Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’ on the River Aboard the Delta Queen

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

In 1969, Creedence Clearwater Revival recorded “Proud Mary” and we found ourselves unable to resist dancing to that tune whenever we heard it played!!!  It has been a favorite ever since.  Written by John Fogerty, lead guitar for CCR, the song was originally sung by them.  In 1971, Ike & Tina Turner recorded their version.  It’s the story of a low-wage earner who impulsively leaves his steady job and gives in to imagination and adventure as he hitches a ride on a riverboat.  He finds his shipmates not only nurture his soul but offer enduring friendship.  The river becomes his home, his life!  Well, hey, must have been an omen!  We can certainly relate to the joy of sailing the waterways and oceans!!!

In 2005, still years before she would dock in Chattanooga, TN and become a niche hotel in 2008, we had the pleasure of rollin’ along the Mississippi River on the beautiful Delta Queen.  To us, she was history afloat!  Built for lavish travel, she began an illustrious career in San Francisco.  Drafted in WWII for military service as the USS Delta Queen, she was painted gun-metal grey and transported the wounded between ship and shore.  In 1946, she was purchased by the Greene Line of Cincinnati, Ohio and towed through the Panama Canal and along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to Pittsburgh, PA for refurbishment.  Since 1948, this proud steamboat has transported passengers in leisurely luxury from river town to river town along the Ohio, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Cumberland Rivers.  Nearly put out of business by the 1966 Safety at Sea Law, the Delta Queen received exemptions that were renegotiated every 2 to 4 years.  In 1979 she was listed on the National Register of Historic Places; in 1989, she was declared a National Historic Landmark.  In 2008, her career ended, and she permanently docked as a floating hotel.

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The Delta Queen is an American sternwheel steamboat (paddle steamer) built in 1927 at the William Denny & Bros. shipyard in Dumbarton, Scotland. She and her sister ship the Delta King were shipped, in pieces, to Stockton, CA for assembly.

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The Delta Queen plied the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers until WWII when she was requisitioned by the U.S. Navy to transport the wounded from navy ships anchored in San Francisco Bay to shore side hospitals.

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In 1948, the Delta Queen began transporting passengers along the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, and Cumberland Rivers from river town to river town.

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In the Spring of 2005, we boarded the Delta Queen in New Orleans for a luxurious run along the Mississippi River to Memphis, TN.

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Upon boarding the steamboat, passengers are greeted with an iconic view of the grand staircase. Delta Queen Steamboat Company Gallery photo.

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Up the grand staircase is the Texas Lounge. The view from here is fantastic. This is where we would often hear the Riverlorian lectures. And later in the day, a 4-piece combo would entertain. Delta Queen Steamboat Company Gallery photo.

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The Forward Cabin Lounge is a great place for cocktails before dinner; or a congenial place for a friendly card or board game. It’s also a place to read but not as quiet or secluded as other locations aboard the ship.

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The 4-piece combo would play often and in different areas of the ship depending on the time of day.

We enjoyed our morning coffee on the deck outside our cabin.
We enjoyed our morning coffee on the deck outside our cabin.

We'd often have lunch on the back deck.
We’d often have lunch on the back deck.

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Every evening after dinner, the dining room would be converted into a theater for live entertainment–comedy, music, short skits.

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Riverboats are pretty much self-contained. Here, the Delta Queen has docked along Houmas House and set out the ramp for disembarkation. Passengers can go ashore, at their leisure, and tour the beautiful mansion and its grounds.

Houmas House was built in 1840 by John Smith Preston.
Houmas House was built in 1840 by John Smith Preston.

The grounds were open for self-touring.
The grounds were open for self-touring.

All is quiet, serene, gracious.
All is quiet, serene, gracious.

Passengers returning to the ship after their tour.
Passengers returning to the ship after their tour.

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The steam-driven calliope aboard the Delta Queen is played whenever the ship moves in or out of her berth and while she is docking or undocking.

A calliope produes a unique and lilting sound.
A calliope produces a unique and lilting sound.

Our adventure aboard the Delta Queen in 2005 was fabulous!!!
Our adventure aboard the Delta Queen in 2005 was fabulous!!!

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Now that the Delta Queen will resume service. We need to make plans for a repeat of this marvelous adventure!!!

And here’s the good news!!!  In 2015, the newly formed Delta Queen Steamboat Company purchased the grand lady and promptly transported her to the Gulf Island Fabrication shipyard in Houma, LA for restoration.  In November 2018, both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate voted to reinstate a ten-year exemption allowing the Delta Queen to return to service.  It was signed December 4, 2018 by President Trump. And it was announced in July 2019 that the Delta Queen would be in full service by the end of 2020!!

Well yeah, but that was before the pandemic put everything out of whack!!!

According to a Jefferson County Leader article by Steve Taylor on August 29, 2020, the plans to homeport the Delta Queen in Kimmswick, MO are firm.  However, the effects of the Covid19 virus have delayed the timeline. So, we’ve signed up for the Delta Queen updates.  I’ll keep you posted as we learn more.  Wouldn’t it be lovely to once again roll along the river dancing to the music of Creedence Clearwater Revival and the addictive beat of “Proud Mary”?!?

Yes, it would!!!