American Queen Steamboat Company’s American Empress was christened in downtown Portland, Ore. The 223-guest riverboat, the largest west of the Mississippi River, officially joins the company’s fleet with the Memphis-based American Queen. Claudette Waggoner, wife of chairman and CEO John Waggoner, is the godmother of the American Empress and broke a bottle of local sparkling wine on the boat’s hull culminating the ceremonial festivities. Former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, longtime leader for the U.S. maritime industry and champion of U.S. river cruising expansion, served as the ceremony’s keynote speaker.
“This is a celebration of public-private partnership and the American dream being lived today right here in Portland.” shared former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.
During the ceremony 13th Coast Guard District Commander Rear Admiral Richard T. Gromlich presented the official certificate of inspection and remarks were made by Ted Sykes, American Queen Steamboat Company president and COO; Terry MacRae, Hornblower Cruises and Events chairman and CEO; and Acting Maritime Administrator Paul “Chip” Jaenichen. Sam Robinson of the Chinook Nation blessed the 223-guest American Empress and the ceremony concluded with a wine presentation by Willamette Valley Vineyards to celebrate the line’s partnership with over 40 local wineries.
“The overnight cruise business has been a dream of John’s and he is the most passionate man I know,” shared American Empress Godmother Claudette Waggoner. “It is an honor to serve as the American Empress godmother and share his dream of this majestic vessel with all of you as she sails the Pacfic Northwest.”
The U.S.-flagged American Empress was built in 2003 and operated by Majestic America Line from 2003 to 2008, sailing Alaska’s Inside Passage and the Pacific Northwest. The American Queen Steamboat Company purchased the riverboat from the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) and has had a team onboard preparing for her launch on the Columbia and Snake Rivers since May 2013. Formerly the Empress of the North, the American Empress delivers opulence on a grand scale, following in the pedigree of the line’s namesake riverboat American Queen.
Her maiden voyage will be a nine-day journey immersing guests in the splendor of the Columbia and Snake Rivers, departing from Vancouver U.S.A. Featured stops include some of the region’s most celebrated ports including Astoria, Ore.; Stevenson, Wash.; The Dalles, Ore.; Sacajawea State Park, Wash. and finally Clarkston, Wash. Complimentary shore excursions will be available in every port and include the cultural and historical landmarks that signify the living legacy of the region’s first settlers. Travelers with specific interests are encouraged to enjoy the variety of Premium Experience Excursions such as the Walla Walla Wine Trail or a journey to the volcanic crater of Mount St. Helens. Daily lectures will also be provided by the Riverlorian, an onboard history and culture expert.