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Cruising the Mighty Mississippi
The American Queen
The American Queen, cedit:American Queen Steamboat Company /

“The American Queen is the largest, most opulent paddlewheel ever built in the entire world, so, you know, we call it a floating time capsule.”

John Waggoner
Founder & CEO American Queen Steamboat Company

The largest steamboat ever built, the grand American Queen is a graceful and elegant triumph of American ingenuity. Built in 1995 as the third sister vessel to the Mississippi Queen and Delta Queen, the paddlewheeler is a six-deck recreation of a classic Mississippi riverboat.

She was built by McDermott Shipyard, 90 miles west of New Orleans in Morgan City, Louisiana for the Delta Queen Steamboat Company at a cost of $80 million. The vessel was christened in New Orleans on June 2, 1995 with a four foot tall container of Tabasco sauce instead of the traditional champagne bottle. She is 418 feet long and 89 feet wide and has 222 state rooms for a capacity of 436 guests and a crew of 160. The American Queen Steamboat Company purchased the vessel in April 2011 and continues to offer paddlewheel cruises traversing the Mississippi as well as the Ohio and Tennessee rivers.

The American Queen, with her bright red paddle wheel, towering fluted stacks and abundant fretwork, looks as though she just sailed out of the Victorian era. Glistening mahogany woodwork, flowery carpets, Tiffany glass and antiques enhance her interior spaces. Outside, lacy filigree, a steam-powered calliope and open verandas evoke memories of the stately riverboats that preceded her and inspired her design.

“What we try to do as philosophy is keep things like it was in the 1900s. This is just how it was when Mark Twain was onboard,” says John Waggoner, Founder and CEO of the American Queen Steamboat Company.

As history plays such a large part of the experience, Riverlorians, the resident history and culture experts, are onboard every cruise to impart the legends and lore of the river on which passengers are cruising. Passengers are invited to attend an enlightening lecture, relive a tale from Mark Twain or enjoy a recounting of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.

“We want you to experience the thump-thump-thump-thump-thump of the paddlewheel. We want you to stand on the stern. We want you to get muddy Mississippi water spraying your face, and we want you to sit in a rocking chair, and watch the river go by and relax,” says Waggoner.

This American Queen inspires crowds of onlookers in each port in which she docks. In true royal fashion, she glides gracefully along the river and courteously greets onlookers with the wave of her flags as she passes by.