Helping fill the gap left in US waterway cruising since owners, Ambassadors International, announced in April 2008 that Majestic America Line was exiting the cruise business after its 2008 season, Seattle-based Cruise West announced that it will offer cruises along the Mississippi River beginning in March 2011. The 102-passenger 1984-built SPIRIT OF GLACIER BAY (ex SPIRIT OF NANTUCKET) has been renamed SPIRIT OF AMERICA in preparation for her debut on an eight-day voyage from New Orleans to Memphis on March 19, 2011. A number of other cruises on the Mississippi, Ohio and Cumberland Rivers will follow.
Another small ship operator, Blount Small Ship Adventures, currently operates the 96 passenger GRANDE MARINER and 68 passenger NIAGRA PRINCE on occasional Mississippi River cruises between New Orleans and Chicago. For more information, click here.
A trio of paddlewheelers, including the 1926-built DELTA QUEEN, the 1976-built MISSISSIPPI QUEEN and the 1995 built AMERICAN QUEEN were on regular inland river cruise service until Majestic America’s closure. Originally owned by the Delta Queen Steamboat Co. (founded in 1890), which went bankrupt under the control of American Classic Voyages in 2002, the vessels were sold to Delaware North, Inc. of Buffalo, N.Y., which sold the three boats in 2006 to Ambassadors International Inc. of Newport Beach, Calif., owners of the short-lived Majestic America Line. After MAL ceased their cruise business, the three boats were put up for sale depriving the Mississippi of overnight steamboat service for the first time since 1811.
DELTA QUEEN is now open as a floating hotel in Chattanooga, Tenn. After an aborted conversion attempt, the MISSISSIPPI QUEEN was sold for scrap. AMERICAN QUEEN was turned over to the United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) and remains for sale in the reserve fleet in Beaumont, Texas. An announcement about her future is expected shortly, so please stay tuned to these pages.
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.