Delta Queen future

The Rally on the River event yesterday was a big success and lots of fun. It was such an honor to get to be a part of such a special day. Much thanks to hosts Leah Ann and Randy Ingram for such a terrific event and for all their efforts on behalf of the Delta Queen. They work tirelessly to preserve the boat and to make sure she remains in Chattanooga to be cared for, cherished, and open to the public. On a crisp and lovely autumn afternoon, dedicated volunteers welcomed visitors aboard and gave tours of this fascinating National Historic Landmark. Steam was brought up enough to rotate the paddlewheel and that beautiful sight filled me with a wave of nostalgia. Travis Vasconcelos played the calliope, the whistle blew and we all felt like a bunch of kids having a play day! It was an absolute blast.

The evening event was fantastic. Guests enjoyed several food stations around the Delta Queen and aboard the visiting Belle of Cincinnati docked alongside. Each station had different delectable treats prepared fresh by a team of talented chefs. Each station had wines paired to complement the culinary treats. Dessert was served in the Orleans Room and Laura and I performed our “Delta Queen: A Musical Journey” show chronicling the Delta Queen’s amazing adventures and many songs we’ve uncovered written about the boat. A silent auction also helped raise additional funds. All these proceeds go toward the establishment of a non-profit organization to raise private funds for the maintenance and preservation of the Delta Queen. There are even grand goals of purchasing the boat from its current owners (former cruise operators Ambassadors International) to make certain the boat stays in Chattanooga and its historical integrity is protected.

We’ll keep you posted as things progress.

Here’s a little video we put together with some highlights from the November 4 afternoon events:

Laura and Bill at the piano in the Delta Queen's Orleans Room.

Well, it’s official. Laura and I will be headed back to the Delta Queen to perform for a limited engagement from November 25 through December 18. So make your plans now to come to Chattanooga to visit us and the Delta Queen. Give yourself a gift this holiday season! Make your reservations soon at

We will be performing in the Texas Lounge and for some holiday parties in the Orleans Room. We’ve taken the Holiday Show we wrote for the Mississippi Queen a few years ago and customized it with a special Delta Queen flair. I’ll keep you posted with more details soon.

We are so excited to be going back to the Delta Queen. Even though in the last year we have toured across the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom, the Delta Queen remains so special in our hearts and we love performing there.

Our love affair with the river, riverboats, and the Delta Queen runs very deep. After working on the riverboats for a decade, we were honored to be asked to appear as special headline entertainers for the Delta Queen’s 2008 farewell cruising season and to write a special musical show about the boat’s fascinating history. That labor of love also yielded an audio CD entitled Delta Queen: A Musical Journey which we are very proud to have recorded. You can hear track samples of that CD by clicking here. Bill also recorded an audio history of the boat entitled The Life and Times of the Steamboat Delta Queen which recounts the fascinating adventures of the boat’s dramatic career. We also coordinated a series of celebration events for every 2008 port of call to join with those cities to celebrate the Delta Queen’s career and her long history docking in those ports. Wonderful crowds gathered along the river to pay their respects. We did dozens and dozens of print, radio, and television interviews. I even shared the boat’s story on National Public Radio, CNN, and ABC television’s “Good Morning, America.” It was an amazing year. After the last cruise ended in Memphis, we rode her down to New Orleans for their tribute event and then helped to prepare her for lay-up and an uncertain future.

Us on the Delta Queen Grand Staircase

It was an incredible experience sharing the magic of river travel with the wonderful Delta Queen passengers, working with the incredible Delta Queen crew and talented entertainers. We all became a special kind of family living aboard together. Despite the heartache and sadness of that last cruising season, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I was thrilled to hear that instead of rotting and being forgotten that the boat had been leased to serve as a hotel in Chattanooga. At least she would be cared for and open to the public. And there are few prettier places than the Tennessee River as it loops through the beautiful bluffs of downtown Chattanooga’s lovely waterfront.

