Steamboat for Sale

A beloved steamboat is for sale. Built in 1926, the 285-foot Delta Queen made its last voyage in 2008 and is now a floating hotel docked in Chattanooga, Tenn. Its owner, Seattle-based Ambassadors International, listed it for sale with broker PKF Capital for $4.75 million last month.

"It would definitely be good news if Ambassadors sells the Delta Queen to someone who is really interested in this National Historic Landmark boat and who is willing to take good care of her," Franz Neumeier of Save the Delta Queen said in an e-mail. "The sooner someone else owns the Delta Queen, the better."

A new owner may not be able to re-launch the Delta Queen, however. Its Coast Guard-issued certificate of inspection expired in November 2008. Supporters like Neumeier say that although it needs repair, it's perfectly safe. However, in April 2008, for the first time in 37 years, Congress rejected the owner's request for an exemption from the Safety of Life at Sea Act, which restricts overnight guests to 50 rather than the boat's capacity of 176. A new owner could pursue another exemption.

"I'm highly optimistic that we'll get an exemption in the next Congress," says Vicki Webster, leader of the Save the Delta Queen campaign.

For years, the National Trust for Historic Preservation offered tours on the historic steamboat, which was part of the Trust's Historic Hotels of America program. The Delta Queen has four decks, Tiffany-style stained-glass windows, an 1897 calliope, and the same steamboat bell that graced a ship on which Samuel Clemens traveled in 1883. This summer, it's possible to stay aboard the Delta Queen in one of 88 staterooms, but the ship remains tied up. Neumeier says that visiting a docked boat does not provide a full experience.

"You miss the whole character of a boat if it's not running—especially on a steamboat, where you hear and smell the steam, feel the motion of the paddlewheel, listen to the steam whistle and calliope," Neumeier says. "[Delta Queen] deserves a new exemption from a law that was never made for river boats anyway."

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Submitted by DAVID P. at: October 18, 2010
I grew up in Pittsburg California durning WWII and this boat and the other twin Delta King were commisioned by the army to ferry troups from Sacramento to Pittsburg Landing. the troups disembarked and marched south to Camp Stoneman. I was there and witnessed the events. This is not just a steamboat, it's part of our WWII history and should not be allowed to ever die. I'm 70 now and was 3 and 4 years old then but I can still see in my minds eye the boats and troups.

Submitted by Steamfan at: September 30, 2010
Interesting fact: one of the two legislators responsible for not granting the Delta Queen's exemption from the Safety of Life "At Sea" regulations was Sen. Daniel Inouye...the same Sen. Inouye whose wife is currently a member of the National Trust's board of trustees, seeking her second term. And not a long-time wife whose interests he no longer pays attention to; rather, a relatively new wife who he was probably courting during the last days of the Delta Queen's active service on the rivers of America's Heartland. You can't tell me he is unaware of the importance of preservation and history...which makes it painfully apparent that the denial of DQ's exemption was pure politics at its worst.

