August 2008

Here is some recent information about the potential sale of the Delta Queen:

Business First of Louisville, Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Delta Queen attracting bidders on sale block, by Dan Monk Senior Staff Reporter


When the Delta Queen’s exemption came up for renewal in 1970, Maryland Congressman Ed Garmatz, Chairman of the House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Commission, effectively blocked more than two dozen bills submitted to save the Delta Queen. Company president Bill Muster and Betty Blake conducted Save the Delta Queen rallies at towns along the rivers gathering petition signatures and encouraging letters to representatives. Despite the efforts of the company, previous guests and steamboat fans, Congressional efforts were stymied. The Delta Queen departed St. Paul on October 21 for a “Farewell Forever” cruise down the length of the Mississippi to New Orleans before the mandatory November 1 end date. All along the river, crowds gathered with signs of support for a last chance to see the boat. More than a month later, the exemption extension for the Delta Queen was successfully passed as an amendment to a bill sent not through Congressman Garmatz’s committee, but instead through the judiciary committee. Somehow the Delta Queen had been saved yet again. Multiple exemptions have been granted to the Delta Queen over the last 42 years.

The Marietta (Ohio) Register recently ran a great article comparing the 1970 situation to the current struggle to extend the Delta Queen’s exemption.

The Marietta Register, Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Delta Queen: The Ghosts of Garmatz, by Tom Lotshaw


The New York Times published a great article about the Delta Queen’s situation on October 25, 2007. It provides a great overview:

New York Times
A Riverboat Could Be Cruising to the End of the Line, by Sean D. Hamill


As the struggle for Congressional support to allow the Delta Queen to continue to operate continues, let’s get involved!

Contact your U.S. Congressman and the two Senators that represent your state. Call, write, fax, email, go down during their August break and see them (or their staff) at their office in your district. Congress is up for reelection in November. It’s that time of year when they at least have to act like they care what you think.

Let them know:
• There is a bill to save the Delta Queen in the House (HR3852) and one coming in the Senate.
• Fears that the Delta Queen is unsafe are unfounded. More info HERE.
• Any possibility of Union influence impacting the exemption is unacceptable.
• If they have any questions to contact me at I am glad to find answers to their questions. I will gladly come to Washington and meet or give a presentation.

Thank you for your interest and support in Saving the Delta Queen.


Here’s some recent positive developments on the legislative front.


On August 2, Vicki Webster of the Save The Delta Queen Campaign issued a press release announcing that after Congress reconvenes after Labor Day, Ohio Senator George Voinovich will introduce legislation to continue the Delta Queen’s exemption. That same day, a representative from Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter’s office came to visit the Delta Queen in Pittsburgh. I gave Stan Caldwell a tour of the boat and he had very positive things to say about the future possibilities to Save the Delta Queen.

We all look forward to watching this American drama unfold.

Will Voinovich develop a strategy and garner enough support to push the exemption through?

Will the Delta Queen be purchased by new owners committed to saving her and continuing her cruise operation?

Will individual Americans collectively voice their concern and support to lawmakers and corporate owners in such a chorus that history can be changes?

Stay tuned…


The Delta Queen needs Congressional legislation to be allowed to continue to operate. The historic boat also has been offered for sale. Tough times. But I will continue to look for the more hopeful developments.


The Delta Queen’s struggle has received significant media coverage including The New York Times, USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Louisville Post-Dispatch, The Pittsburgh Review-Tribune, National Public Radio, a recent profile on FOX NEWS with Britt Hume, and much more, including dozens upon dozens of local papers, radio and television.

Of course, we need more. We need to pursue every possible contact and opportunity. We need help delivering an alert to the situation and education about the issue to individuals (voters!), organizations, chambers of commerce, visitors centers, municipalities, and Congressional representatives across America.

