Former DOT secretary to speak at American Empress naming

By Michelle Baran
Former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will serve as the keynote speaker for the April 5 christening of the Pacific Northwest paddlewheeler American Empress, being relaunched by the American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC).

Claudette Waggoner, wife of AQSC Chairman and CEO John Waggoner, will serve as godmother of the vessel and will officially name the 223-guest American Empress during a ceremony in Portland, Ore.

Ray_LaHoodLaHood, who served as DOT secretary during President Obama's first term in office, said in a statement that he has a passion for America’s rivers, and that he looks forward to “visiting with community leaders who will soon see the positive impact U.S. river cruising expansion will have on their cities and towns.”

AQSC, which also owns the 436-passenger American Queen on the Mississippi, entered into a binding purchase agreement for the American Empress with the U.S. Maritime Administration in May 2013.

The American Empress measures 360 feet in length with five decks and seven stateroom categories. The vessel is currently undergoing final preparations for its inaugural season.

The American Empress will sail the Columbia and Snake rivers with stops in Astoria, Ore.; Stevenson, Wash.; The Dalles, Ore.; Sacajawea State Park, Wash.; and Clarkston, Wash.

Complimentary shore excursions will be offered in every port, in addition to premium excursions for an additional cost.

The American West Steamboat Co. introduced the American Empress in 2003, then a 235-passenger vessel called the Empress of the North, in Alaska as a reproduction of a 1800s-era paddlewheeler.
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