Submitted by Jim Whetzel at: September 5, 2010
Wow. I cry just thinking about this magnificent boat not cruising up and down our beautiful rivers. How can our government allow this to happen? This is senseless. My wife and I have taken many, many cruses on the Delta Queen and my parents have taken well over forty full length week long and two week long cruises on the Delta Queen. I am forty years old. My parents started cruising on the Delta Queen when I was in my late teens. After I was married, my wife and I started chasing the Delta Queen up and down the rivers taking pictures while my parents were cruising on her. We would be on bridges on banks waving at the passengers and my parents when they saw us. We have drove and flown thousands of miles chasing the Delta Queen and had great fun doing it. One day my parents told us that they were paying for us to go with them on the Delta Queen from Pittsburgh PA. to Cincinnati, OH. We also went up the Kanawha River to Charleston, WV. Wow, I cannot even think of the words to express how great that cruises was. I hardly left the top deck. We did not sleep much because we did not want to miss any of the river. We were finally cruising on the Delta Queen Steamboat. The boat we had spent so many days chasing. A boat that I had read about in the history books when I was in elementary school. I have to tell you. I have worked for the airlines for twenty-one years. My wife and I can fly anywhere in the world for very little cost and have, but we have never had a better vacation on any ocean liner or anywhere that we have traveled. Than we have had on every cruise that we have taken on the Delta Queen. There is nothing and I mean nothing like being on the magnificent majestic Delta Queen Steamboat. When you know the history of this boat. Knowing that you are cruising on a boat that you have read about in the history books. Cruising on the great Mississippi River or the beautiful Ohio River and so many other beautiful rivers here in our great country that the Delta Queen travels on. To see and feel what it was like to travel so many years ago as our aunt sisters use to when the rivers were filled with steamboats. Sure you can take a modern boat, but trust me. There is nothing like being on the Delta Queen. What a way to see our country. Its a way that everyone should get to see. Looking at this beautiful country from the river on a historic steamboat is so much nicer than any other way. Those of you that have cruised on the Delta Queen before know what I am talking about. Those of you who haven't cruised on the Delta Queen I hope you get the chance. I like to sit outside up front in the springtime, summer or fall and feel the warm breeze as we move along between seven and twelve miles per hour listening to faint sounds of the paddle wheel from behind. The water on the river is as smooth as glass and the Delta Queen is so quiet its like you are gliding across the water. Its incredible and the wildlife that you see "wow." I especially like watching the sunset over the river. I just hope our kids and there kids will be able to see and feel what we have seen and felt by cruising on the Delta Queen Steamboat. There is no other floating historic land mark that you can do this on. While we are stopped at all of the little river towns that have been bypassed by interstate highways. I talk to the people. They tell me how important it is for their town to have the Delta Queen stop in. The store owners come out. They shuttle people back and forth to there businesses for free. The town government officials come out to greet the passengers on the Delta Queen. They give free tours of the towns and let people off where ever they want to shop. A lot of these little towns are just hanging in there by a thread economically. They need the Delta Queen and all of the passengers and crew she brings when she comes to their town. A lot of these small towns have added boat landings, stairs, wheel chair accessible ramps just to accommodate and to attract the Delta Queen to come to there towns. "Please everyone." We cannot sit here and let this happen to the Delta Queen. She has a remarkable safety record. She is never far from land. She is never over crowded like the boats were in the olden days. She has a fully functional fire suppression system and a superbly trained crew which I might add, many of the crew members have devoted their life to working and taking care of this boat. We have gotten to know so many of them over the years. We have never felt safer on any mode of transportation and I think we have been on them all. Whom ever is reading this. If you have the power to keep the Delta Queen Steamboat cruising on our great rivers as she has done for so many years. Please, Please do something. The Delta Queen needs you. The crew of the Delta Queen needs you. The people in hundreds of river towns need you and we need you, thousands of other citizens past, present, and future of the United States of America. Thank you for anything you can do. Sincerely Jim and Beth Whetzel and parents Irvin and Naomi Whetzel

Submitted by Beepa at: August 29, 2010
Please, owners of DQ, find a place and owner where all society will always be able to see life as it once was -- the good life!

Submitted by Misty at: August 26, 2010
The crux of the Delta Queen's plight was a single elected representative and a non union crew. I have no doubt that under a new owner with union support she would miraculously become safe enough to again sail the rivers! I had the wonderful opportunity of sailing on the Delta Queen's final voyage down river out of Pittsburgh. The sound of her her whistle as she departed river towns for the last time was one of the saddest things I've ever heard. I also remember the day during the trip as hopes raised when then Senator Obama's campaign issued a statement supporting continuing her exemption. Guess he's had more pressing things to deal with since his election... The only life the Delta Queen deserves is the life for which she was built - sailing the rivers night and day with a crew bringing her to life, passengers in her rooms, on her decks, and listening to her calliope!

