By Theodore W. Scull.
With a delay completing the vessel’s retrofit, the Mississippi River Valley will now welcome another sternwheeler on August 13, 2017 when the 166-passenger American Duchess begins paddling from New Orleans north to Memphis and beyond. In addition, because of lock restrictions, the vessel will not be able to cruise the Illinois River from the Mississippi to east Ottawa, IL.
The firm’s President and COO Ted Sykes, operating the American Queen, and in the Pacific Northwest, the American Empress, says that with the firm’s present sailings running virtually full there is a need to expand.
The new vessel, a former casino boat built in 1995, is being rebuilt into a cabin-spacious design that will feature 550 square-foot Owners and Loft Suites, 480 sq. ft. Deluxe Suites, 240-330 sq. ft. Veranda Suites on down to still roomy Interior Staterooms measuring 180-200 sq. ft. The work done at Bollinger Shipyard, Amelia, Louisiana includes adding a third deck to provide more overnight accommodations.
Because of the generous overhead heights, the Loft Suites will have a lounge, convertible to sleeping two, on the lower level, and a bedroom above with both levels having bathroom facilities.
The Grand Dining will offer one sitting and The Grill Room an alternate facility at dinner time and informal breakfasts and lunches. A lobby bar will service those wanting a drink before dinner or attending shows in The Auditorium.
Following the inaugural program of cruises from New Orleans, the American Duchess will undertake a 23-day length-of-the-navigable Mississippi cruise from New Orleans to St. Paul. Service will operate year-round with all cruises introduced by an overnight hotel stay prior to embarkation, and additionally sailing from St. Louis, Nashville and from near Chicago.
Rates will include shore excursions, complimentary wine and beer with dinner, coffees, bottled water and soft drinks at all times, and entertainment described as “Worthy of Broadway.”
As an American-flag ship, crew will be all-American.