Monday, February 02, 2009

Delta Queen will become a Chattanooga hotel as owners try to revive overnight-cruise exemption

Back in July, we reported the fight over the Delta Queen, the last remaining steam-powered sternwheeler providing overnight service in the U.S. Last week, it was announced that the floating landmark will find a new home and purpose as a Chattanooga hotel.

Service was discontinued on the Delta Queen after Congress declined to extend its U.S. Coast Guard exemption, which allowed overnight passengers despite the boat's wooden framework (mitigated by advanced safety features and a great safety record). "Ambassadors International Inc., its California-based owner, and a group of enthusiasts organized as Save the Delta Queen are continuing to pursue the exemption so that it can return to cruising the Mississippi and Ohio rivers," where it had several rural ports of call, writes Bartholomew Sullivan in The Commercial Appeal of Memphis.

The boat is being rented to Chattanooga Water Taxi and Fat Cat Ferry and will be moved from New Orleans to its new home early this month. The company's owner, Harry Phillips, has pledged his commitment to carefully preserving the boat, in hopes that the exemption will be eventually granted, saying "We're going to take good care of her." (Read more; for previous coverage of the Delta Queen, click here.)

UPDATE, Feb. 5: Sullivan reports that the Delta Queen "will take the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway through Mississippi until it reaches the Tennessee River. ... Mid-Southerners desiring a glimpse ... could see it Sunday at approximately 8:40 p.m. passing under the U.S. 72 bridge near Iuka in Tishomingo County[, Mississippi]. ... The time is a best estimate."

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