I was honored be invited to accompany the Delta Queen on her final voyage as she was relocated from New Orleans to Chattanooga. It was an incredibly special and emotional experience to realize I was a part of likely the last overnight steamboat trip in American history. Videographer extraordinaire Eric Hadley (a former riverboat entertainer and cruise director turned incredible filmmaker) and I were contracted to produce a documentary film chronicling this historic journey and highlighting the history of this amazing vessel. Fellow Delta Queen historian Karen “Toots” Maloy joined us in recounting the tales of the boat’s history as we shot dozens of hours of incredible footage which Eric and I ultimately edited down into a one-hour film. It’s one of the creative projects in my life of which I am most proud. With an array of more pressing startup expenses to focus on, almost a year and a half later, Delta Queen Hotel (which owns the rights to the finished film) has yet to produce the DVD and make it available to the public. Someday!

Laura and I then were contracted by Delta Queen Hotel’s previous operator Sydney Slome to develop and provide entertainment programming for the boat’s first summer season open as the Delta Queen Hotel docked in Chattanooga. We had a wonderful four months in Chattanooga. Performing on the Delta Queen is a real thrill. Oh, to play and sing up in the Texas Lounge with that history all around you and the beautiful view of the river. Or to do our mainstage shows on that cozy wonderful stage down in that magical Orleans Room, where so much happiness has occurred, it just permeates the room! Or to do my Riverboat Gambler card magic act onboard the last operating overnight steamboat in U.S. history — it just doesn’t get much cooler than that!

And so, as you can see, our relationship with this grand old lady – the Delta Queen – is deep and rich. We love the boat, its history, its alumni crew, and its previous guests. We hope to share a bit of all of that again with you soon on the Delta Queen this holiday season. Please come and join us! We’ll see you in Chattanooga!

The Delta Queen at night

Leah Ann and Randy Ingram have purchased the charter rights of the Historic Delta Queen and full operational control of the Delta Queen Hotel. They will be a positive and dynamic force for the Delta Queen as they are both travel industry experts and also own All Aboard USA, a group tour and motor coach transportation company based in Chattanooga.

Leah Ann worked for years with the Delta Queen coordinating motorcoach transportation for airport transfers and shore tours in many ports of call. She is enthusiastic, delightful, and immensely energetic. She loves the Delta Queen dearly and will be a guiding light, protective guardian, and passionate advocate for the boat. The Ingrams are savvy businesspeople with a clear and detailed understanding of the boat’s potential as a hotel. They have many group contacts and excellent marketing skills. I will keep you posted as some of their exciting new plans develop.

We were contracted to perform onboard for the summer of 2009 with previous operator Sydney Slome as the boat opened as a boutique hotel in Chattanooga. We certainly acknowledge his role in making sure the Delta Queen has been cared for and open to the public for all to enjoy her special history and the unique experience of dining, enjoying entertainment, and staying aboard overnight. Without the commitment of Mr. Slome, and now Leah Ann and Randy Ingram, the Delta Queen could easily have ended up tied off at some remote dock, rotting away lost and forgotten to the American public. Although we wish she could have cruised forever, she at least has a beautiful home in Chattanooga and is loved and open for us all to enjoy. Go visit the Delta Queen soon!

Rep. Baron Hill of Indiana

Rep. Baron Hill of Indiana

This morning, Congressman Baron Hill introduced an amendment to the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010, H.R. 3619, regarding the necessary exemption for the Delta Queen to resume cruising.  In order for the amendment to reach the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives during consideration of the larger bill, H.R. 3619, the House Rules Committee needed to find the amendment germane and in order.  Unfortunately, when the Rules Committee met this afternoon they stated that the amendment was not made in order.  In response, Hill issued the following statement:

“This decision by the Rules Committee is simply one decision.  I am going to pursue other paths for getting the necessary exemption and seeing the Delta Queen back on the Ohio River.  While I’m disappointed with the decision, I’m going to keep fighting.”