Submitted by Sandy at: August 24, 2010
My husband and I were on the Queen's next to the last sailing. Loved it! It is a living part of our history. Please someone rescue her! She is too precious to let die.We are hoping to stay on her this fall if that is still available.

Submitted by kathie at: August 24, 2010
lets get her on the Ohio River. She needs to run. At least day trips. We can always get her to be a national park. A legend like the DQ can not be lost.

Submitted by Alfred Doten at: August 24, 2010
Return it to its origins in California. Run it between the Ferry Building and Stockton or Old Sacramento. Mate it with overnight accommodations on the Delta King. Breath some life back into California history. Ah....but there's nothing like a dreamer. Alfred Doten

Submitted by riverrat at: August 21, 2010
Congress would have likely exempted the Delta Queen from the Safety at Sea act if a certain senator had let it out of Committee. He is pro-union and the boat was running with a non-union crew.

Submitted by BlueMuse at: August 21, 2010
With all due respect to all on the list, the Delta Queen needs and deserves to be back on the greatest of American rivers, the Mississippi, offering overnight voyages like it has for the better part of a century. It is as safe as any boat that has sailed on that river. We need to apply pressure to Congress to stop playing politics and grant the exemption that should never have been allowed to lapse in the first place. The Delta Queen is not a wedding chapel, a casino, or a museum piece. She is a living, breathing, part of American history -- a Steamboat -- and that is how she should be experienced for generations to come.

Submitted by Rivermama at: August 19, 2010
I used to walk up onto the levee in Helena, Arkansas to watch the Delta Queen and her sister ships dock in the slackwater habor on the Mississippi River. Whenever it launched, as soon as it entered back into the river, the caliope always played Dixie. Would love to see it back on the Mississippi River. The National Trust should launch a fund drive to buy the Delta Queen. I'd donate. What would it take for a non-profit to buy her?

Submitted by Steve at: August 18, 2010
Edmund, so are you admitting that this has nothing to do with safety, and everything to do with embittered politics? I've spoken with members of the crew who served before operation ceased in 2008. These individuals fought tooth and nail to keep the Queen operational. If your statement is true, I don't know that the unions were representing the actual people who worked on board. And it's tragically sad that 80 years of history has to be the casualty of a political organization.

Submitted by Edmund at: August 18, 2010
the blame for Congress not granting an exception is on the owners, who refused to honor Labor Law and respect the employees wishes to remain organized.

Submitted by Anonymous at: August 18, 2010
The boat has a steel hull and has sailed with the "dangerous" wood superstructure for over 80 years. If it's moored somewhere inoperable it will go to hell - marine equipment does that easily. Of all the trillions wasted on war (and even to save battleships and aircraft carriers as museums) a few million on a real steamboat isn't that outrageous.

Submitted by Spade at: August 18, 2010
Lets hope this valuable piece of history finds a new owner. Fewer than 2,500 properties have National Landmark Status.

Submitted by ddbrandywine at: August 18, 2010
I think it would be nice if Harrah's Chester bought it as no other gaming facility in Pennsylvania has a better spot for it. Besides they need the rooms for gaming, even if it is tied to a pier.I can just imagine it sailing down the Delawre River near the new PPL Stadium as well.....dreaming is part of life.

Submitted by betty at: August 18, 2010
My son was married aboard this boat in New Orleans. Why not convert it to all things marital? A wedding chapel, wedding planner, bridal display, flowers, jewelry, catering service, separation attorney, and divorce advice? Just a thought.

Submitted by Pammy5895 at: August 18, 2010
I grew up with this boat docking at Harris Riverfront Park in Huntington, WV. There was nothing more beautiful than hearing the caliope as it churned down the river. All of us kids used to run to the banks so that we could watch it go by. I have pictures of my Grandmother standing along side of it. We took her for a ride on it down the Ohio just before she passed away. Lots of memories. I hope that a good investor purchases the vessel and properly preserves it.

Submitted by Matt in St Louis at: August 18, 2010
If San Francisco doesn't work out, maybe St. Louis might. We are in the midst of a big redesign of our riverfront, and steamboats are in the mix. It could be exciting under the Arch in 5 or 10 years.

