Delta Queen

Delta Queen cruise ship

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River Cruises

Specifications of Delta Queen

Year built1927  /  Age: 94
Flag state USA
BuilderWilliam Denny and Brothers Ltd (Dumbarton, Scotland) 1840-1963
Classpaddle-wheel steamboat
Building costUSD 0,875 million (1924 rates)
OwnerDelta Queen Steamboat Company
OperatorDelta Queen Cruises
Length (LOA)87 m / 285 ft
Beam (width)18 m / 59 ft
Gross Tonnage1676 gt

Delta Queen Review

Review of Delta Queen

Delta Queen is an authentic American stern paddle-wheel steamboat. The cruise ship has historically been used for cruising on Mississippi River and its tributaries, and mostly in Southern USA. Starting operations in 2020, the ship cruises on Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland, Tennessee, Arkansas and Kanawha rivers.

The riverboat was launched in 1925 and started operations in 1927. The paddle-wheeler was docked in Chattanooga Tennessee, serving as hotel ship until purchased by the newly established Delta Queen Steamboat Company. In March 2015, the vessel was towed to Gulf Island Fabrication Inc shipyard (in Houma Louisiana) to be drydock refurbished to its original condition. The shipowner is the Kimmswick Missouri-based Delta Queen Steamboat Company.

Delta Queen steamboat cruise ship

The ship Delta Queen has cross-compound steam powerplant, which engines generate 1,5 MW power output. As propulsion, the boat is moved by its stern-mounted paddle-wheel. This riverboat is the last surviving (original) overnight steam-powered cruise ship on Mississippi River.

Delta Queen steamboat cruise ship

In 1989, Delta Queen was designated a "National Historic Landmark" (NHL, officially recognized by the US government). As such, the cruise ship can't sail with over 50 passengers onboard - based on SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea Act) requirements issued in 1966. That law also prohibits overnight cruises on wooden ships. The riverboat has a steel hull, but its public spaces and all staterooms are mostly of wooden construction. Delta Queen sailed for decades under SOLAS exemption, but this expired in 2008. The historic steamship is also included in USA's National Register of Historic Places and National Maritime Hall of Fame.

In July 2015, two US senators from Ohio state introduced a bill that would let the riverboat Delta Queen to operate once again overnight passenger cruise service. The bill is a companion to legislation introduced in March 2015. The new legislation would require the installation of modern safety equipment and would grant the riverboat a 15-years exemption to the SOLAS rule (standard practice until 2008).

Currently, the cruise ship is undergoing refits in Houma Louisiana. The refit project is led by Delta Queen Steamboat Company's President and CEO Cornel J. Martin. His partners (Leah and Randy Ingram) previously operated the vessel (IMO 8643327) as ship hotel, being permanently moored in Chattanooga TN. Steamboat's drydock refit and refurbishment cost were estimated at around USD 5 million.

A provision found in the 2018-modified version of Senate's USCG authorization bill exempted Delta Queen from federal law and USCG regulations. These regulations currently require vessels with overnight accommodations for 50+ passengers to be made of fireproof materials. Boat's owner redesigned the steamship to passenger capacity 174. In 1966, US law was changed to require fireproofing of boats with large berthing capacity following the 1965 fire on SS Yarmouth Castle (wooden steamship) in the Caribbean. The accident killed 90 people.

Delta Queen cruises on Mississippi and its tributaries. The regularly scheduled itineraries are operated with departures from New Orleans to Memphis TN, St Louis MO, St Paul MN, Cincinnati OH and other major riverport cities.

Delta Queen cruise ship model

Note: You can see the CruiseMapper's list of all river cruise ships and riverboats in the "itinerary" section of our River Cruises hub. All companies and their fleets are listed there. For similarly-designed (stern paddlewheel) US riverboats you can check the fleets of American Cruise Lines and American Queen Steamboat Company. Also similar (but way smaller) is the Australian steamship, Murray Princess.

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An unusual feature of the Delta Queen steamboat is the onboard steam calliope mounted on Texas Deck (aft of the pilothouse/navigation bridge). Calliope is a musical instrument producing sounds by sending steam through large whistles. The riverboat's calliope covers about 3 octaves and was used to play the vessel while docking (berthing) and undocking. Sometimes, the ship's Master (Captain) extended this courtesy to other ships as well.

"The Country Gentlemen" music band (with Charlie Waller as leader) recorded the song "Delta Queen" as part of their 1974 album "Remembrances and Forecasts". Written by Pete Goble and Leroy Drumm, the song was inspired after Leroy saw the steamship cruising down Tennessee River in the early 1970s.

For a few years, there were rumours about Mary Greene's ghost haunting the Delta Queen ship. Mary was the wife of Gordon Greene - Greene Line's founder. Riverboat Captain in her own right, the woman died on the ship on April 22, 1949. Since then, crew and passengers have reported strange occurrences and sounds onboard, attributed to Mary's ghost, particularly around her former quarters.

Delta Queen's sistership is Delta King (launched 1925). The sistership was christened in May 1927 and used to cruise in California (between Sacramento and San Francisco) on 10-hour long itineraries. In 1981, Delta King sank while laid up in Richmond CA. The boat was raised, towed to Sacramento CA and refurbished (5-year project) at cost USD 9 million. Today, Delta King serves as a 44-room hotel ship (permanently moored in Sacramento CA) featuring a premium restaurant. The ship also doubles as Capital Stage - run by an onboard professional theatre company. This riverboat is also listed in Sacramento's NRHP (National Register of Historic Places) as object deemed worthy of preservation.

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