To read Congressman Hill’s press release, click here.

Special thanks to Rep. Hill for his efforts. He had stated, “My perspective on the Delta Queen and its safety has evolved significantly. After speaking with various officials and the former captain of the Delta Queen, I am convinced it should cruise again.  To that end, I have introduced this amendment with the full intent of seeing this through until the Delta Queen is back on the Ohio River.  The Delta Queen is not only historically significant, but is a job creator and economic boon to the areas along its route.”

To read his release about his support of the Delta Queen, click here.

A couple of interesting notes about the Rules Committee’s decision not to allow Rep. Hill’s amendment:

The Rules Committee is a group of 13 representatives who wield the incredible power of deciding what amendments will be allowed to be attached to legislations. Those 13 members include:

Rules Committee Members:
Chairwoman Louise M. Slaughter (New York)
James P. McGovern (Massachusetts)
David Dreier (California)
Alcee L. Hastings (Florida) 
Lincoln Diaz-Balart (Florida)
Doris O. Matsui (California)  
Pete Sessions (Texas)
Dennis Cardoza (California)   
Virginia Foxx (North Carolina) 
Michael Arcuri (New York) 
Ed Perlmutter (Colorado)
Chellie Pingree (Maine) 
Jared Polis (Colorado)

Does anyone else notice that there is not one single member of this committee from a state touched by the rivers that the Delta Queen traveled on including the Ohio, Mississippi, Tennessee or Cumberland Rivers? Isn’t that amazing? This incredible power is controlled by representative of only eight states – and no state between the Rockies and the Appalachian Mountains is representated! Interesting. If you are a Delta Queen supporter and any of these are your representatives, please communicate your strong dissappointment in their decision.

An array of other amendments were added to the bill, including a lengthy array submitted by Minnesota Congressman James Oberstar, the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee. Congressman Oberstar has repeatedly stated his opposition to the Delta Queen’s continued operation. He cites safety concerns despite much evidence to the Delta Queen’s safety. To see and learn for yourself about the Delta Queen’s safety, watch the video here. To review the ammendments added to the bill, click here.

We are thankful for Rep. Hill’s efforts on behalf of the Delta Queen. She is a National Historic Landmark and the last operating overnight steamboat in U.S. history. She deserved the opportunity to operate, keep history alive, thrill passengers, provide jobs, and generate revenue for struggling river communities.

Laura and Bill in the Delta Queen's Orleans Room.

Laura and Bill in the Delta Queen's Orleans Room.

Laura Sable and I have been contracted to develop and present a diverse program of entertainment and enrichment onboard the Delta Queen as she begins her new career as a boutique hotel in Chattanooga. We are honored and excited to continue to be a part of preserving and sharing the joy of this treasure with visitors to the Chattanooga area. Once the boat opens, we’ll be performing Tuesday through Saturday and stay through July, so come and visit!

The beauty of the Delta Queen combined with the charming Chattanooga waterfront, plus fine dining and onboard entertainment. It sounds like a winner to me!

Stay tuned to this blog for frequent updates, photos and videos.

Also, visit the new Delta Queen Hotel website at

Stay tuned for the latest news!


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

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

The Times Free Press Folks also caught Delta Queen lead deckhand Ronnie “Soul” Anderson for an audio interview. Enjoy his perspective HERE.

Many of you remember Karen “Toots” Maloy. She was Riverlorian extraordinaire aboar the Delta Queen for many years. She started the Riverlorian program to share history and folklore of the river with the cruise guests. We were honored to have her aboard the voyage to Chattanooga and assist with the documentary film Eric Hadley and I are producing.

The paper did an audio interview with her about her love for the boat. To listen, CLICK HERE.

Here’s an audio interview the Chattanooga Times Free Press did with Harry Phillips, one of the partners who will be the new operator of the Delta Queen Hotel. CLICK HERE.

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