Welcome back the Delta Queen

Say the words “Delta Queen” and anyone who has lived along the Ohio River in our area will regale you with stories of the many times they have viewed the majestic steamboat paddling through the waters as it made its way to and from Pittsburgh.

Crowds would line the riverbanks in Wellsville, East Liverpool and Chester, W.Va. when word got out that the scenic boat would make an appearance in our area. If you were lucky, the Queen would play its caliope as it wended its way up the waterway.

Now, after spending a decade in dock, the historic 1920s-era riverboat will cruise again.

President Donald Trump signed legislation on Dec. 4 authorizing the 285-foot-long riverboat immortalized in poems and songs to cruise again along the Ohio, Mississippi and several other rivers.

The Delta Queen was sidelined in 2008 by a federal law prohibiting overnight excursions on wooden vessels. Both U.S. senators from Missouri — Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republican Roy Blunt — co-sponsored a bill to allow the exemption, which requires modifications to the wooden portions of the vessel, most of which are cabins and public areas. The hull is already steel.

The 1966 Safety at Sea law prohibited wooden ships of a certain size – like the Delta Queen – from carrying passengers on overnight trips. The law was designed to protect passengers in ocean waters and granting exemptions was a standard practice until 2008. Now, this new legislation grants the Delta Queen a new exemption.

The company expects to begin three-, five- and seven-day cruises on the Ohio, Mississippi, Tennessee, Cumberland, Kanawha, Arkansas and Illinois rivers in 2020. The Delta Queen is expected to visit more than 80 ports each year, including St. Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Louisville, Kentucky, and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

We’re glad Congress and President Trump supported this legislative change. The Delta Queen’s absence has been felt by the region’s tourism business and the majestic ship will be a welcome sight for those who live along the rivers she sails.

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