As previously reported on MaritimeMatters, the American Queen Steamboat Company, which owns and operates the AMERICAN QUEEN, announced the purchase of the EMPRESS OF THE NORTH from the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD). This is good news for American river cruising and adds one more U.S.-flagged vessel to the AQSC fleet. Her new name will be AMERICAN EMPRESS and, pending funding for the acquisition, the vessel is scheduled to resume sailings on the rivers of the Pacific Northwest from April 2014 calling her homeport Portland, Oregon.
It appears that some refit work will need to take place before the EMPRESS OF THE NORTH returns as AMERICAN EMPRESS. AQSC state that she will sail the Columbia and Snake Rivers, offering seven-day voyages between Portland, Oregon and Clarkston, Washington. Ports of call include Astoria, Wash.; Stevenson, Wash.; The Dalles, Ore.; Umatilla, Ore.; and Richland, Wash.
EMPRESS OF THE NORTH is a diesel-powered paddle-wheeler measuring 360 ft. (110 m) with five decks accommodating 223 guests in seven stateroom categories. She was built in 2002 at the Nichols Brothers Boat Builders shipyard on Whidbey Island for $50 million and first operated by American West Steamboat Company before being purchased by Majestic America Line (MAL), sailing Alaska’s Inside Passage and the Pacific Northwest between 2003 and 2008. In 2008, MAL’s owner, Ambassadors International, put its fleet of seven ships up for sale in April, planning to finish up the 200 cruise scheduled, but MAL handed EMPRESS OF THE NORTH over to the U.S. Maritime Administration in August due to unpaid debts. Since then she has been laid up at Swan Island in Portland, Oregon.
Special thanks to Scott Mayoral at www.centralmeridian.com for today’s photograph of EMPRESS OF THE NORTH, and to Peter Knego
MARTIN COX - Founder and publisher of MaritimeMatters, inspired by maritime culture and technology growing up in the port of Southampton. He works as a photographer in Los Angeles, and his works has been exhibited in LA, San Francisco, New York, London and Iceland. Martin is the co-writer of the book “Hollywood to Honolulu; the story of the Los Angeles Steamship Company” published by the Steam Ship Historical Society of America. The Los Angeles Maritime Museum has commissioned artworks and collected his photographs.