April 2009

Interesting article comparing the Delta Queen’s new career to California’s Delta King. CLICK HERE.


Happy Easter!

We have been happily staying in Chattanooga’s StoneFort Inn. This lovely, elegant hotel is also a property of Delta Queen Hotel partner Sydney Slome. He and his gracious staff at the hotel have made us feel so welcome in Chattanooga. The hotel is truly spectacular. Large, wonderful rooms and blessedly healing large jucuzzi tubs. If you’re planning a trip to visit and stay aboard the DQ then I recommend you extend your trip and include a stay and the StoneFort Inn.

Almost all the staff is off today. No tours. We went over to the boat for a while and walking through was very eerie. It’s way too quiet. I miss all the passengers drifting around and stopping to visit. I really miss the crew. The energy, vitality and shared experience of a group who loved the boat, the river and took pride in tending the flame of a flickering piece of American history. I miss Lloyd’s positive energy. I miss Jonena’s lovely smile. I miss Anne-Marie’s joviality. I miss Maurice, who to me was always the epitomy or the Delta Queen experience. To all the crew scattered around the nation – We Miss You so very much!

I’m so tired I can barely see straight. The boat was open for tours today and in six hours we had around 250 visitors. Thankfully there’s now several of us to divide these up, so that helped, but my throat is tired, my feet are throbbing, and my back aches. But it is so exciting to see so many people so fascinated with the old Delta Queen. It was fun giving the tours and watching new people discover how beautiful she is and what a fascinating story she has to tell.

If these tours are any indication, I think the hotel and restaurant have a great future ahead.

Laura, me, Nicole, and Hunter

Laura, me, Nicole, and Hunter in the DQ's Forward Cabin Lounge.

Yesterday, Laura and I were walking along the DQ’s outer deck and we heard our names being shouted from shore. Now, of course, this is an almost daily occurance from our fans, (HA!) but this voice sounded familiar. We looked out onto the Coolidge Park bank and saw an old river friend, Hunter Smith. Hunter was a deckhand and mate aboard the boats for years. We were on the Mississippi Queen with him for several.

Hunter and his girlfriend, Nicole, just happened to be passing through Chattanooga and stopped by to take a look at the boat. We brought them aboard to show Nicole around and then arranged to meet later for dinner. Sweet Nicole kindly sat through many a steamboat story. It was great to see Hunter again and reminisce about the old days. Hunter is now working aboard the casino boat at Rising Sun, Indiana and we wish him all the best.

My favorite Hunter story is the time the Mississippi Queen was docked at Paducah, KY and the river had a huge, quick rise that day – about 9 feet! Quickly, our lines were submerged under water. Captain Ciaramitaro said to just cut the lines, but realizing that we did not have any spare shackles (the metal fastener used to secure the line [rope] from the boat to the tie-off on shore), Hunter valiantly went in after them. The water had become so deep and the current so swift, the deck crew tied a rope around Hunter’s waist to make sure we didn’t lose him. They lined up on that rope like they were getting ready for a tug of war. And in a way, they were! Struggling against the current, Hunter dove several times into that murky brown goo where the Tennessee River dumps into the Ohio River. But after exhausting effort, he had the shackles in hand and the boat was free. A crowd of curious passengers along the rail let up a cheer, and I shouted right along with them.

That was one of those days I wished I had my video camera! But I can still close my eyes and see it like it was just happening. My mind is filled with so many moments like that. And as I walk the empty passageways of the Delta Queen, they are flooding back in rapid succession.

Take care Hunter. And all the best to all the Steamboaters out there!

Yesterday was a day of backbreaking labor. But certainly a labor of love.

At the end of last season as I rode with the Delta Queen down to New Orleans to prepare her for being laid up down there. Not knowing what would become of the boat, I feared for so many things aboard. As a river historian, one that really tore at my heart was the unknown fate of the wonderful collection of books that had been amassed over the years by guests and staff Riverlorians into the Delta Queen library. Fearing they might end up tossed into a dumpster, I approached Majestic America Line executives and negotiated the purchase of the collection which I boxed up and moved off the boat to safe storage.

The Delta Queen Hotel folks kindly agreed to a loan arrangement of the collection and I certainly want the books to be available for guests to enjoy. This array of books has fueled my passion for the river’s history, culture and nature. So, we brought them back and loaded them back aboard and back into their longingly empty cases. I was glad to return them home again.

Interesting summary of challenges involved in converting the DQ to a hotel. Click here.

We arrived here into Chattanooga last night. The city is beautiful with the redbuds, dogwoods, and cherry trees all in bloom. What a gorgeous city!

We arrived to the boat and she looks terrific. I’ll get some pictures taken and posted soon.

Unfortunately, we were hoping to open the restuarant and entertainment ahead of the hotel on April 15, but there have been some delays. Now we’re looking at starting the first week of May with the hotel opening the next weekend on the 15th.

I can’t imagine all the paperwork, plans, burocracy, etc. they are dealing with. Between Coast Guard and the TVA, plus working towards the transfer of regulation to the Chattanooga Health Department, Fire Marshal, etc. it is amazing all that is going on. The boat next week will be adjusted slightly in order to hook it up to a more permanent connection to the city water services and add connections to the city wastewater services. Add to that the electrical, cable, internet, setting up the restuarant, new menus, entertainment programming, hotel pricing, renovations, on and on and on. There’s plenty to do between now and May.

Laura and I will be working on setting up the audio, lighting, etc. in the Texas Lounge and the Orleans Room so we’re ready to go. We also are going to assist in scheduling to merge together our programming, plus the local theatre group that will perform, other guest artists and lounge entertainers. etc. I am also helping prepare press releases and serving as the spokesman. Lots happening.

Busy, busy. We’ll keep you posted. Stay tuned!

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