NEW YORK — The American Queen Steamboat Co. has purchased the Empress of the North, a river vessel that last sailed for the now defunct Majestic America Line in 2008, from the U.S. Maritime Administration for an undisclosed price.
The 223-passenger paddlewheeler will be renovated and renamed the American Empress.
The crew will comprise 80 hotel staff and 17 deck staff, all locally hired in the Pacific Northwest region.
As it did when the ship was last in service, the American Empress will sail Pacific Northwest cruises, plying the Columbia and Snake rivers, starting next April.
"We are looking at the region [the American Empress] draws from," said Ted Sykes, president and COO of American Queen Steamboat Co. "We've had a lot of people on the American Queen say, 'Give us some more geography.' The repeat customer knows of the luxury on the American Queen, and now they want that luxury somewhere else."
Cruises will sail between Portland, Ore., and Clarkston, Wash. Ports of call include Astoria, Stevenson and Richland in Washington, and The Dalles and Umatilla in Oregon.
The American Queen Steamboat Co. began Mississippi River cruising last year with the American Queen, another former Majestic America Line river ship.
"The American Queen has ushered in a rebirth of U.S. river cruising, welcoming thousands to discover the heartland of the United States and its iconic port cities," Sykes said. "Now the American Empress will continue that tradition as an ambassador to the Pacific Northwest, a region equally rich in American and natural history."
American Cruise Lines also operates on the Mississippi with the Queen of the Mississippi.