The historic Delta Queen steamboat could be back on the Mississippi River next year cruising through the Quad-Cities.
The Delta Queen Steamboat Co., has completed the purchase of the Delta Queen from TAC Cruise, according to The Chattanoogan.com, which reported the sale took place last week.
“My partners and I are thrilled to be taking this critical first step toward the preservation and restoration of this important piece of American and river history,” said Cornel Martin, president and CEO of Delta Queen Steamboat Co. “We look forward to the day when the Delta Queen will once again be able to ply America’s waterways and allow passengers to relive the experiences of Mark Twain and his unique cast of river characters from the decks of a true 1927 steamboat.”
The Delta Queen began service as an overnight passenger vessel in 1927, carrying passengers, cargo and automobiles between Sacramento and San Francisco.
From 1946 to 2008, it operated as an overnight cruise vessel along many of the prominent river and waterways running through America’s heartland, including the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland and Arkansas rivers.
That included multiple trips to and through the Quad-Cities.
Majestic America bought the Delta Queen in 2006. A year later, its exemption to the Safety of the Sea Law was not renewed. In 2008, Delta Queen completed its last voyage, and docked in Chattanooga for use as a hotel and bar
“Our goal is to have the Delta Queen return to cruising America’s waterways in 2016 following extensive mechanical and hotel renovations,” Martin said.
The National Trust has sought to ensure the preservation of the boat, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is classified as a National Historic Landmark.
That meant the owners had to work with Congress to renew the statutory exemption from a law that prohibits overnight passenger travel on vessels with significant wood construction. Although the Delta Queen's hull is made of steel, the superstructure is constructed of wood. That means it requires a statutory exemption from the Coast Guard's fire retardant materials regulations for its continued operations on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.
Joe Taylor, president and CEO of the Quad-Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau, said he hopes it can return to cruising soon.
"But there still has to be a congressional effort for granting exemptions on the maritime law," he said Thursday.
He said if the exemption is not granted, it means the Delta Queen would have to be docked each night while on rivers.
He said the American Queen and Queen of the Mississippi steamboats both operate on the Mississippi River and make several stops in the Quad-Cities each year.
"I would say half a dozen times a year, generally late summer into October," Taylor said. "They are doing land-based tours in the Quad-Cities. I am not sure they are taking on passengers here. But whenever you have hundreds of people getting off a boat, those people shop, eat, visit, and it has a very positive impact."