President Donald Trump is renewing the Delta Queen's exemption from the 1966 Safety at Sea Act. His signature Tuesday clears the way for the famous paddle-wheeler to return to service following approval by the U.S. House of Representatives Nov. 27.
"Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in American steamboat history," says Leah Ann Ingram, vice president and chief operating officer of the Delta Queen Steamboat Company.
Renovations and repairs will begin soon and are expected to be finished in 2020. The cost is estimated at between $10 and $12 million.
"Most of the upgrades will be internal, including the boat's mechanical systems, but the look and feel will always be that of an authentic 1927 steamboat," says Cornel Martin, president and chief executive officer of the Delta Queen Steamboat Company. "Preserving the historical integrity of our beloved Queen is very important to us. Well-appointed furnishings and décor will offer a more comfortable experience while preserving the nostalgic touches her passengers expect."
- The original 1919 boilers will be replaced
- The generators, steam line, heating and air, plumbing and galley will be replaced
- Common areas and staterooms will see various cosmetic updates
The company says it will offer three-night, five-night and seven-night cruises along the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland, Kanawha, Arkansas and Illinois rivers.
The Delta Queen's exemption from the 1966 Safety at Sea act expired in 2008. Efforts to renew it repeatedly stalled, despite nine previous exemptions being approved over the course of four decades.
The Delta Queen was built in 1926 and made her inaugural voyage the following year. She is the "oldest overnight passenger steamboat still fully intact and capable of traveling the inland waterways of America," the company states.
The boat, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989, was operated by the Greene Line of Cincinnati, where it called Cincinnati its home port from 1948-1985.