacentini Design will recreate the designs of the era allowing passengers to feel as though they are indeed aboard the original Fall River steamers.
The apex of the vessel's accommodations are the Outside Owner's Suites that feature a sofabed, game table and a breathtaking, 180-degree view of coastal scenery via panoramic windows.
The jewel in the Delta Queen's crown is the 2,400 sq. ft. dining room complete with tasteful artwork and exceptional architectural and interior design allowing passengers to view the coastal scenery.
And it doesn't stop there...According to Young, Delta Queen hopes to expand its entire historic fleet to approximately five to seven vessels. With options already promised to Atlantic Marine for a third vessel, the company is well on its way to achieving its goal.
"Given their strong reputation in the shipbuilding business," Young said. "I think Atlantic will be an excellent partner in this current venture."