The Rebirth of the American Queen

While Europe may be the de-facto destination for the majority of river cruisers, the United States recently played host to the christening of a river cruise ship whose history is as exciting as her return to service.

The American Queen, docked in Memphis. Photo courtesy of the Great American Steamboat Company.

The Great American Steamboat Company proudly christened their pride and joy yesterday in Memphis, TN – the 3,707-ton American Queen sternwheeler riverboat. She’s also unique in that she features both traditional paddle propulsion, as well as a propeller-drive system similar to that found on many European river cruise ships for extra maneuverability.

The Grand Staircase aboard the American Queen, plying the Mississippi River. Photo courtesy of the Great American Steamboat Company.

Originally constructed in 1995, the American Queen was the largest steamboat ever built. Capable of carrying 436 guests as originally constructed, she plied the waters of America’s Mississippi river until the bankruptcy of parent company, Majestic America Line.  She has been laid up since 2008, her fate largely hanging in the balance.

But plans were afoot to return this grand ship to cruise service once again, this time by new owners, the Great American Steamboat Company (GASC).

The rebirth of the American Queen becomes official yesterday. Photo courtesy of the Great American Steamboat Company.

Yesterday those plans were realized when Godmother Priscilla Presley, wife of late singer Elvis Presley, officially christened the American Queen back into service. The ship departed later that afternoon on her maiden voyage to Cincinatti, and on May 2nd, she will compete in The Great Steamboat Race for the first time as part of the Kentucky Derby.

American Queen's Grand Saloon recalls the days of riverboats past. Photo courtesy of the Great American Steamboat Company.

The American Queen will offer both 3 and 10-day trips along the Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee rivers, with stops at New Orleans, St. Louis, Louisville, St. Paul, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. If you’re looking to take a river cruise but are put off by the expense and length of flights to Europe, a journey down the Mississippi might just be in order.

We’ll have more detailed information coming soon on this exciting new ship and line, right here on River Cruise Advisor.