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American Queen to Begin
Service in Pacific Northwest

by Larry Bleiberg
USA Today, May 21, 2013

(photo Linda Garrison) Guests really feel like they have stepped back in time to the 19th century when sailing on this paddle wheel steamboat. The American Queen Steamboat Co., which revived riverboat cruising on the Mississippi last year, is moving west, announcing today a deal to purchase an Oregon-based riverboat.

The former Empress of the North will become the American Empress, to be based in Portland. Beginning next April, the U.S.-flagged riverboat will sail the Columbia and Snake rivers, offering seven-day trips between Portland and Clarkston, Wash. Ports of call include Astoria, Wash.; Stevenson, Wash.; The Dalles, Ore.; Umatilla, Ore.; and Richland, Wash.

The five-deck ship measures 360 feet, and accommodates 223 passengers in seven stateroom categories. Built in 2002, the ship ceased service in 2008 following the collapse of its owners, Majestic America Line. It has been in possession of the U.S. Maritime Administration.

"The American Queen has ushered in a rebirth of U.S. river cruising, welcoming thousands to discover the heartland of the United States and its iconic port cities," Ted Sykes, president and COO of the American Queen Steamboat Company said in a statement. "Now the American Empress will continue that tradition as an ambassador to the Pacific Northwest."

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Excerpt from The days of steamboats cruising up and down the Mississippi and other great rivers of the heartland of America are back! The American Queen, owned by American Queen Steamboat Company (formerly Great American Steamboat Company), has been refurbished and began sailing again in April 2012. I was on the riverboat for four days and loved the relaxed ambiance and the pace of the river. Carrying 436 passengers and 160 crew, the American Queen is the largest steamboat ever built, having been constructed in the mid-1990's. The American Queen's original owner ceased operations in 2008, and the lovely boat sat idle until a group of river cruise enthusiasts found the financing to renovate it.

Fresh from her makeover, she looks terrific inside and out. Don't let her relatively young age fool you. The steamboat looks like she has been transported from about 150-200 years ago when riverboats were the preferred means of travel in middle America. The brilliant white exterior, with its ornate filigree and wrap-around decks is set off by the bright red paddle wheel and green decks. The interiors are definitely Victorian and look much more like an elegant hotel than the low slung riverboats I've sailed on in Europe.

Although this steamboat may appear to belong in a different era, she has all the modern amenities today's travelers expect. Guests can feel like they are in the 1800's, but will certainly appreciate the air conditioning, comfortable cabins, flat screen satellite televisions, WiFi, and elevators connecting all six decks.

Larry Bleiberg, former Travel Editor of The Dallas Morning News and Coastal Living magazine.
American Queen to Begin Service in Pacific Northwest
USA Today, May 21, 2013

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