Shortly after 3pm on June 5, 2009, Jill and Eddie Wade became the first guests to check in to the Delta Queen Hotel.

Shortly after 3pm on June 5, 2009, Jill and Eddie Wade became the first guests to check in to the Delta Queen Hotel.

Well, it’s official. The Delta Queen Hotel is open! Laura and I are so excited that this day is finally here. After the April 1 opening was delayed, we arrived in Chattanooga on Apirl 8 to prepare for the planned April 15 opening. We’ve worked hard with the dedicated staff to prepare the vessel and our entertainment programming as the ownership waded through the beurocratic hassels to obtain all the necessary permits.

But now…(trumpets sound) with a certificate of occupancy from the city and liquor and beer permits, they are raring to go.

They will open the hotel in phases. So far, just the rooms in the Aft Cabin deck are available as they are still waiting on more power from the city. Other cabins and the dining room will be operational soon. The staff are so excited to be open!

More power is forthcoming to expand needed services, more guests are booked, the restaurant and mainstage shows open on June 19. Things are moving!

Laura and I did our first evening of programming including a guided vessel tour, my riverboat gambler card magic act, and then four sets in the Texas Lounge. Despite very little publicity during the soft opening, we had a nice crowd and everyone seemed to be very happy and really enjoying themselves. We are so glad to be here and to have things up and running!!!!!!!

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A birthday party for a queen.

A birthday party for a queen.

What a day! The birthday party celebration was a massive, crazy success. We had thought if we got 70 or 80 that would be amazing. Instead, we had a swarm. I haven’t heard the final count yet, but it had to be around 300 people. 

The cake was beautiful and featured the Delta Queen logo. Harry Phillips took a picture and I will post it as soon as he emails it to me. Jennifer Lemmon was cutting and serving the cake and she later laughed that as the crowd grew larger and larger, she cut the cake into tinier and tinier pieces until some visitors were only receiving a sliver of cake! Everyone was in good spirits though and a festive mood prevailed.

Laura dressed up as a flapper since the boat was built in the 1920s and I wore a riverboat gambler type outfit for some steamboaty fun. We set up an amplifier and microphone and we shared some history about the boat’s amazing career and performed Delta Queen songs for the crowd. I even gave a short calliope concert and played “Happy Birthday” on the mighty steam organ.

We were packed for the tour of the boat and despite the fact that we still have no air conditioning, they all were delighted as they quickly were dripping in sweat on the very hot and humid day. Despite the discomfort, they were charmed by the history and ambiance of the boat and I know many of  the hundreds of visitors will return for dinner, drinks, or even overnight stays. They will become great word-of-mouth advertisers for the hotel as it opens on Friday!

One goal for the event was to generate publicity. In addition to an advance article in the Times Free Press, today we had two local television stations attend and film, a reporter from the Times Free Press, and I did a call in interview to a talk radio station. This was a very successful day generating media coverage worth thousands of dollars.

It was a fun and exhausting day, especially in the heat. But we all joined together to wish this wonderful boat a very happy 82nd birthday.

Following is a gallery of photos from the event. Click on any picture to enlarge it.

The Delta Queen in Sacramento.

The Delta Queen in Sacramento.

Isn’t it incredible that the Delta Queen turns 82 today?! Wow! She made her first cruise from San Francisco to Sacramento on June 2, 1927 and continued in operation for more than 81 years until October 31, 2008.

Her keel was laid on May 18, 1925  and she remained on the ways ways for 7 months as her hull and superstructure were completed. She was launched at 3:40 p.m. Saturday, December 12, 1925. Her interior was finished out over the next year and a half until her debut cruise on June 2, 1927. Her final costs neared $1 million – an incredible expense in the 1920s. She is truly one of the great floating palaces.

The boat was designed as a packet boat, meaning it carried cargo on the main deck and passengers in the cabins on the upper decks. Fare and accommodation were sold separately. The fare was $1.80 one-way or $3 roundtrip. Accommodations ranged from $1 to $5. A five-course dinner was available for 75 cents.

Things were different in 1927…

• In May 1927, Charles Lindbergh made his historic first non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. He flew from New York to Paris.

• Walt Disney had not yet released the first Mickey Mouse film.

• Milk cost $.58/gallon  

• In 1927, “The Jazz Singer” became the first talking movie.

• Edwin E. Perkins of Hastings invented the powdered soft drink Kool-Aid in 1927.

• The 1st Academy Awards were presented in 1927.

• The first transatlantic telephone call was made from New York City to London.

• The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 affected 700,000 people in the greatest national disaster in U.S. history at that time. 

• Kern and Hammerstein’s musical play Show Boat, based on Edna Ferber’s novel, opened on Broadway.

Things are certainly different here in 2009, except that the Delta Queen is still cherished. We have planned a birthday party for her and invited the community to enjoy cake, punch, calliope concert, music samples from our mainstage shows, historical information, and a guided tour of the boat. I’ll take some pictures and post soon.

The Delta Queen Hotel today received its Certificate of Occupancy from the city of Chattanooga. They also received their liquor license. These are two huge steps forward toward clearing the way for opening the hotel. Stay tuned! We’re getting close to the big day!

Us performing at the StoneFort Inn.

Us performing at the StoneFort Inn.

While we wait for the Delta Queen Hotel to open, Laura and I regularly perform at the weekend receptions at the historic StoneFort Inn. This beautiful hotel is owned by Delta Queen Hotel partner Sydney Slome. He and his lovely staff hosted us for quite a while before we moved aboard the boat. It’s been great practice for us in preparing for our lounge performances in the Delta Queen’s Texas Lounge soon.

If you’re ever in town and the Delta Queen is full, I highly recommend this gorgeous property. www.stonefortinn.com

Jennifer Lemmon working her tour guide magic.

Jennifer Lemmon working her tour guide magic.

Wow, what a weekend! We opened for public tours on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Laura and I were on a local TV show earlier this week, did an interview on a popular radio talk show, and the paper featured the tours on the cover of their Memorial Day Weekend edition! Needless to say, we were packed. It was crazy. But it was a great opportunity to introduce almost 1,000 people to the lovely Delta Queen. Unfortunately, the boat’s air conditioning is not running yet and it was really hot and stuffy onboard, but Laura, Jennifer Lemmon, and several volunteers helped out in managing the crowds and making sure they all had a great time.

That is one terrific positive in the sad situation of the Delta Queen being forced into retirement. Now, thousands of folks who could never have afforded a cruise will at least be able to come aboard, stay overnight, or enjoy dinner or a drink, and take a tour of the boat, learn about her history and keep this legacy alive.

It wasIMG_0607 a remarkable weekend and everyone seemed very excited about the boat opening on June 5. I know we are!

The Chattanooga Times Free Press has been such a terrific supporter of the Delta Queen here in Chattanooga. We are going to open up for public tours for the Memorial Day Weekend and I sent out a press release and sent over a few photos from our recent photo shoot. They used us for the cover of the weekend section!

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Yep, that’s Laura and I in the beautiful costumes from our “Showboat Serenade” show. Much thanks to Jennifer Lemmon who helped in taking this photo.

The center spread of the paper had additional photos and focused on the boat’s history and promotion of the tours. We also plan to reawaken the calliope again on Saturday!