We need a big voice. We need a talk-show host like Oprah Winfrey or Ellen Degeneres. Even as polarizing as he can be, Rush Limbaugh right now might get the issue some attention. He’s from river town Cape Girardeau and he might enjoy an opportunity to vilify James Oberstar since he’s a Democrat. In a much more positive tone, I’d love to see Garrison Keillor do a show about (or from) the Delta Queen. What about Hal Holbrook, the quintessential Mark Twain? Jimmy Carter rode the boat back in August 1979 and often is a voice of reason. Volunteer efforts to contact and involve persons like these have as yet been unsuccessful. But somebody out there knows how to make it happen. It’s a great story of the struggle to save an American icon, the last remnant of a remarkable chapter in American history as it fights for survival against corporate indifference, economic challenges, a Congressional struggle that at the least includes a misunderstanding of the boat’s safety, and includes the additional drama of partisan politics, and alleged Union influence.

Check back for frequent additions of links to media coverage about the Delta Queen’s plight. Also check the “Media Coverage” category on the side.


in recent posts, I have been detailing the Delta Queen’s struggle with Congress to be allowed to continue to operate. To make matters worse, current owners have placed the boat up for sale. For many of us Delta Queen fans, these are really tough times. So let’s turn our attention toward the more positive aspects of this hallenging time. And there are many. This much to give us hope.


Absolutely. Following are a few things in which to take solace and a few terrific developments to fan the embers of your passionate hope.

Corporate Events: Majestic America Line committed to host 27 events, one for every port of call during the Delta Queen’s 2008 season. These events provide an opportunity to thank the cities for the years of hospitality they have extended to Delta Queen cruise guests. The events also provide an opportunity to inform citizens about the Delta Queen’s struggle and encourage them to contact their representatives.

Onboard Awareness: Onboard talks and handouts inform cruise guests about the historical significance of the boat, its legislative struggles, and offers guests information about how to get involved.

Grass Roots Support: A volunteer group unified under the name Save the Delta Queen Campaign continues to promote awareness through events, media coverage, and Congressional lobbying. Many organizations and municipalities also have voiced their support:

USA Today, Nov. 1, 2007
“More than 100 cities and towns, mostly in Middle America, already have passed resolutions calling on Congress to extend the boat’s long-standing exemption to a 1966 U.S. Coast Guard fire safety rule.”

As an example, here is the recent proclamation we received from the City of St. Louis:

WHEREAS, the City of St. Louis is proud to join in paying tribute to the Delta Queen; and

WHEREAS, the Delta Queen is an American icon that has traveled the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers since 1927; and

WHEREAS, originally built in 1926, this world-famous riverboat entered service with Delta Queen Steamboat Co. in 1947; and

WHEREAS, without Congressional action, the Delta Queen – the last steam-powered stern-wheel riverboat offering overnight passenger service in the United States – will no longer be able to operate cruise voyages; and

WHEREAS, the City of St. Louis recognizes the storied tradition of the Delta Queen riverboat and extends best wishes for a successful 2008 season.

Now, therefore, I, Francis G. Slay, Mayor of the City of St. Louis, do hereby proclaim August 12, 2008, as:


In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the seal of the City of St. Louis, this 12th day of August, A.D. 2008.


In the previous posts, I’ve written quite a bit about the Delta Queen’s Congressional struggles to be allowed to continue operation. To make matters worse, the Delta Queen also has been put up for sale.


Congressman Steve Chabot’s April 24 defeat [see previous post] was quickly followed on April 29, 2008 by Majestic America Line’s announcement to offer for sale the Delta Queen (and all six other vessels in their fleet) and cease operation of those vessels by 2009.

Majestic America Line Press Release, August 1, 2007
“The company is continuing to evaluate the best way to preserve her legendary spirit and her esteemed place in American history for future generations.”

Joe Ueberroth

Joe Ueberroth

Los Angeles Times, August 9, 2007
“Joe Ueberroth, president and chief executive of Ambassadors International in Newport Beach, which bought the boat last year, said it may see service abroad or become a floating hotel and museum.”

From the May Ambassadors Earnings Conference Call
President and CEO, Joe Ueberroth, said: “There are a lot of interested parties — some who want to operate [the vessels] traditionally like we have, but there are some who look at them for other uses, and foreign buyers could offer them on [other] rivers. … We even see some interest … as floating hotels.”

Travel Weekly, May 12, 2008
Joe Ueberroth: “We have learned the hard way that our product is not about trumpeter swans [the company logo] or high thread counts…But instead it is about a great heritage, small American towns and its people, Mark Twain and that underlying seduction or pull to the river.”

