River Cruise Extended drydock costs American Queen two sailings By Michelle Baran / January 11, 2013 Share 1 -- The American Queen's Feb. 7 and Feb. 15 sailings have been canceled to give the shipyard additional time to build a new, more durable paddlewheel drive shaft, American Queen Steamboat Co. said Friday. Additional time also is needed to rebuild and reinforce the paddlewheel itself, according to the company. “This additional time in lay-up is needed to custom-build a much stronger drive shaft with a 40- to 50-year lifespan, as well as re-install the iconic paddlewheel,” Ted Sykes, American Queen Steamboat Co. president and COO, said in a statement. Repairs are taking place in addition to refurbishments such as painting and fresh wallpaper in the public spaces and staterooms, the addition of a new Front Porch Café and decor updates to the J.M. White Dining Room and Engine Room Bar. The 436-passenger American Queen is now scheduled to sail her first voyage of the season on Feb. 23, a roundtrip sailing out of New Orleans. Guests booked on canceled departures will be offered the option to rebook on one of the following Lower Mississippi departures in 2013: Feb. 23, March 2, March 9, March 16, March 24, March 31, May 5, May 12, June 9, June 16, June 23, or any July or August voyage on the Upper Mississippi or Ohio River. They will receive a refund of $250 per person to offset change fees related to travel arrangements and upgrades to best available staterooms. Guests who choose to cancel will receive a full refund as well as a reimbursement for any reasonable travel-related expenses, the company stated. Travel agent commissions will be fully protected. Guests and travel agents who want to rebook can call a dedicated hotline at (888) 749-4945. Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.