Delta Queen makes final stop in Demopolis

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 16, 2007

DEMOPOLIS &8212; The Delta Queen will dock for the last time in the Demopolis Yacht Basin and will be honored with a farewell celebration today.

The Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce will be hosting the Delta Queen Steamboat for one last &8216;farewell tour.&8217; The Delta Queen, which has been touring the Tombigbee River for many years, is in its final sailing season due to Congress not granting the historic ship a statutory exemption from the Safety of Life at Sea law set for renewal in November. Built in 1926, the Delta Queen features a steel hull and a superstructure constructed of wood &8212; a direct reflection of the designs of her time. Subsequent Coast Guard regulations prohibited wooden superstructures, but Congress decided more than 40 years ago to provide a special exemption from these rules for the historic Delta Queen.

This exemption, which Congress had extended on no fewer than six occasions, was set to expire in Nov. 2008. Majestic America Line, the cruise line company which owns the Delta Queen, recently joined forces with those who know and love the fabled ship to extend this exemption. A comprehensive campaign was launched to raise awareness for the Delta Queen&8217;s excellent safety record, its impeccable training program and the quality and experience of the crew. However, Congress recently chose not to include this extension on legislation. Without the extension from Congress, the Delta Queen will not be able to continue cruise voyages on the river.

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The ship will continue sailing through the end of November.

The passengers are typically offered a tour of Demopolis including Gaineswood, Bluff Hall, Trinity Episcopal and a driving tour. They also have access to a shuttle bus that runs to various shopping spots around town. In addition to these services, passengers will be treated to entertainment and refreshments on the riverbank. The boat will be met that morning and bid farewell that afternoon by the Gaineswood Belles.

Smith said the farewell tribute to the Delta Queen is a way for the city to say thank you to the boat for its historic past with Demopolis.

Smith said the Delta Queen&8217;s stops were always a good promotion for the city, including the economic impact of the boat&8217;s occupants shopping in the area as well as the boat itself making purchases and doing business with merchants in the city while it was docked.

Smith said in years past the boat has purchased appliances, fuel and had repairs made while docked in Demopolis.

The Chamber is also planning a number of activities during the boat&8217;s stay to give locals a chance to let the Delta Queen know how much it has meant to this community. There is a chamber breakfast for Chamber of Commerce members, planned from 7 until 8 a.m. this morning.

The Chamber also plans to invite the public down to watch the boat depart at 1 p.m.

The Chamber has also requested that the City of Demopolis declare today &8216;Delta Queen Day&8217; and they hope to present a proclamation to the captain before departure.

The Delta Queen will dock near Front Porch by the River RV Park and can also be viewed from the Demopolis City Landing area. For more information, please contact the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce at 334-289-0270.

The Delta Queen&8217;s history

For years, the Delta Queen has been a beloved fixture on the heartland rivers of the United States and provided guests with a view of America from the waters that shaped the country&8217;s expansion. The Delta Queen provides a wholly unique way to experience the great American communities, cultures and experiences along the Upper and Lower Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Arkansas, Black Warrior and Cumberland rivers, as well as the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.

In 1970, recognized as the last operational steam paddlewheeler with overnight accommodations plying the rivers, the Delta Queen was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 1989, she was designated as a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior. She was inducted into the National Maritime Hall of Fame in 2004.

A veteran of World War II and the only steamboat to transit the Panama Canal, the 80 year-old Delta Queen was host to three U.S. presidents and a princess. Stars of stage, screen and the entertainment world have also graced her decks, as well as some of the most prominent business leaders and statesmen of our time.

The ship itself is rich with art and antiquities such as original Tiffany-style stained glass windows, rich hardwood paneling, gleaming brass fittings, the only Siamese ironwood floor aboard a steamboat, the dramatic and often-photographed Grand Staircase, an 1897 steam calliope, and the very same ship&8217;s bell that sounded out landings for the steamboat that Mark Twain rode downriver in 1883.