American Queen Steamboat Company’s AMERICAN EMPRESS is christened in a gala ceremony at Portland, Oregon prior to embarking on her maiden season of Columbia River cruises.

American Queen Steamboat Company

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Stacks rise after the AMERICAN EMPRESS clears her last bridge and prepares to berth at Portland.

Memphis-based American Queen Steamboat Company kicked off its brand new Columbia River cruise service with the christening of its newly refurbished paddlewheel riverboat, the AMERICAN EMPRESS at Portland, Oregon.

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Heading in, bow first.

The 360-by-58-foot vessel, built in 2003 as the EMPRESS OF THE NORTH, has just undergone a $5 million dollar revitalization of its public spaces and accommodation and will embark on its first seven night cruise from Vancouver, Washington (just across the Columbia River from Portland) on Monday, April 5.

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Edging in.

Approximately 150 guests attended a christening ceremony held in the ship’s Show Room this afternoon.

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John Waggoner, AQSC Chairman and CEO.

The first speaker was AQSC Chairman and CEO John Waggoner, who told the story of the ship’s acquisition from the U.S Maritime Adminisitration and thanked the people who helped make the purchase and transformation of the ship possible.

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Ted Sykes, President and COO, AQSC.
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Terry Macrae, Chairman and CEO Hornblower Cruises.
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Paul “Chip Jaenichen, Acting Maritime Administrator, US Dept Of Transportation.

Other speakers included AQSC President and COO Ted Sykes, Terry Macrae, Chairman and CEO of AQSC partner company Hornblower Cruises and Paul “Chip” Janichen, Acting Maritime Administrator.

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Ray Lahood, Former Secretary of Transportation.

Former Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, who was instrumental in facilitating the ship’s return to service after a five year layup following the collapse of former operators, Majestic America Line, was the keynote speaker.

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Sam Robinson, Vice Chairman of Chinook Nation.

Just prior to the actual christening, the ship was blessed by Sam Robinson, the Vice Chairman of Chinook Nation in a traditional Chinook ceremony. Much of the Columbia and Snake River terrain was once Chinook territory and the blessing was seen by many as an omen of good luck.

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Claudette Waggoner, AMERICAN EMPRESS Godmother.

Godmother Claudette Waggoner, wife of CEO John Waggoner, gave an emotional speech, congratulating the ship’s crew and recalling how her first big dream “was to be Prom Queen but when that did not happen, it was to become Godmother of a steamboat.”

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Godmother prepares to smash bottle of champagne.
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A big “whack!” into the railing.
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Sealed with a kiss from the chairman.
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With a quick turn to the media group.

The Waggoners then headed up to the open space on the ship’s Frontier Deck (2) where the godmother did the honors of smashing a champagne bottle into the railing.

AMERICAN EMPRESS will sail on Eastbound and Westbound voyages along the Columbia and Snake Rivers between Vancouver and Clarkston, Washington, calling at Sacajawea State Park, The Dalles, Stevenson and Astoria from April through November. The 224-guest, 3,388-gt ship, the largest and most luxurious paddlewheeler on the West Coast, offers an inclusive cruise experience with some excursions, wines and beers at lunch and dinner, wifi internet access and specialty coffees included in the fare.

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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