SEATTLE -- America West Steamboat Co. is bringing its sternwheeler
concept to Alaska in 2003.
The Seattle-based company, which operates the 163-passenger
Queen of the West sternwheeler on seven-day cruises through the
Columbia and Snake rivers from Oregon to Idaho, signed a contract
to build a 236-passenger sternwheeler that will sail Alaska's
Inside Passage starting June 2003.
The $50 million Empress of the North will be built by Nichols
Bros. Boat Builders in Freeland, Wash., the same firm that built
the Queen of the West in 1995.
The company said it plans to offer seven- and 10-day cruises
through the Inside Passage, with stops in Sitka, Skagway and
Glacier Bay, and Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, among
Rates, departure dates and specific itinerary information will
be available in January, the company said.
After its inaugural summer season in Alaska, the ship will
reposition to Portland, Ore., in mid-September for cruises on the
Columbia, Snake and Willamette rivers.
Joel Perry, America West Steamboat Co.'s vice president of
marketing, said the sternwheeler concept will offer clients an
alternative to both the large and small ships that ply Alaska's
"The major appeal of this vessel will be its combination of
space, luxury and ability to get close to the destination," Perry
"But we will target our ship at clients who have evolved beyond
small-ship exploration and are looking for on-board amenities and
entertainment that the small ship typically doesn't offer," he
The ship will feature a collection of paintings, sculptures,
photographs and artifacts depicting the heritage, culture and
natural history of its two cruising areas.
When the ship visits a port, themed lectures, on-board
entertainment and meals will reflect the people and history of the
The sternwheeler design is reminiscent of the paddle wheelers
that cruised the rivers and coastal shorelines of the Pacific
Northwest and Alaska in the mid-1800s.
Of the ship's 112 suites and staterooms, 105 will have private
Every cabin will feature an outside view, a television with DVD,
a minibar, a telephone and individual air conditioning and heat
A chandeliered dining room will be able to accommodate all of
the passengers at a single seating.
The ship also will include a showroom that will be able to
accommodate all the ship's passengers; a bar and grill on the top
deck; a gift shop, and a library.
For information or reservations, call America West Steamboat Co.
at (800) 434-1232.