Submitted by RiverboatLover at: August 17, 2010
In answer to Bob52's question, the Belle of Louisville is still running lunch and dinner cruises in Louisville. Let's hope that Congress puts aside its' partisanship and allows the exemption once again for the beautiful Delta Queen.

Submitted by frenchjr25 at: August 17, 2010
Contact the Maritime Museum. Let them know about this and encourage them to start a donation drive. This is a great opportunity that should be wasted. Tel: 415-561-6662 And contact the western office of the National Trust. Let them know this needs to be a priority: 5 Third Street, Suite 707 San Francisco, California 94103 Phone: 415-947-0692 Fax: 415-947-0699 Email:

Submitted by Natchezman at: August 17, 2010
The best use for this riverboat would be to return her to the Mississippi River. Natchez would make an ideal mooring site for this grand queen.

Submitted by JANCH at: August 17, 2010
I enjoyed so much being one of the last guests on the Delta Queen up the Mississippi. I would be thrilled if my great grandchildren could tour this boat as a museum. It belongs somewhere between San Francisco and Sacramento.

Submitted by SavetheQueen at: August 17, 2010
The obvious happy ending would be for the Delta Queen to return to its birthplace and join the inventory at San Francisco's Maritime Museum to join the other historic ships of the area.

Submitted by BobB at: August 17, 2010
If a new owner is in the wings, why not suggest that they look into converting this landmark to using green energy sources such as practical solar panels on the overhead (roof), vertical axis wind mills, &/or self generating tidal & current worm vanes on its hull. Any combination of these sources could probably generate enough power needed to turn the historic wheel & lighting needs. this would demonstrate our ability to preserve this old landmark as well as bringing it into practical use using modern incorporated technology. Anyway, just an idea or two.

Submitted by Jacknasty at: August 17, 2010
The real problem is that it is made of wood--perhaps the biggest wooden boat in the world. It could be a good project for the unemployed.

Submitted by Bob52 at: August 17, 2010
I wonder what ever happened to The Belle of Louisville?

Submitted by TravelBug at: August 17, 2010
Participated in a blues music cruise on a paddlewheeler with Delta Music Experience a few years back. Would love to have that chance again. Get it runnin'.

Submitted by Jon at: August 17, 2010
The article should have mentioned that the Delta Queen is the sister ship of the Delta King, both originally used to move passengers between San Francisco and Sacramento. The Delta King is currently moored in Sacramento as a floating hotel and restaurant.

Submitted by Naturalbill at: August 17, 2010
Surely this will not be still another casualty of the times where even icons are at risk. Listen up San Francisco Maritime Museum! This would be a great addition to the fleet and end up where it all began. Heres hoping the Delta Queen once again survives and thrives or future generations. I had the good fortune to go from Memphis to New Orleans and will always treasure the memories.

Submitted by JoeJames at: August 17, 2010
With a maximum of 50 overnight guests, they've about killed it anyway. There's virtually no way with that small of an occupancy that an owner could pay off 4.75 million in debt plus pay operational expenses. Congress (who last denied the exemption certificate) needs to get a clue as to how they're responsible for killing small business and historic preservation!

Submitted by turtle60024 at: August 17, 2010
I love the Delta Queen, the American Queen, and the Mississippi Queen. Have taken trips on them all. Dorian bennett

Submitted by TaxiManSteve at: August 16, 2010
Developments to watch closely. The Delta Queen's newer sister, the Mississippi Queen, is being scrapped, while the American Queen's fate remains in doubt.

Submitted by frenchjr25 at: August 15, 2010
Please don't forget that it was built for San Francisco and is not native to the Mississippi Delta. It is one of two river boats built to travel between San Francisco and Sacramento. It's sister ship, the Delta King, is in Sacramento and is a floating hotel. It's time to bring the Delta Queen home where it belongs.

Submitted by Brian at: August 13, 2010
Looks like fun!