In an interview after the earnings call, Ueberroth reiterated that his advice to future owner(s) would be to “understand the history of this product, listen to your customer and really embrace its tradition.”

Keep visiting back to this blog for updates on the sale of the Delta Queen and the other boats in the fleet.


This post continues from our previous discussion of the Delta Queen’s Congressional struggle to be allowed to continue operation…



Steve Chabot

Steve Chabot

In October 2007, Ohio Congressman Steve Chabot introduced House Resolution 3852 to extend the Delta Queen’s exemption.


James Oberstar

James Oberstar

Congressman Chabot’s bill has been consistently blocked from moving through the House Transportation Committee by Committee Chairman James Oberstar (Democrat-Minnesota) who has complete and sole control of what bills will proceed through his committee to the be voted on by Congress. [Personal opinion warning: Way too much power for any one person!] Congressman Oberstar cites safety concerns despite the fact that he previously has voted for the boat’s exemption.

In April 2008, Congressman Chabot attempted to attach the Delta Queen’s exemption to the Coast Guard appropriation bill in a manner that has been done on previous occasions. The House Rules Committee (which decides what amendments will be added to what bills) voted 9 to 4 against allowing the amendment. All votes against the amendment were cast by Democrats. It is one of the more tragic aspects of this battle that this issue has become partisan as Democrats have lined up behind powerful Congressman James Oberstar.

On April 24, 2008, Congressman Chabot’s Motion to Recommit (which allows the members of Congress to vote on whether an amendment can be added to a bill) failed by only 7 votes. SEVEN VOTES! And 28 members did not even bother to vote. Inexplicably, the representatives of many more river communities – who cherish the historical significance of the boat and the economic tourism boost it brings to their communities – also voted no.

To see how your representative voted, click the following link to view a report in an attached Microsoft Word file.

How Congress Voted

There is so much more to this struggle. Check back for more on the Delta Queen’s struggles in the next post. A comprehensive overview soon will be posted HERE.

Well, some interesting news has come out today that fits perfectly with my recent series of posts about the Congressional struggle to allow the Delta Queen to keep operating. Congressman Steve Chabot from Cincinnati continues to fight for the Delta Queen. He has invited Chairman James Oberstar to visit the Delta Queen and see for himself the array of safety systems in place. Here is Chabot’s press release:

Chabot Invites Chairman Oberstar to Personally View Safety Features of the Delta Queen

For Immediate Release

Date: August 22, 2008  
Contact: Todd Lindgren – (513) 684-2723

Chabot Invites Chairman Oberstar to Personally View Safety Features of the Delta Queen

CINCINNATI — Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH) has formally invited House Transportation Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) to view the safety features onboard the historic Delta Queen steamboat.  In a letter sent last week, Chabot invited Chairman Oberstar to tour the boat on August 26, or any other date the boat is scheduled to be in Cincinnati this year.  Chabot also offered to arrange a tour for Chairman Oberstar when the Delta Queen is closer to his Minnesota home.

        “I am hopeful that Chairman Oberstar will take the time to personally view the tremendous safety enhancements that have been made over the years to ensure that every cruise aboard the Delta Queen is safe,” Chabot stated.

Last year, Chabot introduced bipartisan legislation (H.R. 3852) to allow the Delta Queen to continue to operate as an overnight passenger vessel.  The legislation has been referred to the House Transportation Committee, which Chairman Oberstar leads.  The Delta Queen is currently operating under a congressional exemption that is set to expire on November 1, 2008.

The Delta Queen began operating as a sternwheel river steamboat in 1926 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989.  For the last 40 years, the Delta Queen has safely operated on the rivers of the U.S. under a congressional exemption due to the paddle wheeler’s wooden superstructure not meeting certain regulations specified under the 1966 Safety at Sea Act.  While Congress originally intended this law to apply to ocean-going vessels, the Delta Queen, which is never far from shore, was unexpectedly caught-up in these regulations. Recognizing the difference between boats operating on inland waterways and those operating at sea, Congress established the exemption in 1968 and has renewed it on nine separate occasions to allow the Delta Queen to continue overnight passenger cruises.


Read Congressman Chabots remarks about the Delta Queen HERE.


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